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Religious Duty

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Companionship

Must be living in the New York or Albany area.

I am a recently divorced male, mid-forties, looking for a companion. I am not adverse to romance, but romantic attachment is not my primary object. On the contrary, I am open to all forms of friendship, from the strictly platonic to the amorous. I would like to discern for myself the type of relationship our encounter would amount to on a case by case basis.

As stated, I am recently divorced. You must love children and be quite good with them, as I currently have eight.

I am highly educated and professional, and would like you to be similar. College-educated, preferably, as we will likely have more in common. 

I am a religious man, but not dogmatic. An at least passable knowledge of Biblical teachings and Christian theology would be greatly appreciated.  

I am a man with strong political leanings and unshakable devotion to my causes. Please, be willing to compromise.

(However, I DO love a good argument.)

Please respond to this message via e-mail, so that we might meet up.

-----

Hamilton leaned back in his chair and looked with some satisfaction on his work. It was perfect.

“You might as well ask for an actual unicorn, Alexander,” Bobby Troup walked around the Nevisian’s desk and snatched the lap top off the desk, right out from underneath his hands. He scanned itquickly. From a couch against the wall, the long-faced Rufus King groaned.

“We have been here for six hours. It is Saturday. I don’t see why this couldn’t wait.”

“I’m trying to find a friend,” Alexander responded, annoyed. He grabbed the laptop back from Troup and laid it on the desk in front of him.

“For the last time, you have us,” Rufus called from the couch. “Why don’t we just go out and meet people the normal way? Like at a bar or something? Join a sports club. It can't be all that bad. ”

“Because we’re not normal, Rufus,” Troup reasoned, situating himself back in his seat. 

Rufus laughed, “And you think craigslist will yield quality results?”

Troup shrugged, typing away at his own computer, “It puts the control back in Alexander’s hands. He fancies he can cast a net and catch only the right sort of person—”

“—And possibly syphilis—”

“Not everyone on the internet is an axe murderer, Rufus,” Troup replied, his fat visage growing redder as he tried to concentrate on his case brief.

“Would you two stop already?” Alexander spun his head around to look at each man in turn. He inhaled deeply to catch his breath, and then continued, “I’m only doing this as a last resort. I don’t like the idea of craigslist either, to be perfectly honest, but how else am I supposed to meet people? What do I tell them when we start talking? ‘Hello, my name is Alexander Hamilton’—”

“—It’s not that uncommon of a name. Your parents could have been fans.” Rufus reasoned, laying on his back and lazily picking lint from his tie.

“Yeah, be happy you’re not stuck with a name like ‘Gouverneur’,” Troup added.

Alexander looked at him hopelessly.

“It’s not that, it’s just…” he faltered, “…Well there must be more of us.”

Finally, Rufus sat up, interested. “You mean people from our generation. I’ve thought about that, too, Alex. If there were, don’t you think we’d have found them already?”

“They could be living under aliases.”

Troup cut in, walking over to the desk where his oldest friend sat. Quietly, he spoke up, “Are you really sure you want to meet up with them, in any case? There’s a lot of baggage. You were gone for a long time. Things changed.”

Alexander searched the face of his well-meaning friend, and then looked back at Rufus. He knew they were right, but refused to admit it to himself.

”Look, I know you both have good intentions,” the Nevisian began, “but you can’t protect me from reality forever. “

Rufus scratched his head and frowned.

“Reality? Alex, you’re the one who said you were divorced,” Troup pointed to laptop, “If anyone needs a reality check, it’s you. What are you trying to accomplish here?”

 

“Let it go, Bobby,” Alexander responded. It was his turn to blush.

“Divorced? What kind of companionship are you looking for?” Rufus chuckled to himself from the couch. “This isn’t ancient Greece, Alex,” he interjected, a hint of amusement in his voice. “Wives aren’t as forgiving.”

Troup looked at him and nodded approvingly.

“You can’t just—”

“—I know this isn’t ancient Greece.” Alexander spat, as he ripped the laptop from Troup’s thick hands for a second time. He blushed furiously and paced around the room, reading and re-reading his tract, disseminating what phrases should stay, and which ones should go. Every single sentence was chosen, word for word, perfectly.

“You lied, there, Alexander,” Rufus pointed to the computer, “the net you’re casting is faulty. You’ll get faulty results.”

Hamilton closed his eyes and tried to remember his sweet, simple wife—and what a comfort she was during the fierce storms that plagued his career. He was anxious.

“You two don’t understand the relationship I have with my wife,” Alexander reasoned, “She is forgiving. And understanding. She always was.”

“Sounds like the perfect woman. Why ruin it.” Troup walked over to him and put a hand on his shoulder. “A woman like Betsey is hard to come by, Alexander. She is steady. She is good for you. Not to mention she is the mother of your children.”

“So I am supposed to just relive my life over again, then. Is that it? No adventure? I am not allowed to see what else this world offers?”

For a moment, the three men sat quietly. It would be incorrect, they each reasoned privately, to say Hamilton was wrong. The new world offered much to be discovered; indeed, they thought, it would be a crime not to discover it. But how to find the middle way? Privately, and not without some pain, Alexander thought about all the times he had betrayed his wife, in thought as well as deed, and wondered if there was even a middle way at all.

“If you post that, Hamilton,” Rufus called from the couch, “and you actually get a result—”

A wry smile formed on his face while the other two men turned to look at him.

”I will leave this firm and start my own practice. Just like you told me to. Right here in Manhattan.”

“For God’s sake, Rufus, don’t encourage him,” Troup pleaded, walking over to the other man. “You know we can’t keep this one running with just the two of us. Alex and I will sink. We’ll go right under. This is a terrible bet.”

Rufus held up a hand; Alexander watched him curiously. “Nope. These are the stakes. You two will make it. I want to see what Alexander thinks he will gain from his venture.”

“But the client base that you as a third person brings in—”

“—Hire someone else. Hire Morris. He’s looking for work anyway.”

Alexander bit his lip in frustration. The room grew silent while Rufus’ bet lay on the metaphorical table.

“Rufus, please. This is a terrible idea. You’re asking him to cheat on Betsey and go looking for trouble, you know that, right?” Troup pointed to Alexander, who had spent the last several minutes studying the pattern on the floor.

Rufus shrugged carelessly. “I’m asking him to prioritize. Alexander’s going to do what he wants. Regardless of opinion.” The man on the couch grinned more broadly. “Aren’t you, Alex?”

The Nevisian looked up and stared at his two companions wordlessly and, he hoped, expressionless. He would post the personal ad, whether they wanted him to or not, but rather hoped it wouldn’t come to this.

“You don’t have to leave the firm, Rufus,” Alexander muttered, “I only ask that you two let me make my own decisions.”

Troup threw up his arms, defeated.

“Great. Excellent. ‘Let me make my own decisions,’ he asks. Because that’s always ended well.” Troup’s words came out uncharacteristically barbed. He began to pace, occasionally leaning against the large glass window that looked out over the grey, sparkling city. “Do you know how precarious our situation is, Alexander?”

“I think I have some idea,” Hamilton responded curtly.

“If the wrong person comes contacting you—”

“—The wrong person?” Rufus called, stifling a laugh. “The wrong person? Troup, I don’t think this person even exists! Let him post the damn ad, if it makes him happy. What do we care?”

“We care because we are his friends, and we aren’t going to let him hurt himself!”

“I am standing right here!” Alexander practically stomped his foot. “I am perfectly capable of handling myself!”

“There, you see?” Rufus chortled. “Perfectly capable.”

Troup turned red again and reached for a half-finished bottle of water. Downing it, he swallowed loudly. He shot Rufus a dangerous look. “You know what I am talking about, King,” the fat man huffed. He turned to glare at Alexander. “You have a bad record, my friend, of making irrational decisions. You know it, I know it, and though he appears to be deluded at the moment, Rufus knows it. I know things are tough right now. I know this new world offers much to be discovered. I will even grant you your ennui at the thought of Betsey and the average life she promises. But better the devil you know than the devil you don’t.”

Hamilton looked at him for a long moment, and then threw himself back into his desk chair. “The curiosity is too great, Bobby, for me to sit here and ignore it,” he exhaled, “I have to know. I can’t pretend that this second chance is for nothing.”

“You are going to wind up in a pit.” Troup shot back, his joviality and patience at an end. Alexander looked at him slightly stung. Things had changed; he couldn’t deny it any longer.

“That was unnecessary,” Rufus said.

Troup grunted in response, still staring out the window angrily.

Hamilton felt the sharpness of the words hit him directly in the chest; bit his tongue to keep from responding in a like manner. He couldn’t argue with Troup, really, though he desperately wanted to. He sought an excuse, reasoning for his behavior, and could find none. After a moment, he pressed the tiny keys on his computer.

“I can’t believe it.” Troup hemmed and hawed, arms crossed, from the window.

“I told you he’d go his own way, the headstrong fool,” Rufus’ dry voice filled the small office. He thought briefly about the private practice he might have to start.

The bright screen of the computer reflected in Hamilton's eyes, and he stared at it blankly, rather numb. He knew, of course, what he was doing, but there were times when he convinced himself that his body acted independently of his mind.

“You are the walking definition of poor judgment,” the fat man called from the window, turning and facing the Nevisian.

----------

“Well I’m coming with you.”

”Bobby, no.”Alexander stood in front of a floor length mirror in the guest bedroom of Troup’s new house, examining himself minutely. He inhaled, puffed out his chest, and then deflated again at the sound of his friend’s protest.

“You can’t stop me.” Troup walked through the door and closer to him, purpose alight on his face, as always. “I know the kinds of people out there, people who will take advantage of you. You are meeting this person in a public place, I assume?”

Alexander ignored him for a moment, more intent on fixing his tie. He stepped up to the mirror and examined his face more intently. It wasn’t by any means a date—but it felt like one. He absentmindedly toyed with the wedding ring on his left hand with his thumb.

“Alex, did you hear me? I asked you if you were meeting this person in a public place.”

Finally, the Nevisian stepped back from the mirror. “Yes, Bobby. Yes. For the thousandth time. We are meeting at the bar across from the old church, on the corner. It’s only three blocks away from the office, for God’s sake. And he has a name. It’s Edward.”

“It’s shady, is what it is.” Bobby invited himself in further and plopped down on the neatly made bed.

”How is meeting a new friend for drinks shady, Bobby?” Alexander turned to look at his oldest friend and college roommate. He fidgeted uncomfortably with the freshly starched white linen shirt, and immediately remembered it had been washed so by Betsey.

“Because with you,” Bobby inclined his head, irritated, “it’s never ‘just drinks.’ It’s too many drinks. And then a touch. Or a particular type of gaze. And then, before you know it, we have another situation on our hands—”

“I can handle myself, I mean it.” Alexander, still standing, turned and examined the backs of his pant legs. “I appreciate the concern you and King are showing, but really, it’s unnecessary.”

The room fell silent and Hamilton stepped into the adjacent bathroom to splash cold water on his face and brush his teeth. Bobby watched him warily, his thoughts plainly visible on his open, round face.

“I still don’t like it. I don’t care how confident you are,” he called over the running water, “you shouldn’t be posting advertisements on internet billboards for companionship. What’s wrong with me? Or King? And what on earth is wrong with Betsey? The woman adores you.”

Alexander walked out of the bathroom, towel-dried his face and then looked at his watch.

“There is nothing wrong with you or King or Betsey,” he responded calmly, “but I cannot sit idly by and watch as my chance slips past again.”

Bobby narrowed his eyes, his frown almost child-like in its annoyance.

“Alexander, you have to listen to me on this. Please, just this once, listen to me. You know your limits. You know how you can be—”

The Nevisian sighed and sat down beside his friend, studying the carpet.

“You put yourself in these situations and you are asking for trouble. Plain and simple. Forget this …meeting…or whatever you’re calling it. Stay for dinner here or something. Don’t put yourself in harm’s way.”

“I appreciate the sentiment,” Alexander responded, louder, and clasped a hand on his friend’s knee as he stood up, “but I have already made my decision.”

Troup clenched his fist as his friend’s back turned, gritting his teeth in frustration.

“Fine. Fine, Alexander. If you’ve already made your decision, then I’ve already made mine,” Troup stood up seconds later, “and my decision is that I’m going with you.”

“I knew I shouldn’t have come over here first,” Alexander’s charm wore off rapidly, “I knew you would try to change my mind.”

“You came over here precisely because you wanted me to try and change your mind,” Troup said. “I can’t keep covering for you, either!”

“No. I’m doing this. And I don’t need a babysitter.”

The Nevisian grabbed a suit jacket from a nearby chair and threw it on, exiting the room quickly, before his temper got the better of him. Flying down the stairs, he heard the rustling of the Troup family dog and a low, gruff bark, followed by the huffing of the much slower man who was close on his heels. Ignoring this, Alexander reached the front door, grabbed his keys from the small side table, and flew outside.

“Alexander, I’m not kidding,” Troup wheezed helplessly, catching his breath as he watched his much lither friend maneuver into the driver’s seat of a tan Acura. The old college roommate stepped quickly towards the vehicle and pulled on the passenger’s side handle. He pleaded, muffled, with Alexander to let him in.

“You’re not going without me. Unlock this door!” Thick palms slapped against the glass and a tiny, entertained smile played on Alexander’s pointed face. “This isn’t funny, Hamilton. Let me in!”

A new song began to play on the radio and Alexander turned up the volume all the way, singing along to block out the other man’s pleas.

“For God’s sake, Hamilton, unlock this door!”

It had turned into a game very quickly: Troup getting redder and huffier, Alexander more grinning and playful, cheerfully disregarding the warnings. The song hit a crescendo and the Nevisian belted out the melody, perfectly on pitch. Troup never let go of the handle and jiggled it angrily.

“Stop singing and laughing! This isn’t funny!”

Alexander revved the motor, put the car in drive and buckled his seat belt. At the sound of the engine, Troup jumped back. Wide eyed, he looked first at the car and then the driver inside—who waved, smiling mischievously, and backed out of the driveway as if nothing were wrong.

Several minutes later he sped down the highway towards the city, the sun setting over the horizon, casting everything in a purple glow. The late winter air, though brisk, wet and cold, made him feel alive with the promise of spring. Perhaps that is why, a small voice said, he felt so reckless. Perhaps a promise is enough to make people act irrationally. He tapped his fingers to the beat of a new song on the radio, as if by instinct.

There was nothing wrong with what he was doing.

“Not a damn thing,” the Nevisian reiterated out loud, “there is nothing wrong with going to meet someone for drinks. I know my limits. Troup is being too motherly. Like a hen.”

A tiny part of Alexander knew exactly why his friends treated him with kid gloves; knew exactly why uncomfortable silences and polite smiles dancing over dangerous memories occupied the waking hours of his life with those closest to him. There were subjects that no -one dare to breech, except Alexander, in his lonesome hours. Long drives, afternoon naps.

The thoughts were always there, and he was helpless to present the subject to anyone.

Instead he was left with a sort of prison of memories: should haves and almosts. There was not another soul, as far as he could see, that could understand him, and so the old general buried those regrets in deep, cold, black earth, hoping never to need to explain himself again.

No one looked at him the same. Those who professed friendship and loyalty to him eyed him with a sort of pathos etched in their features, watching to make sure they said everything correctly, never bringing up anything that could hurt his feelings. It made Hamilton feel silly. He knew exactly what they saw when they looked at him, and his skin burned with rage. Victim.

By instinct he gripped the steering wheel so tight his knuckles glowed white in the dim atmosphere, felt his face turn red. Of course they meant well.

But Alexander didn’t know what was worse: the hovering, suffocating protectiveness of Troup, the disappointed resignation of King or Morris, or the thinly-veiled discomfort with which Betsey looked at his scar.

There were too many things that desperately needed discussing, Alexander reasoned, and no one was willing to talk—no one was ever willing to talk— except him.

It was almost too good to be true, when he received a response to his ad.

Alexander read it several times, discerning whether or not it was real or a scam. The prose was short, concise, cold. Impossible to determine a mood or a motive. His natural suspicion told him it was a joke. Perhaps spam, perhaps someone mocking him. Still another part of him clung to the hope that maybe—possibly—another lonely soul was looking for a companion too. He took the right exit off the highway and made his way down a narrower street.

In the minutes he had spent driving, the sun had set, and in its place the oranges and red of the city’s nightlife bloomed. Alexander’s heart raced. This was one positive of modern life: everywhere around him screamed that boredom was a thing of the past. And he thrived for the unknown.

Walking from his car into the thick night air, Alexander ran over in his mind what he would say. The logistics of the situation made true connection impossible. But at least he could speak freely—about love and life and regrets—without the fear of being looked at as though he were helpless.

“My name is Alexander Hamilton,” he muttered, out loud, practicing his introductory speech. Then, he knew, he would wait for the New Friend’s face to split into a grin, trying to place the familiar sounding name. “Like the founding father,” Alexander would reply, giving just the right amount of pride to his voice, to hide the awkward flip of his stomach. “No, not a president. The man on the ten dollar bill.” Alexander would then wait to see if the New Friend was as educated as his laconic response on the internet had promised—would wait to see how his modern politics would react at being seated across from a man who was "named after" the father of Wall Street.

There were some things Alexander would never fully comprehend. He recalled, briefly, Troup getting irritated with him for spending the entire day watching documentaries on modern economics. The day was not fully lost. The Nevisian had looked on with rapt interest at the graphs and charts detailing the complex American economy, and had even taken notes.

Alexander jumped over a puddle and scurried across the street just in time to miss a honking, speeding car. Ahead of him stood—loomed—the bar he would be meeting the New Friend. He held out his hand to no one in particular.

“Hello Edward, my name is Alexander. It is a pleasure to meet you.” He reached for the handle. Taking a deep breath, he opened the door.

Immediately Hamilton was hit with the stench. Cigars and cigarettes burned and their smoke lingered together indiscriminately, causing him to cough twice. He swallowed and allowed his eyes to adjust to the dim lighting.

It was a handsome place: dark, sensuous. The type of place a wealthy business man would take a mistress for cocktails. He scanned the room and saw, in some far flung booths and at the edge of the bar, just that. Beautiful people making connections, infidelities.

Alexander stepped forward and nodded as the host pointed to the bar. Yes, he was here to meet someone. The host eyed him up and down, taking in the expensive watch and tie. Alexander remember that his shoes were real leather and his tie was real silk, and though he couldn’t imagine why he’d bought them in the first place, he was glad he didn’t look like he’d crawled off an abandoned beach.

He was suddenly aware of his flushed skin and rapid heartbeat as he took his seat at the bar. Across from him, like a conscience, a mirror glared back, reflecting his face. Across its glazed surface sat bottle after bottle of liquor and Alexander was overwhelmed and confused by the choices. He dug a nail into the mahogany counter.

“Can I get you something to drink?” A slim, sandy-haired bartender slid up to him, her thick dark lashes blinking innocently as she wiped down an empty glass. Alexander stared at the drinks for a moment more, and then thought better.

“Just a water, for now.”

She nodded and brought it to him, eyeing him curiously. Alexander ignored her, but knew she was staring. Knew she would be tapping her friend on the shoulder and pointing at him, trying to remember where she’d seen that face ten million times before. Doesn’t he look like someone we know?

“Check your tip jar, darling,” Hamilton muttered under his breath and sipped his water.

A television hung in the other room—the dining room—and silently played the news. The Nevisian craned his neck to watch it, and caught the time. Half-past eight. The man, in his ad, said he would be here by then. Alexander tapped his fingers impatiently and caught the bartender’s eyes again, who looked away hurriedly.

He laughed bitterly to himself. “I knew it was a scam. I knew it.” Alexander shook his head and gulped his water again, feeling utterly foolish. He put down the glass loudly and stared at the reflection in the mirror behind the bar. A woman several seats down from him, who also appeared to be waiting for someone, did the same, oblivious to her surroundings. No one was here for someone else, Alexander concluded. We are all here for ourselves.

He tilted his head until the dim ochre lighting caught in his thick hair, watched as freckles became invisible with the shadows cast by his prominent, pointed nose. Played with the cuffs of his sleeves, furrowed his eyebrows up and down, watching how the artificial light made him appear gaunt and desperate. In the reflection he saw the patrons behind him: some watching the news, others chatting with a companion, some sitting by themselves, lost in their own memories.

Alexander checked his watch again. Eight forty. Whoever had promised to meet him here was either long gone or laughing at his victim’s credulity. The Nevisian stood up and stretched, humiliated. The bartender walked over as soon as she caught his eye for the third time, sensing something was wrong.

“Were you supposed to meet someone?” She asked.

Alexander looked at her. Young, probably attending a university in the area, she gave the impression of an open sort of kindness, unadulterated by cynicism. She raised her eyebrows and waited patiently for him to answer.

“Yes. He was supposed to be here at eight thirty. I fear I have been mistaken.”

“And so you’re just going to leave?”

“I don’t believe I have a choice.”

The bartender, confused, put a hand on her hip, not understanding how anyone could leave a bar and not be drunk.

“But you haven’t ordered anything except water. That’s sort of cheap. Only homeless people come in here and do that,” she eyed him up and down; thick lashes, “and you don’t look homeless.”

“Oh? And who do I look like?” Alexander could not help himself. He leaned on the counter and toyed with her.

“Like someone who’s just been stood up.” She smiled back, angling for a drink order and, more importantly, a tip. “Like someone who needs to either order a real drink, or stop coming to bars and taking up precious space.”

“But just a second ago you wanted me to leave.”

“I never said that. Get the cheapest wine on the menu. I don’t care. But don’t just come to bars and drink free water wearing a watch that probably cost more than my rent.”

Alexander exhaled, and sat back down onto the stool. He watched the waitress, his arms folded, pour him a glass of deep red Merlot. She spun around and placed it in front of him, happy with herself.

“This one is the special tonight. It’s Chilean.”

“Cheers,” Alexander lifted the glass to his lips and sipped, letting the alcohol do its work. His reflection did the same. It wasn’t half bad. The bartender watched him for a reaction. He smiled and nodded appreciatively.

“It’s alright,” Hamilton responded appropriately.

“What does your friend look like? Maybe he’s already here.” The bartender craned her neck over the patrons to see across the bar, to see if anyone looked like they were missing another half.

“That’s just it. I don’t know.”

The bartender landed back down from her tip toes with a thud and looked at Alexander more closely, like she and her friend had done earlier. The Nevisian felt the change in her demeanor, sipped his wine, and shifted uncomfortably.

“You don’t know what he looks like?” Her face split into a smile, as if she’d solved the mystery, “Is it a date?”

Alexander ran a hand through his hair, shaking his head, no. The bartender looked slightly disappointed. She walked towards the end of the bar, still looking around, and Alexander was faced with his wretched reflection once again. He pondered, silently, why the architect designed it that way, as if daring the patrons to watch their bad decisions unfold before their very eyes.

“There,” the bartender came back to him, breathless, indicating with her head a small booth in the corner of the room, “that man’s been sitting there since quarter after eight. Checking his watch. I bet that’s the guy you’re looking for. Wouldn’t hurt to ask. Do you want me to go over and ask for you?”

“If you must,” He sighed. Alexander didn’t even bother looking up; he nodded half-heartedly, staring into the red liquid in his glass. The bartender, ecstatic at the thought of playing matchmaker, gave her friends an exaggerated wink, who responded with suppressed giggles. Alexander could not muster up the energy to care. He knew he had been duped.

He felt the flurry of the bartender’s return.

“He says it’s him, he’s waiting for someone, too.” She put a hand cautiously on Alexander’s shoulder. “Go over and say something!”

In the dim light, Hamilton could only just make out the shape of a man, not any larger than himself, sitting at the farthest booth in the corner. He toyed casually with a cigar, putting it to his lips and puffing out clouds of empty smoke, the orange glow from the flame obscuring his full face. Light reflected off the wine glass he held between delicate fingers, the man took a sip, inhaled the cigar, and then resumed a calm patience. A wave of blind coldness washed over Alexander so quickly he felt as though he’d faint.

“What are you waiting for? Go over there already.” The bartender stepped back and took a good look at him. “Are you sick or something? You’re all pale. Was it the wine?”

Alexander breathed heavily and steadied himself on the bar.

“No. No, the wine was fine. I just…” out of the corner of his eye, he saw the man in smoke shift, coal and black pinstriped suit here and there peeking out of the darkness. He tried to remember everything he’d said in the ad, tried to remember how rigidly specific he’d been. To the point of neurosis, of impossibility.

“Then what are you waiting for?” The bartender pestered again, gently pushing him from the bar. Several patrons looked on with interest at the middle-aged man and the young female bartender, assuming something nefarious was in the works. Alexander didn’t care; didn’t care if the entire world was watching. He had never felt more isolated and utterly alone than at this moment.

The man at the corner booth looked up and the light was swallowed by his black eyes. As if finding its target, his gaze settled on Hamilton, sizing him up. A bemused grin spread across the man's lips and he nodded a calm, entirely unsurprised greeting at Alexander. He put the cigar to his mouth one last time and, from his detached vantage point in the corner of the bar, blew a dancing cloud of smoke that enveloped him entirely.

Alexander felt the tips of his fingers go numb as Aaron Burr stood up, nodded politely at the waiter taking his empty wine glass, and made his way closer to the bar, arrogant and unashamed.

The bartender, feeling successful and as though she’d done her good deed for the night, flitted off to find her friends and take drink orders.

The dark presence walked closer; Hamilton began to shake with nerves. Caught like a rabbit in the path of an on-coming truck, he could do nothing—could draw no attention to himself—but stand still, head spinning. Inarticulate phrases sprung to his mind. Face your demons, and conquer them—that was one of the sayings.

“Good evening,” Burr slid into a stool next to Hamilton, who had ceased to breathe.

Aaron ordered the same Chilean wine, from the same bartender, who had smiled at him, satisfied.

“I knew it was you the moment I started reading, General,” Aaron whispered over his merlot, using the military moniker with confidence, “I couldn’t believe my luck.”

Chapter Text

“If this is your idea of a joke you have a sick sense of humor,” Hamilton managed, voice shuddering with rage. He tried not to make a scene.

“I had toyed with the idea of coming under the alias ‘Adolphus’, as I had used in in Europe. A quick look at the history books told me that would have been disastrous,” Aaron sipped his wine again, “And so I settled for Edward. I’m a bit disappointed you didn’t pick up on my hint. ‘Edwards.’”

Alexander clenched his fists, head spinning with all that Troup had said and he felt himself swell so much with a nameless emotion he had to close his eyes in order to keep his balance. Troup was right. And here he was.

“I must admit your ad excited me so much I could scarcely believe it at first.”

The bar’s décor became clearer, sharper. A woman’s shrieking laughter, the bright glare of the television, the clink of glasses and the scent of cheap perfume and stale beer hit Alexander with a tremendous force, and he felt his throat tighten. Heard the soft, velvet voice next to him belying cruelty and betrayal of the highest order talk as if nothing had happened—as if blood wasn’t split and lives weren’t ruined—and Alexander bit his lip so hard it bled.

“I showed my dear Theo,” Aaron’s low voice was such that only Alexander could hear it, “and she knew as well. She told me I’d be a fool not to meet you. To see you again.”

Around him, people chatted, oblivious. Hamilton shut his eyes tightly, making shapes, orange and black kaleidoscopes spinning around behind his eyelids. Aaron’s voice, unyielding. The scent of his cigar and cologne. Alexander had forgotten that he was alive, had forgotten that he was human, and the cloying smell filled his nostrils until he slammed a fist on the bar.

“Just stop talking,” Hamilton spat, causing some of the bar goers to look up, “Stop talking. I don’t want to hear your voice ever again.” His words came out in a tumble of frenzied incoherence.

Several of the people around the two men could sense something was wrong, and could sense that at least one of the pair was on the verge of a breakdown.

“You’re making a scene,” Burr lowered his head and whispered, “I am not here to hurt you, General Hamilton.”

“I don’t care!” Suddenly, Alexander stood up, causing the bar stool to rock back and forth dangerously. The bar grew quiet as it focused on the red-cheeked Nevisian shouting at his quiet friend. He raised a finger and pointed at Aaron, whose face did not, and never did, betray a single emotion.

“Not you. Anyone but you,” Alexander felt his voice crack. The friendly female bartender looked on in astonishment. At this, Aaron swallowed and raised himself to his full height.

“I needed to see you.”

Something in his eyes gave way as he looked at the frantic man before him. Hamilton lowered his hand and shook his head. Thoughts, abstract and violent, whirred around in his mind’s eye with startling rapidity; images of what he would like to do to the man who stood unapologetic and intrusive in front of him. The other patrons had stopped talking entirely, and were paying rapt attention to the drama before them.

“Why? What could you possibly have to say?” Alexander shouted, not caring if he drew a crowd. “Because I have nothing to say to you.”

He ripped a bill out of his pocket and slammed it on the counter. Catching a pant leg on the edge of the bottom of one of the stools, he fumbled his way out of the bar amidst stares and whispers, the lump of emotion still hovering dangerously in his throat. Aaron was not far behind.

“Did you think this was humorous, Colonel Burr?” The effects of the cheap wine, from only one glass, made Hamilton's mind heavy. “Did you think it would be beneficial to find me again?

The Nevisian stepped out into the darkened sidewalk, arms raised. Aaron watched him. The sound of Aaron’s surname reverberated in Alexander’s mouth, as if he were uttering it for the first time. Short, laconic, cold. Burr.

“Just don’t come near me. Don’t look at me,” Alexander continued, sentences spewing from his mouth before his mind had a chance to synthesize them. Several feet away, Burr looked on curiously, hands clasping and unclasping.

“General, please listen to me—”

“I know all about you. I know everything about you. I know what you’ve done. You can’t explain yourself to me because I already know.”

Men and women walking into the bar from the street glanced at the two well-dressed men as they entered the establishment. Alexander paid them no mind, but paced up and down the sidewalk, shaking his head. He took one hand and ran his fingers through his hair. It was as if time had stopped. The sun had long since dipped below the horizon and the air, still wet and cold, hung around him like a blanket. 

Soft clicks on the pavement neared him, and Alexander’s breath shortened.

“General Hamilton.”

He knew the voice well. Almost as well as his own. Had learned to differentiate this voice from all others, because this voice meant evil. Like a tiny woodland mammal that could sense the coming of a predator by the sound of a single rustling leaf, Hamilton knew, by instinct, when Death approached him.

“Please tell me this is your idea of a bad joke,” Alexander continued to stare at the ground, nerves making him nauseous.

Aaron stepped nearer, cautious. “No. This most certainly is not a joke.”

Hamilton raised his eyes to the sky, and took a deep, shaking breath. He stood still for a moment, half shrouded by darkness, half gleaming in the orange glow of a street lamp. On arm clutched his stomach, and the other reached out to steady himself on the lamp post.

"General Hamilton, please listen to me,” Aaron began again, inching closer, wearing an expression close to sorrow. He, too, felt his heart race, but swallowed his nerves with a deadly precision. The small, dark-eyed man reached out tentatively and put a hand on the Hamilton's shoulder—to comfort him. In truth, Burr was terrified of the reaction he might get.

It took a moment for Alexander to feel the touch. The effect was instantaneous; he lowered his gaze and saw the other man standing, rather awkwardly, looking at him with the heaviest of regret. Alexander did not understand why he was so shocked to feel warmth.

“What are you doing?” Hamilton asked.

“I needed to see you. I needed to speak with you.” Aaron’s hand stayed still in the same spot, petrified.

The black eyes widened, as if hinting at a memory Alexander could not fully place. The lamplights reflected in them, like flames.

“I realized this might be my only chance to get you alone with me,” Aaron continued.

Alexander watched him, one arm still clutching the post. It was true. Wherever he went, there was always an ally, watching him. Protecting him. Defending him. He looked down at the hand on his shoulder, wedding ring conspicuously absent. The general looked away again, towards the pockmarked ground. There was a minute of silence.

“General Hamilton…my friend…”

At this, Alexander felt his resolve crumble.

It was July, the heat made him sweat and his breath felt suffocated as the tight linen cravat coiled itself around his neck. Cicadas and birds chirped and buzzed indiscriminately in the dead heat of the early morning, already knowing the day would be a warm one. Across from him stood a man shrouded by the reflection of sunlight off a river, blinding light bouncing off his sleek, dark hair. Alexander saw himself adjust his spectacles—for what purpose, even he didn’t know. Test the angle of the gun. Felt the weight of it, like the weight of decisions, fill his hand. It was all a show, staged. A dance for an audience. But backs turned and eyes averted, and the two stars were alone before God.

“What do you want from me?”

Burr could not find the right answer to this question that inched itself from the other man’s mouth as though it pained him. He let go of Hamilton's shoulder and stepped back, and retained his silence.

“You’re just going to stand there? Answer me!”

“General Hamilton—”

“—Stop saying my name,” Alexander choked, “and explain yourself.”

The colonel bit the inside of his cheek, a combination of resentment and pity churning in his stomach. Explain myself, he thought, like you did, right? Though if there was anyone in the universe who deserved an explanation, it was General Hamilton.

“I would prefer if we had this conversation in a more private atmosphere,” Aaron spoke up, hushed and unsure. The streetlight, though it illuminated the Nevisian halfway, did not reach the spot where Aaron stood and he was shrouded in darkness.

Alexander, still unable to make eye contact, answered, “My car is parked a block from here. We will continue this discussion there.”

He brought a hand to his face again and wiped his eyes, very much aware that the man across from him was conspicuously emotionless. Turning on his heel and without so much as a nod, Alexander began walking in the direction of a parking garage, heels hitting the pavement deftly, angrily. He had hoped the other man would follow behind him, but like a clumsy metaphor, Aaron kept pace with Alexander and walked with ease by his side.

People passed them, walking, unaware of the centuries’ worth of emotion brewing between the two old rivals. Nervously, Aaron made small talk.

“The city has grown so much. More than we could have ever imagined,” he began softly, watching the ground instead of the area in front of him. “The height, the glistening beauty of these buildings, makes me feel rather faint.”

Burr looked up, cautiously, at the man to his right, and saw only grim determination set in his features. He cleared his throat, and tried again.

“We are part of this city, General. We made this city. Were present at its conception. And now I do believe she is the center of the universe.”

Alexander turned a corner rapidly and picked up his pace, parking garage in view.

“I could not be more proud,” Burr finished, his voice hushed with reverence, still keeping pace.

Upon reaching his car, Hamilton silently fumbled for his key, hands shaking and inept. He felt the black gaze land on him, patiently waiting for the doors to unlock. This only made him more anxious, and, finding his keys, he accidentally set off the alarm.

“Goddammit,” Alexander swore, and fumbled for the off button. His hands shook so bad, he dropped his keys again, and kicked his tire in frustration. Aaron walked over silently, picked up the keys, and turned off the screeching alarm.

Hamilton pinched the bridge of his nose. “Just get in the car,” he mumbled.

Aaron silently acquiesced. Moments later, Alexander did the same.

Tiny, inconsequential things stood out to Aaron: a child’s toy on the floor of the passenger’s side, a pack of gum—half-finished— in the center storage bay between the seats, the smell of an old coconut car freshener, the tiny cross hanging from the rear-view mirror.  Aaron knew exactly what each item meant in the context of the general's life. And this gave him nerve to speak.

“We have a lot to discuss, General.” When Burr was greeted with silence, he continued.

“I missed you terribly.” his voice was almost inaudible.

Hamilton slammed a fist against the dashboard.

“How can you say that to me?“ He finally responded through clenched teeth. Aaron closed his eyes. “How can you say such a thing, when you are the reason for my absence?”

“I never meant to harm you.”

“And yet you lived the rest of your life basking in the glory of being my slayer,” Hamilton shot back, his voice finding strength. At this, Burr turned in his seat and faced him defiantly.

“And what was I supposed to do, General?” Aaron said, louder, “Crawl away like a wretch? Live my life as a guilty man, knowing through and through that we brought this on ourselves, together?”

“You put a bullet in my gut.” Alexander’s voice cracked, and he tried to regain control.

Aaron’s patience wore thin and he let out a sharp breath, like a hiss.

“You stood in front of a loaded gun, General.” He raised a finger and pointed at Hamilton, who had begun to clench and un-clench his jaw with repressed emotion. “You knew the stakes; you knew what you were doing. You knew your life must have been exposed to me, as mine was to you. You cannot put this blame all on me. You are not the only victim here.”

The words, thick and loud with Burr’s growing rage, sliced through the darkened car forcefully; Hamilton felt himself grow light headed. There was the word: victim. 

“I didn’t want to die! I never wanted to die like that—”

“—Liar!” Burr cut him off. “You were prepared to die a gentleman’s death! I knew you, General, I knew your opinions on honor. I made you the hero you always wanted to be, and was damned for it.”

Something within Hamilton snapped, a tree limb crashing to the earth, and he reached out to strike the man next to him. In a flurry of resurfacing emotion, he gripped Aaron's collar in a clenched fist, almost choking him.

“How dare you,” Hamilton responded, baring his teeth, “How dare you justify yourself at my expense.”

In a flash, Burr grabbed his wrist and yanked it from his neck, his eyes alight with wrath, burning.

“Justify myself? You have the nerve to speak of justification at someone else's expense? Hypocrite."

The words tumbled from Aaron’s mouth without his usual filter, fear and regret making an odd mix with the pent up hatred of generations. With each sentence, the bright eyes across from him widened and glistened; Hamilton's mouth hung open in shocked, horrified silence. The windows began to steam.

“How can you say that to me?” Alexander’s voice cracked again, and he hated himself for being so emotionally candid. “How can you speak to me like that? You took my life.”

“I never wanted it to end like that!” Aaron shouted back. “Do you know what happened to me? Do you have any idea what I became? There are fates worse than death, General. Believe me, there are.”

For several minutes the heavy silence filled the car. Aaron leaned against the window, head cradled in his right hand, staring ahead at the cement wall in front of the car.

“What do you want from me, Colonel? What could you possibly want with me?”

Aaron swallowed, blinked once, and retained his silence.

Alexander took another shuddering breath, and spoke again.

“I gave you a name for yourself too, you know,” his voice was thick, “which you were all too happy about donning, in the West. I know all about it. You are remorseless. Without conscience.”

“You don’t know all my secrets, General. My solitary hours in which I ruminated on my loss of self. At your hands. You have no earthly idea.”

“Why did you never apologize?” Hamilton started again, this time louder, finding his voice. “There were friends…people…you could have spoken with. You could have made amends—”

“—The only person who deserves an explanation is you,” mimicking his companion, Aaron raised his own voice, “I don’t owe anyone anything. Not another living soul on this planet deserves anything from me except you.”

Silence fell between them again and the only sound was their mutual breaths, heavy from shouting and sentiment. Finally, Aaron spoke again.

“I never apologized because I knew…” he covered his face, as if embarrassed, “…because I knew…I always believed… I would see you in an afterlife, or something like it. And there I could make proper amends.”

Alexander covered his mouth and shook his head. He could not believe the words he was hearing, presented before him, humbled.

“Why didn’t you find me sooner, and tell me this sooner?” Alexander rubbed his eyes, and groped into his jacket pocket for a packet of Kleenex. He wiped away a tear and stared at the steering wheel.

“I didn’t know where to find you, or how,” Aaron responded, “if you were in New York City or Albany…America or Europe. I didn’t know. And I couldn’t ask. And everywhere I looked…everywhere I read…” the colonel continued softly, “people told me there were ways of finding old friends. Inventions that brought people together, reunited and introduced them. I had to see for myself.”

The Nevisian could do nothing but breathe, and settle his heart rate. It was as if he were breathing for the first time in centuries.

Aaron turned his head slightly, watched his companion out of the corner of his eye, nervous. After several more minutes of silence, he could wait no more. He removed his jacket, revealing a finely tailored vest, and turned to face the Nevisian fully. His voice crept from his mouth in a pained, mortified whisper.

”Please…please tell me you accept my apology, General Hamilton. Don't let all of this be for nothing.”

The windows, still steamed, did not allow for Alexander to stare out of them like he wanted to. He heard the words from the man next to them, understood what they meant, but could not bring himself to answer right away. He closed his eyes and remembered.

He dotted the final period on his final letter and folded it neatly, placing it inside a cream colored envelope for someone to discover, should need be. He looked at the clock, nearing  2am, and wondered if he’d ever live to pen another pamphlet. Wondered if, after tomorrow, he’d even want to. Somewhere deep inside, a voice told Hamilton what he already knew: it had come to this, and you were helpless to stop it. You two have made your bed with such care—it would be impossible for this to end in any other way.

No, Alexander chided the voice; I will not go down as the villain in this story.

And the Nevisian sealed the envelope, as well as fate, quickly.

Dark eyes watched Alexander and shook him from his penitent reverie, and he knew why they’d been brought here.

“I can, and will, accept your apology, Colonel Burr.” Alexander swallowed again, could feel the leaden words leave his chest. “You know I harbored no ill will towards you, in the end.” He bit his tongue as the man next to him lapsed into silence. A moment more, his mind ticking like a clock, and Hamilton knew what he had to say. “You conducted yourself in the gentleman’s way.”

He did not fully believe the words that came from his mouth, but, like always, there were times when his body acted independently of his mind.

“And…” Alexander breathed, counting each second, “…there is a part of me that needs your forgiveness, too.”

At this, Aaron reached out a hand, unsure, and clasped Alexander's.

“Naturally I will forgive you, now,” he responded. Without thinking, he brought the hand to his mouth and kissed it, then placed it down again, his own hands clasping together in his lap. Alexander looked at the spot where his lips had touched, astonished, and then back at Aaron. “You know I am a forgiving man, General Hamilton.”

“Colonel…” Alexander began warningly, finally looking his lifelong demon in the eyes, “…this does not change things between us. There is still much to discuss.”

“I know.” Burr nodded solemnly; a weight lifted.

Alexander looked ahead of him again, and leaned forward, chin on the steering wheel, his mind racing. He closed his eyes and pretended, for a moment, that all was as it should be. He saw the ad, saw himself post it, remembered his precisely chosen words, and wondered if Burr had even read through the whole thing. If he even needed to.

Opening his eyes slowly, Hamilton caught his watch. It was nearing ten.

“General—” the colonel began.

“What.”

“Were you planning on driving home after a night at a bar? Or were you going to find a place to sleep until morning?”

Alexander could not remember exactly and merely shrugged.

“I was going to walk to my practice and sleep on a couch,” he invented, “it’s only three blocks away.”

Burr looked at him in amazement.

“You have your own practice?”

“Not by myself. With Robert Troup and Rufus King.” Alexander’s forehead still rested on the steering wheel and his words came out flat. Aaron chewed on this thought.

“I have been practicing somewhat. Family law,” he said quietly. Troup and King. There were others. “Under the surname ‘Edwards’, of course.”

Alexander breathed in, closed his eyes. Of course you’d need an alias, he thought, with the tiniest touch of amusement.

After another bout of heavy silence, Aaron spoke again.

“I should very much like to see your practice, General,” he said. Alexander’s forehead began to sting with the prolonged, pressured contact on the steering wheel, and he looked up.

There was a fleeting moment in which Hamilton remembered seeing Burr in court, so many generations ago, dressed in coal grey silk and shining boots. He spoke with such terse conviction, Alexander felt as though each word measured to his heartbeats, calculated and definitive. He held the courtroom in rapt, strict attention, demolishing the other lawyers’ arguments like a blade through snow. That was the precise moment he knew he’d met his match. And it thrilled him.

“It is within walking distance. We don’t need to stay in the car any longer.”

Aaron reached for the door handle at the same moment Alexander reached for his, and they stepped out into the brisk night air, into the living world again.

Chapter Text

 

When Aaron gets home that evening, it is late—long past midnight. Theo is still wide awake, waiting loyally for him to walk through the door. Though she is only fifteen, she knows her father well. She knows that when he comes home late, reeking of cigarette smoke, alcohol and other forbidden, nameless scents, not to ask too many questions. When he doesn’t come home at all, she doesn’t need to ask questions.

This night, however, something is different. Her father looks ill and out-of-sorts. After taking his coat, she waits for him to speak first. He doesn’t, and heads towards his bedroom. Silently she follows him.

He doesn’t seem to notice. He is in a trance. Not a drunken trance, notes Theo, a dream-like one. Unable to hear her softly calling his name, she wonders if he has taken drugs. Part of her dismisses this thought completely as absurd and not worthy of a man like her father, part of her entertains this thought as not entirely implausible. A flashback to the weeks after the painful, drawn-out death of her mother brings to her mind’s eye a medicine cabinet full of half-finished bottles of opiates.

As she walks down the hallway her heart begins to race. To feel the need to check the medicine cabinet would be tantamount to betraying the trust she has placed in her father. To ignore her suspicion altogether would be foolish.

The top of the stairs beings her face to face with the clock on the wall—it is almost 2:30am. Not an unusual time for her father to be getting home—even for a weeknight. His door is open an inch: an unspoken agreement between the two of them that he should not be disturbed. Any more than an inch, and she is allowed inside with out knocking. Any less, and he desires solitude. The moonlight—his room was the only one that had full exposure to the moon the entire year round, no matter what its position in the sky—cast a sliver of light into the hallway, illuminating the doorknob of the bathroom.

Theo shook the suspicion from her head. She wasn’t going to check the cabinet. And besides, if he had taken anything, it would be common sleeping pills. She garnered the courage to knock gently on his door.

No answer; heavy, labored breathing.

Timidly, she knocked again. The door silently, slowly opened just enough for her to see inside the man curled up, back to her, on his bed. She quietly whispered his name to get his attention. Sometimes, when she was feeling particularly stern and motherly, she called her father by his first name. He did not answer. She began to shake nervously.

Again, she called his name. To her relief, he stirred. Many times, Aaron came home so out of sorts he fell asleep immediately. Exhaling , she quietly sits next to him on the bed. The moon outside, full tonight, casts enough light into the room for her to see that his eyes are open and glazed over by the same trance that lead him silently up the stairs without speaking to her.

“You saw him again.”

It was not a question. The Friend—his Friend—whom he had often spoken of with a sort of condescending, amused pity—was reflected in his eyes. His image was still there. His ghost crossed her father’s face and even in the dark, she could see it.

Aaron did not answer.

“I knew you would. I warned you this would happen, Dad.”

He stirred again. She plucked up enough courage to speak only slightly louder.

“It is almost three. You should get to sleep.”

“I can’t sleep.”

The words were practically inaudible, but Theo knew what he had said. And why.

“Did you take any pills?”

“It doesn’t matter.”

A minute of silence passed between them and she didn't quite know how to respond. Whenever he spoke of the Friend, the clouds passed over his eyes and the pained, reluctantly guilty smile returned to his face. No one else noticed, she convinced herself. It had been the same since their new lives had begun. She knew it was only a matter of time before the past caught up with him. And what a past it had been. She stared at the moon.

A whisper made her break her stare.

“He wrote an advertisement. Like in a publication.”

Theo waited for the rest of the thought.

“And I just knew it was him. And I answered it.”

Her father’s voice was so quiet, it was almost non-existent. He stopped speaking, whether from the alcohol or the sheer exhaustion of his experience. As he opened his mouth to speak, the faint smell of vomit crossed her and she concluded that things were worse than she thought.

“I…We apologized. To each other.”

His breathing became heavier, more pained. The ticking of the clock in the hallway became more pronounced. Aaron began to shiver. Silently, Theo brought the trashcan closer to the side of the bed, and left to grab a towel. As she walked down the hallway to the bathroom, she heard the retching. Two towels hung on the bathroom wall, next to the open medicine cabinet. Wiping her eyes, she shut it, grabbed a towel and swallowed down whatever emotion had crept up in her tightened throat.

The smell in the bedroom hit her in the face but she ignored it. Aaron sat up in bed, rubbing his eyes with one hand.

“I will be fine, Theo. Go to bed.”

She offered him the towel without saying a word. He took it without looking at her.

“Thank you.”

Theo nodded.

“You have school tomorrow. Tomorrow is Friday.”

“Today is Friday.”

This caused him to laugh abruptly. Theo started for a moment, and then relaxed at the release of tension. He still avoided her gaze.

“Have you finished your homework?”

“Yes.”

He spoke as if nothing were out of the ordinary. They might as well have been at brunch. Aaron moved the trashcan out of sight, and placed the towel on top of it, covering it neatly. Running his fingers through his hair, the small smile faded from his face and he swallowed. He didn’t need to say anything; Theo left and returned in less than a minute with a glass of water. Finally, their eyes met.

“You will not speak of this to anyone. Not even your school friends.”

Theo diverted her eyes. “I don’t have anyone to tell, dad.”

He covered himself with blankets without removing his day clothes or loosening his tie. He muttered to himself as he situated his pillow, “Blessing in disguise.”

Chapter Text

 

In his old life, people had a way of describing Aaron as distant and cold. He supposed that was true, waking up the next morning, staring at the clock that read 11:30 am, the sight scent of vomit still permeating the bedroom air. Distant, he thought to himself. Unluckily this was only a distance of the mind, because he’d rather be anywhere but in this moment in the bedroom right now.

He slowly, carefully made his way from the bed to the kitchen, following the better scent of toast and eggs–knowing Theo had made them for him and he didn’t deserve to be treated so well.

A note from his daughter hung pasted to the fridge. The black eyed man picked it up, scanned it rapidly.

The power company called today, and I told them you were out. They say we are nearly three months behind on our bills–I didn’t know what to say, only that by the end of this month we’d have the money. She sounded irate. –T

Aaron made a face, “Not ‘we’, my dear, just me.”

He felt the ever present twinge of guilt spring up inside him again at the thought of Theo sharing his burden. A teenage girl shouldn’t have to know the uglier side of adulthood. There would be time for that yet, but not now.

A moment later, he sifted through the pile of letters in the container next to the sink: mostly credit card bills, some promising, some warning. The heavy feeling that sat on his chest crushed him again: certainly there were new opportunities, but he was still the same old Aaron Burr.

He needed a different law practice, that was the end game. But how to get there? He adored the law, was good at it, liked the challenges the new laws provided. The sad reality was that he was in over his head–too much for one man to learn on his own. He needed allies, friends from back then, and of course, he grinned darkly to himself, he had none.

Quickly he sped through the small mental Rolodex of names he kept in his head. How many ties had he cut?

Aaron picked up a piece of toast and chewed it thoughtfully, leaning against the counter. He scanned his tiny, dark apartment. He remembered the day he and Theo moved in; the small, crushed look on her face when she noticed the lack of natural light in her closet of a bedroom.

“My orchid will die, dad…” she said quietly. “I read online that it needs nearly ten hours of direct sunlight a day.”

“I will buy you an artificial sunlight lamp–you know the ones.”

When did things get so expensive?

He finished another slice of toast and grabbed a thin letter from the bottom of the stack: medical bills. The small, dark-featured man recalled where most of his money had gone. He rubbed his forehead. Things were dire, there was no way around it.

He kept in contact with a few people from back then, he was careful about who he revealed himself to, naturally. There were old acquaintances: the bookwormish Herman Blennerhassett, who’d moved back to Ohio, only to find his beloved mansion the property of the state.

“Why did I stop returning his calls?” Aaron asked himself out loud, finishing the eggs and dumping the plate into the sink. Herman had money, amazingly, but though he was naive in most things he knew the colonel too well to lend him any of it again.

His unfortunate ex-wife sprang to mind, and quickly he shunned her.

“Absolutely not,” Aaron murmured, “Never again.”

That left the rest of the so-called "patriots". The Adamses, the Jeffersons, the Marshalls–none of whom eyed him with anything less than mild suspicion. And if he needed them, he had no idea where to start looking. New England and Virginia were bigger than he remembered.

There was one man who was ever present in his mind’s radar; a small blip here and there. Alexander Hamilton was a generous man, indiscreetly so, but the small colonel could not bring himself to that level of embarrassment. Yet the moment he saw the advertisement he knew who it was, and knew he needed to be the one to answer it.

He walked down the short hall to his own tiny bedroom, clearing away the sick from the night before and then searching his closet for some presentable suit. The days ran together rather pointlessly but Aaron was never one to wallow in self-pity. He’d found the man he’d been thinking of-–but had no idea where to take things from there.

“A practice…a practice,” he mumbled, buttoning his shirt. Would the irate general agree to set up shop with him? The thought almost made Burr laugh out loud.

----------

Like the first snow in winter, Eliza Jumel was waiting for him at his office, an unwelcome guest. She leaned against the door, eyes lined red from lack of sleep or something else, wrist dangling bracelets worth more than was entirely prudent.

“I told you not to meet me here any more,” was the greeting the colonel gave her, keeping his voice low as to not alert the other patrons in the building. The tall, thirty story office building glittered in the midday sun and Aaron dutifully made his way to where his small office was, the fifth floor.

The slim blonde slid into the elevator next to him, much to the colonel’s annoyance.

“What if I’m a client? What if I need your legal advice?”

“Go to someone else. I’m not helping you with anything,” Aaron responded with gritted teeth.

“You’re a public servant. You don’t get to choose who you help.” She grinned deviously and Aaron pushed his way out of the elevator as soon as the door opened. Eliza was close behind.

“I could have you escorted out like last time,” he turned to her, a smug smile affixed to his face as her countenance darkened.

“That was humiliating,” she replied, following him into his office.

Finally, Aaron turned and gave her his full attention.

“How did you find me? I thought you were in Paris.”

“We were. We lived there for a while,” Eliza responded, referring to her husband “Then decided we missed the city too much.” She sat down in a small chair across from his desk. Her large eyes watched Aaron as he unpacked his things.

“You know why I’m here, Aaron,” she spoke again, voice more serious.

“I haven’t forgotten.”

He exhaled loudly as he sat down in his desk chair, pressing the button that turned his computer on.

“You got your retribution.”

“Excuse me?”

Black eyes looked up, “The divorce, Eliza. I know why you used Hamilton’s own son humiliate me like that. Don’t pretend innocence.”

She crossed her arms and looked away.

“And now, what? Stephen’s not doing so well? Have you bled him dry already? And now it’s my turn?”

“How dare you,” the pretty, if somewhat haggard, blonde turned her gaze back on the man in front of her. Her face flushed pink as she tried to find her words. Aaron shot her a dark, meaningful look.

“Poor choice of phrasing, I suppose,” he locked eyes with her for a moment, then back to his papers.

“You’re a disgusting, horrid man, do you know that?” Eliza shot back, cheeks still red. “You will get what’s coming to you, Aaron. And then what?”

“What on earth is that supposed to mean? What could possibly happen to me?” His voice got louder, “Your husband is going to send his goons after me? His French hitmen? Get out. You don’t threaten me.”

He waved his hand towards the door, but the blonde woman stayed put. Defiantly, she watched him.

“I’ve had to resort to some things, you know,” Eliza spoke again, affecting pain in her voice, “terrible things, because of how tight funds have become. And then I thought, 'why me? Why should I have to suffer when that snake sits comfortably in his Manhattan penthouse–”

Aaron choked back an incredulous laugh, “–Manhattan penthouse?”

“Why should he be safe and sound when I, his poor ex-wife, have to scrimp and scrounge for cab fare and dinner? After he robbed me blind!”

“I can assure you things have not been easy for me, either, Madame,” the colonel shot back, finally giving her his full attention. “Your pleas are useless here. I have no money to give. And even if I did, my daughter is more deserving of it than you.”

“Stephen said you’d be difficult.”

“I don’t give a damn what Stephen said.”

“We met people in France, you know. Important people,” Eliza tried another approach, picking up a glass paperweight from the desk in front of her and examining it, “People it would be unwise to upset.”

Aaron couldn’t help himself, and chuckled, “What is this, the French mafia now?”

“Revolutionaries, actually,” she said, “From our time. Who know about you appealing to that dog Napoleon for money and power. Who despise you for it.”

The colonel stifled a shudder, and spoke with confidence, though his was waning, “I’m sure you educated them all about my life, Eliza, given that you’re such an expert.”

“I told them how you stole from me, yes, which is the God’s honest truth. And they know you betrayed Jefferson, who was a champion of their cause–”

“–You meddling–”

“–And they’re prepared to help me on my behalf, prepared to help me get retribution.”

Aaron leaned back in his chair, shaken, and watched the slim woman push a strand of curls from her eyes, “And why can’t they give you money, if you’re so desperate for it?” He eyed the bangles.

Her temper flared, “The money’s only half of it! It has to come from you. And believe me when I say I’ll get it, one way or another.”

----------

The petite blonde left the office in a huff, her pretty curls falling out of the loose bun she wore on top of her head. The afternoon sunlight that caught in the messy strands shone gold and they bounced this way and that as Eliza turned the corner and made her way into the elevator. Thankfully, she thought, it was empty.

She looked at her watch–twelve minutes she’d been in his office, twelve minutes of her time she’d wasted, and with nothing to show.

Eliza Jumel was far from stupid. She was not fully refined, would never be Old Money (she hated the term, frankly, but pretended she liked it, once) but she knew that the only difference between New Money and Old Money was time. They all played the same games. She learned this in France.

Her cheeks flushed as she opened the front doors, into the hustle and bustle of the city. She couldn’t remember a windier winter.

As she made her way down the street, a few men watched her from a bench, interested. She ignored them, smiling to herself. They all played the same games.

No one here was Old Money, at least not anyone from her generation–though there was the odd fool who aspired to it, and the odd cynic who pretended to it. She adjusted her watch, paused to wait for a light to turn green. She had worked–hard–for everything she ever had. Had come within a hair’s breadth of losing it all, too. And then remembered that she never went down without a fight.

She scurried across the street, skirting a taxi. Tightening her scarf, her mind raced with this plan and that scheme–it never rested, not for a moment. Raised as she was amidst thieves and junkies, there was no time, no space, no safe haven, for those with a slow mind. She likened it to Darwinism. She’d always had an aptitude for the sciences.

A small, stray dog fled from her sight and into a pie of garbage, whining.

“Hush, shoo!” She hissed, walking past it. Around her, the crowd of working people died down as she entered a more residential area. The dog growled once, then disappeared.

The apartments were all the same, no character. Eliza looked up quickly at the sun–felt the tall buildings around her close in as if she were living in a box–then back to the earth. Though she adored modern conveniences, there was something lost in the industrial age that she’d couldn’t quite place. She touched her face, and paused for a moment.

A gust of wind nearly pushed her over, and the petite blonde swore.

Her first idea was to find those who were like her: Patriots, she took to calling them after she’d heard the word in France, mingling with those from the old generation who’d returned as well. They fashioned themselves “Revolutionaries”, the Americans, “Patriots”.

“Even those who were loyal to the British?” Eliza found herself asking the notorious Marquis de Sade one day while still in France.

“Where are they now?” He danced around the answer. She eyed him.

“I don’t know.”

He was silent after that, and Eliza’s mind whirred internally trying to dissect what he’d meant. He’d been in a taciturn mood, and she knew better than to push it.

That was where it began, really, her long chats with the man who’d birthed the concept of Sadism. Dark, but Eliza was a friend to the underworld of human emotion and so was he, and so she felt it was a natural, if not somewhat dangerous, alliance. Stephen hemmed and hawed, bored with France–bored with her, she felt–and so the petite, quicksilver blonde found herself in the company of the Marquis more and more. Fascinated.

His vision of the world was a dark one, one that Eliza was all to familiar with. He’d propositioned her, sexually, only once, she recalled. And after a stern rejection was amazed at his resignation.

“Your mother was a prostitute, then?” The Marquis asked one afternoon, when they’d first began talking, enjoying a glass of white wine. She didn’t flinch at the word anymore.

“She was. I don’t know my father. I was raised as a Bowen.”

“Family isn’t everything. I despise mine.” The sallow, sickly-looking Marquis sipped his drink, stared out over the villa from the deck of his small country home, a far cry from the castle he’d once inhabited.

“We always want what we don’t have. I would have given anything for a family. But it was impossible. My mother had far greater things on her mind than marrying well and giving me siblings, I can tell you that. I never felt quite right.”

They talked about nearly everything–the Revolutions, both French and American. He’d said that the concept of starting anew in a fresh country was a promising one, but that humans would ultimately ruin any chance of a perfect society. Eliza agreed.

One day, she found herself on the topic of marriage.

“What a topic…” she laughed. The Marquis watched her. “I was married twice. Stephen is–was–my first husband. My second was a piece of garbage called Aaron Burr.”

The Marquis laughed at her dark inflection–a curious, nasal sound.

“A piece of garbage?”

“I was quite wealthy by the time he’d married me,” she began, “he stole my money from me. There was nothing I could do, at the time, the courts favored men when it came to this sort of thing…”

She found herself growing flushed at the memory, angry. The Marquis’ countenance slowly darkened as he listened to her story.

“My own advisors and lawyers alerted me to this about six months into the marriage. I felt no guilt in filing for divorce immediately.”

“I would have had him killed.”

Eliza laughed nervously, knowing he wasn’t one for idle threats.

“I got my way, in the end.”

“Did you ever get your money back?” The Marquis leaned forward in his chair. Something glittered in his eyes.

“No. Well, not all of it,” Eliza stared off into the distance. “But my divorce attorney was the son of the man he…was nefariously connected to.” She chose not to divulge too many details, liking the mystery and the way it made the Marquis’ eyes widen slightly.

“How deliciously embarrassing,” he smiled. “I take it this Burr character is back as well. Is he a New Yorker, like yourself?”

“He is, unfortunately.”

“Have you considered finding him again? Getting your recompense?” A cloud drifted over the sun; the glittering eyes were gone.

“Not a day goes by when I don’t think about it. When Stephen and I go back to America, I’ll have a better chance. You should come with us, Donatien.” She added, using his first name. He smiled.

“I have a small apartment in the city. I find it disappointing.”

Eliza shrank back, slightly hurt at the insult. He continued.

“France tires me as well. I feel as if I’ve siphoned off everything she has to give, and I do hunger for something different.”

The jarring of the heavy wooden door in front of her shook Eliza back to the present, back to the wind whipping around her head in a frenzy and the dark late winter afternoon. She pushed herself inside her own small apartment and let the wind slam the door shut. It was that very same conversation where she’d first gotten the idea–the idea of using one to humiliate the other–two birds with one stone, the Marquis had muttered, staring off into the distance and recalling his own sadistic pleasures.

The first week she was back in America she set to work devising her plan.

Chapter Text

 

The years after the death of Theodosia Prevost are dark ones. Aaron likens them to his time spent in European self-imposed exile: alive, broken, and rather empty. He subconsciously relapses into his old ways: random sexual encounters served as a welcome escape from monotony, yet instead of only having himself to care about, he has his daughter to think of, too.

She is a bright girl and can guess what Aaron gets up to when he doesn’t come home some nights, but is entirely helpless when it comes to buying food and clothing for herself. He forgets his parental duties for a time.

It was quite easy for a man such as Burr to live a live of anonymity, and the small, dark-featured colonel couldn’t decide if it was a blessing or a curse. He rarely thought about his other contemporaries, and when he did, it was with a mixture of pity, disdain, and hatred. He hadn’t played their games, and suddenly found himself outcast.

The day it all came crashing down around him was a particularly gloomy one– his late wife's birthday-- and Aaron found himself alone in his small, solitary office. He tried to focus his mind on happier things and was unable to shake them memory of her, and sat sullen at his gleaming desk.

Really, a small voice informed him, that is why you go looking for distractions. It wasn’t a question. Aaron looked at the black laptop–the device that gave him access to the entire world, no bigger than a painting. When he did think about those illustrious men from his generation, there was only ever one he desperately needed to see.

“You know precisely why you’re here, Aaron,” he recalled his wife’s voice on a sunny summer morning, weak but brilliant. She looked at him–the penetrating stare she reserved for him–and the little colonel knew.

“If you do one thing in this life, my dear, make it the right thing.”

He felt like a butterfly in a hurricane and she was a glass jar.

Those thoughts will not do, the small voice came back to him; the voice was clearer this time around, as it took on the distinct tenor inflection of a strange tropical lilt that he’d heard only one week ago. He checked the calendar and hadn’t remembered to change it since last month.

It was a like a dream, that meeting. He knew the little peevish general probably hadn’t slept since, and was most likely busy justifying something terrible. Aaron quietly put the finishing touches on a short case brief and closed his laptop, briefly wondering why he’d never run into the general–well, never sought him out– before that night.

“I told you I’d come back,” a female voice, almost bored, sighed from the door frame. Eliza Jumel cleared her throat and looked around the office, unimpressed. She'd worn her favorite dress. 

Aaron slammed his laptop shut, only slightly startled and the sight of his ex-wife from their previous lives. “I believe herpes does the same thing.”

“Still charming as ever, Burr,” she replied. “Do you have my money today?”

The colonel glared at her, mouth slightly agape.

“Yes, Eliza. I have fifteen thousand dollars, just here, in my desk drawer. Please wait just a moment while I ready the suitcase.”

The blonde woman adjusted her hair, straightened her back and removed herself from the door frame. The memory of her new friend the Marquis, his greedy eyes glittering in the French sunlight, was still fresh in her mind. She’d ruminated over this for a while, saw the pieces poised perfectly, waiting for someone to simply push them into place. Eliza loved the way Donatien de Sade's mind worked: sharpened from a lifetime’s worth of cruelty. Like hers.

“You need money, Aaron. You are suffering. Let me help you.” The petite blonde smiled, and sat on the edge of his desk.

“You’re so noble.” Aaron scooted his chair further from her.

“Let me help you,” she continued, “So you can help me.”

“You’re not making any sense,” he stood, agitated, “Nearly once a week you come here with some hair-brained scheme or ridiculous demand, and I have had enough of it. Get out or I will call security.”

“Empty threats. You wouldn’t have a lady escorted out, and embarrass her. That’s not your way.”

“Then get to your point,” he responded through gritted teeth.

He watched as she slowly removed an envelop from her purse. The Marquis was wealthy and connected. Eliza explained her situation to hime and he’d found a solution: he’d loan her the beginning funds––and when the job was complete she’d get her cut and he’d get his. Think of this like a capital investment, he'd told her.

Eliza locked her pale eyes on her old ex-husband, her square jaw set. Aaron wondered what he ever saw in her. His eyes land on the money.

“You are a whore, Burr.”

The colonel rolled his eyes, and tiredly waited for the rest of her argument.

“All that is missing is the money.”

She finished, triumphantly wielding the envelope. “There is $2,000 dollars in here, Aaron. There are women out there who will pay you this—and more—to do what you evidently do best.”

It took a moment for her proposition to sink in, and Burr fumed. 

“Are you drunk? Taking drugs? You’re clearly not well, or my hearing has failed me completely.” He paused, hating the look of superiority on her features, “I thought I just heard you tell me to sell myself like a prostitute.”

“What’s the matter, Aaron? You are more than willing to sleep with anything that moves. Why not get paid for it?”

“That is—”

“—Debasing? Yes. Yes it is.” She waves the envelope enticingly. Her eyes scan him up and down, the mean smile still in place,“I prefer the term ‘high class male escort’.”

Burr felt himself burn with anger and embarrassment and pointed a finger towards the door. 

“Get out! If you return here again, I swear in the name of God I will have you arrested, do you understand me?”

Before exiting, she turned to him.

“It is only human to want compensation for services rendered, Colonel. From what I know, you have been volunteering far too much for far too long. I’d bring you lots of clients,” she added darkly, locking her stare with his.

With a final push, Aaron managed to get Eliza out of his office.

Rubbing his temples, Aaron shuts the door and locks it. He stares out the window for a moment, the sky grey and threatening snow.

“The woman has lost her mind. There is no denying it,” he muttered to himself.

He had far too many other things on his mind then Eliza Jumel’s infernal schemes. As the days passed, while papers crossed his desk scrawled over with red ink, and bills piled up in his mailbox, his thought of Eliza’s speculation. Nights and days run together like wet pages in a journal. Aaron envisions his cold, lifeless office and the envelope stuffed to bursting with easy money.

----------

Alexander could not bring himself to go back to the office for several days, feigning sickness. The morning he’d decided to go back he woke up to find ten missed calls from Bobby Troup and a worried, if somewhat motherly, voicemail. He dragged himself into the tall skyscraper, hit the button in the elevator for the 17th floor, and faced the music. He was relieved when he’d found out Rufus King was gone for the day–but that left the ever-concerned Troup to pick up the pieces.

Bobby stared at the Nevisian, mouth open.

“I  still don’t understand–Aaron Burr?” He remarked, placing his usual breakfast on the desk in the small office they shared, never taking his eyes off of Alexander. The latter man nodded sadly.

“You were right,” was all he could say. The general leaned back in his chair.

Bobby walked toward him, cautiously, “I never said anything about Burr, Alex, I had no idea–”

“–No, when you said I was casting a faulty net. How I shouldn’t have gone looking for…whatever I was looking for. I should have let things be.”

The round-faced man sighed, this had been the day he’d been dreading.

He was friends with both of them, liked both of them, and knew if one had come back it would only stand to reason the other would be there, too. When events transpired as they did, back then, Bobby quelled his own emotions on the subject and stood by Betsey when she needed him, and later on, Burr himself. If Hamilton had suspected that, the fat man ruminated, he’d never made it known. Troup waited for his friend to speak.

“It just…it just doesn’t make sense. Of all people.”

The fat man waited, Alexander rubbed his temples and put his elbows on his desk. A half-finished mug of lukewarm black coffee sat precariously by the edge.

“Of all the people…”

Bobby stepped forward, cautiously, “…Is it…I mean is it possible that you’ve been set up? Or he has, for that matter?”

Hamilton fixed his bright gaze onto him, curious. Bobby pressed on.

“I mean, there are ways to circumvent the usual avenues on these computers,” he gestured towards the laptops on their desks, “You think you are putting up an advertisement for anyone and everyone, when in reality there is someone behind the scenes pulling the strings.”

Alexander furrowed his brow, “What on earth are you talking about? There are no strings.”

“I saw a program about computers. It got me interested and so I read a few books, too,” he smiled to himself, “They really are quite fascinating machines, I must say–”

“–Bobby, please.”

“I mean, well, have you considered the possibility that someone wants you two to meet again?” The words left his mouth quietly, as he watched Alexander for some type of emotion. “Someone had it…what’s the word…rigged.”

The bright eyes watched the round-faced man intently, face etched with thought lines.

“Who in God’s name would want us to meet again?” Alexander responded, in a hushed, worried tone. Bobby noticed immediately the uncomfortable flush of his cheeks.

He stepped closer to his friend comfortingly, “I don’t mean meet meet, like…like a duel,” he added quickly, seeing the expression in Alexander’s face go from worry to dread. “I mean…I don’t know. Maybe someone is playing a cruel joke.”

Hamilton ran a hand through his thick hair, “But what does that have to do with strings?”

Bobby let out a small laugh, “Oh, I didn’t mean literal strings. I mean like someone was planning something behind the scenes using computers and your advertisement. Someone saw it and maneuvered it to the right eyes.”

“Who?”

“I don’t know, Alex, I was just brainstorming–don’t take it too seriously.”

“You think Jefferson is out there, too? That he knows about me?” Hamilton's back straightened.

“Alexander, no–”

“–He’d love to see us pitted against one another again, that meddling, Machiavellian–”

Troup placed a hand on the Nevisian’s desk, “Alexander, enough of this. I was just spouting off random thoughts. Nothing serious.”

The red-cheeked general stared out the window in front of him, a dangerous sinking feeling hitting him in the pit of his stomach. It stood to reason, naturally, that there’d be Virginians, too, who’d want some kind of retribution. For a while he’d deluded himself into thinking this was his own new world, a sort of safe cocoon including only his intimates, but Alexander was never one to shy away from truth when it presented itself so clearly. Bobby noticed the upset flush and interrupted his thoughts.

“Alexander,” he began softly, “Don’t dwell on this. I should have never opened my big mouth.”

The general was silent. Bobby Troup placed one final comforting hand on his friend’s shoulder and made his way back to his own desk, opening his drink and taking a bite of his danish.

“Besides, you needn’t worry, you’ve got people to protect you,” the fat man remarked lightly, trying to ease the tension. Alexander looked over at him, suddenly embarrassed.

“I don’t need protection, I told you.”

“No, no, I meant if this is Burr’s way of calling you out again, we’ll be here to–”

“–I don’t need protection from him.” Alexander stood up, suddenly upset. The fat man opened his mouth to speak again, but was cut off.

“I told you before, Bobby–and I told King the same thing. I don’t need protection from anyone.” He fumbled around in his pockets, looking for keys. “I’m going for a walk.”

“Alexander, you know what I meant–”

“–So what if someone set this up.” In a flash, the Nevisian was filled with righteous indignance. “So what? Are you suggesting I can’t handle it?”

“No! I simply meant that if it is Burr, or someone like him, trying to trap you into something again–”

“–‘Trapped’? Again?”

Bobby rubbed his face and sighed loudly, “You need to be careful lest you go looking for trouble, that’s what I’m saying. You’re not naive, you know what the circumstances are and what you’ve got to lose. I’m not going to apologize for caring about you, Alex.”

The general grabbed his coat, nearly knocking the coat rack over.

“I’ll be back within the hour. When King comes in, tell him I went to the store for, I don’t know, cough drops. Don’t tell him about this conversation.”

The fat man watched helplessly as his friend left the office, the nagging feeling still gnawing at his gut.

Chapter Text

 

The general felt like he could walk forever and never get tired, his own nerves as a sort of gasoline, propelling him forward. Several people caught his eye as he made his way down the busy city street, enjoying the feeling of sunlight on his face, and he smiled at them, hoping it would ease his own discomfort. He thought about Betsey, and his gut sank.

She’d have to know, he’d have to tell her, his discovery. But how? He couldn’t explain the reasons behind wanting to find companionship elsewhere. The week-long stretches he spent in the city, away from the Albany mansion they shared with her father...she had to know, Hamilton reasoned with himself, that things were not going as well as they should be.

You know exactly who you were hoping to find. A small voice piped up, unwanted, from a dark recess of his mind.

Alexander shook his head to himself and made his way to a promising-looking food cart on the next street.

“If I wanted to find John, I’d have gone to South Carolina,” Hamilton spoke out loud, quietly, to no one but himself.

You know that’s a lie. You wanted to see if he’d come find you, first.

“It doesn’t matter now,” Alexander answered his own conscience, pulling out his phone to make it look like he was busy, “What’s happened has happened. It was naive of me to think I could avoid Burr forever.”

“Are you going to order something?” A gruff voice from inside the food truck called out to him. The general looked up and nodded.

“Number four, please,” he called, bringing his gaze back to his phone.

There was nothing he could do, now, no escaping what was out there.

Several minutes later he was presented with his food–a particularly messy grilled cheese–and the general was on his way.

“I know that look anywhere. Eating while nervous.” A different gruff voice this time shook the general from his thoughts, and he squinted his eyes against the bright winter sun to see Gouvernuer Morris coming towards him, his signature lop-sided gait leading the way.

“I thought I told you to stop eating your feelings, Hamilton,” he called again, smiling. The Nevisian grinned in spite of himself, happy to see his old friend.

They met in front of a bench, skirting some pigeons. Morris was the first to sit down.

“Fancy meeting you here,” he joked, referring to his own practice that was only three blocks away.

“It’s not like you to take walks, Morris,” Alexander replied, smiling and wiping cheese from his chin.

“I wasn’t walking, I was hobbling.”

“Fair enough. Enjoying your hobbles today?”

“Immensely.” Morris inclined his rather large, leonine head towards the sandwich in his companion’s lap, “What’s that?”

“A ‘Cheese Royale Supreme.’”

Morris laughed, short, like a bark, “You payed money for that? Two pieces of Kraft American slapped on a slice of white Styrofoam?”

“There’s a tomato in here somewhere,” Alexander examined his sandwich again, “And some pickles.”

“Spare me the details.”

“You’re welcome to have a bite,” the general smiled, wiping his mouth again.

“How much did you pay for that glorified grilled cheese?”

“I don’t know, five dollars?”

Gouvernuer hooted, and several pigeons scattered. “You’ve been swindled, my friend. I thought I knew you better than that. I’ll tell you what, come over to my flat and I’ll make you a better one for free.”

The larger of the two men leaned back on the bench, sighed, content. Alexander let his one-legged friend do the talking this time.

“Just came outside for a bit to enjoy the first decent day we’ve had in a while. Can’t remember what the sun feels like on my face, to tell you the truth. Leg’s been acting up, too,” he reached down and pulled up a pant leg to reveal a state-of-the-art prosthetic limb, “It gets this way when there’s too much moisture in the air.”

“What did Doctor Rush say about it?”

“Can’t bother the poor man, he’s been up in Boston these past few weeks. That damnable Adams has been complaining of chest pain and you know his wife. Won’t let the doctor out of her sight until she’s sure John’s alright. I suppose I admire her fortitude”

“No luck finding another doctor, then,” the general blinked once, watching his gruff friend re-situate his leg.

“Not one who won’t ask too many questions,” Morris responded, rolling his eyes. “So how about you? How’s that practice going?”

“Slow, but steady.” the Nevisian was taciturn, couldn’t bring himself to mention the Colonel, “Troup brings in more business than me.”

“Troup, really?” Morris chuckled softly to himself. “Still doing pro-bono?”

Alexander ran a hand through his hair, sheepishly, “Yes. I’m afraid it’s a weakness of mine. And his, sadly.”

“How about King, then? Are any of you bleeding hearts bringing in any money over there or should you cut to the chase and just open up an orphanage already?”

The familiar dark feeling in Alexander’s chest returned; he remembered King’s promise.

“King’s alright. Still a great lawyer, but I think he’s been wanting to start his own practice for a while.”

“You look green.”

“It’s been a strange week, to say the least.”

The larger of the two men eyed his companion, the first furrow of concern etching itself on his brow.

“Seems rather selfish of him, out of character. What’s the real story?”

Alexander sighed, stared indiscriminately at a space in front of his nose.

“It’s…not necessarily out of character. We made a sort of bet.” The general turned to watch his friend’s look of concern slowly change to one of chagrin. “It’s a long story.”

“I’ve got time.” Morris leaned forward, interested.

“I was curious about whether or not I could find others around the city…you know, from our generation, ” Alexander improvised his story only a little, “So I made an advertisement. Put it out there, on the internet. It was an absurd thing, to tell you the truth. Too detailed to garner any sort of response. King said if it got a return, he’d strike out on his own and finally start his own practice. He never thought it would work.”

Morris laughed, “Trying to see who you’d find?”

Hamilton blushed, “Not in a nefarious way. Not what you think.”

“Yeah right.” The larger man eyed his companion. “I’m sure Betsey knows nothing.”

Alexander covered his face, then looked up, “No. And I feel awful. I got what I deserved, considering who answered it.”

“Burr’s back too, then.” Morris said, matter-of-fact. He leaned to the side, pulling a cigarette out of his pocket and lighting it. Alexander turned to him, wide-eyed.

“You knew!”

The larger man held the cigarette between teeth, and grunted, “I can’t say I’m surprised. Come on now.”

He blew a long gust of smoke, and the general stared ahead in a daze. Across the street a tiny old woman fed a flock of pigeons french fried from a fast food bag. The roar of a car engine speeding past sent them back into the air, the flutter of their wings echoing off the sides of the buildings. A cloud slowly drifted across the sun.

Morris inhaled another puff of smoke, “Amazing it was Burr who came answering, and not someone else. What are the odds.”

The Nevisian put his face in his hands, “They’re astronomical. It doesn’t make sense. Troup said it was rigged.”

The one-legged man laughed darkly to himself, “Rigged for what? So Burr would find you again, and then what?” He kicked a pebble from beneath the bench.

Alexander looked at him in horror, “You’re not saying what I think you’re saying.”

“Burr would have had to connect with someone who knows you. Who knows you put the ad out in the first place, in order for him to find it. He’d have to be tipped off. So breathe, Hamilton, it wasn’t rigged.” Morris let out another low, gruff laugh, and ran a hand through his hair.

“Troup says there’s a way to circumvent the normal paths on a computer. Someone who understands their internal wiring could make it so–”

“–Troup watches shows about aliens building the pyramids and refuses to get GPS because he thinks the government is following him around.”

Alexander was still not convinced, “You don’t think King…told Burr. About the ad. Do you?”

Morris shrugged.

“What reason would he have for it? He cares for you.” Another exhale filled with smoke; the sun peaked out from behind the clouds. “Sounds like you just got unlucky.”

Sirens blared in the distance, and for a moment Alexander relished in the silence between himself and his smoking friend. He felt as though he were on a precipice, deciding whether or not to jump. But he’d been here before.

“I met him at a bar a couple blocks from here. Last week. He didn’t specify who he was in the response to my ad. He just asked me where I’d like to meet him.”

“And you didn’t sense any danger?” There was a tired sort of amusement in Morris’ voice.

The Nevisian looked at him helplessly, “Why is this happening?”

The larger man exhaled loudly, “Now you’re asking the impossible question. If I sat around and thought about that I’d drive myself insane.”

“No, I mean with Burr. Again.”

Morris shot him a knowing side glance. Another second later, Alexander felt his heart skip a beat, and spoke up quietly.

“He doesn’t want to hurt me. He…we apologized. To each other. That’s a step in the right direction, wouldn’t you say? A small one, but still.” The one-legged man watched his flushed companion with interest, letting the cigarette hang out of his slightly ajar mouth. Alexander continued, ever more quietly, “I think he wanted some kind of closure.”

“Jesus Christ.” Morris rolled his eyes.

“I’m being serious. I can’t stop thinking about it. Why we’re here. There were so many things left unsaid.” Alexander shoved the remains of the sandwich into the bag, and tossed it into a nearby trashcan. “He’s back and I can’t continue ignoring the fact that he’s out there. What if he’s plotting something?”

“Plotting something? Burr couldn’t plot his way out of a paper bag. Not on his own, anyway.”

The beleaguered general chewed a nail. “I’ve got to beat him at his own game.”

Morris threw the butt of his cigarette on the ground and stomped it out with his shoe, chuckling darkly to himself. He shook his head.

“You need to live your own life and let him live his. You said yourself you’ve apologized. Cleared the air. Let it be, for Christs’ sake.”

“He’s practicing law, too. What if we take him into the practice. Keep an eye on him.” Alexander’s mind worked rapidly and he counted the bricks in the sidewalk, for a split second unaware he’d even spoken aloud. The one-legged man to his left shook him from his thoughts.

“You what?” Morris reached for his cane, leaning against the bench, and stood. “You want him back in your life?”

Hamilton looked up at him, “It’s the same thing as before. If I know what he’s up to, he can’t go back to his old tricks.”

Morris leaned on his cane, preparing to leave. “I don’t trust it. Any of it. Either of you, to be perfectly honest.” Alexander opened his mouth in offended protest, and the larger man cut him off.

“Don’t–if you and Troup decide to let Burr join the practice then you’d better let me in, too. The last time Troup was alone with you two he ended up with an ulcer.”

“That was…he was exaggerating.” the general stumbled over his words. “You don’t have to babysit us!”

“And what do you call what you’re planning with Burr?”

“That’s different, and you know it,” Alexander stood up quickly. “I don’t need protection. Burr is my issue, not yours.”

“Calm down, Hamilton, for God’s sake.” Morris growled, annoyed at the sudden display of emotion. He reached into his jacket pocket, and pulled out a business card. “Here’s my address. The phone number changed from last time. I want you to call me before you do anything rash.”

Alexander accepted the business card reluctantly, and then, “I will do no such thing. I am perfectly capable of making my own decisions, and I–don’t give me that look–”

“–You know what I think? I think you’re secretly pleased at this turn of events,” the larger man leaned on his cane, looking at his bright-eyed friend with the same tired amusement of earlier, “I think, deep down, there was some part of you that wanted to go looking for trouble. And boy, have you found it. It’s a talent.” He turned and adjusted his coat and Alexander stood up.

“What is that supposed to mean?”

Morris locked his heavy grey eyes on the shorter man, “I think you know precisely what it means. Now, I’ve got to get back to my own office before my secretary files a missing persons report. Again.”

“You think I want to… to what? Duel him again? You think this is why I want to keep him close?”

“'Duel him again’, good God almighty…” Morris muttered, limping away slowly. The Nevisian was close on his trail.

“Well, do you? Don’t you think keeping him at an arms’ length is better than letting him out of my sight to do–whatever it is that he does?”

“I think you’re looking for a fight, is what I think.” The larger man stopped one final time and faced his breathless companion. “I think you’re always looking for the next challenge to keep you on your toes. And here comes the ultimate one, again. You’re willingly going to walk a tight rope just for the thrill of it. Does Troup know you’re thinking of bringing Burr in?”

Alexander looked away, and Morris followed his gaze.

“Hamilton, the man’s going to have a coronary.” The one-legged man growled, making several more pigeons take flight. He checked his watch. “I’ve got to go. Now. Call me.”

He stabbed a finger at the business card in Alexander’s hand.

“Troup’s number still the same?”

“I don’t see why any of this needs to be done. I am capable–”

“–It’s probably the same, then,” Morris muttered to himself, checking his own phone. “I’ll talk to him later. Hopefully before you do too much damage.”

The larger man began to slowly make his way back down the road, shaking his head.

Chapter Text

 

No matter what Aaron did, he couldn’t shake the image of the money from his head, and the avenues he’d have to travel to get to it. The thought was titillating, in a dark sort of way. His daughter noticed that his mind was elsewhere.

“Dad, you haven’t touched anything on your plate. Are you ok?” Theo swallowed a bite of lasagna and watched her father, whose orb-like black eyes mimicked her own.

“The skin…” He muttered, stabbing at a dry piece of noodle with his fork, unappatized. He danced around the subject, afraid to broach anything more nefarious with his daughter, knowing she had too much on her mind as it was. She looked at him sadly.

“The box said four hundred degrees for 20 minutes. It’s not my fault if our oven is faulty.”

“No, no, I mean it’s the lasagna itself. I don’t care for it.”

“You haven’t said a word all evening. It’s not just the food,” Theo tried again, concern etched in her young features.

Her father looked at her sadly. He never could keep anything from her, even if he tried.

“Madame Jumel has been visiting me at my office lately. Twice in the past couple weeks. She has come back from France, demanding I pay her retribution from past wrongs.” Another heavy feeling, one that made his heart sink like stone in the ocean, hit the black-eyed colonel and he wasn’t prepared for the look of slight confusion on his daughter’s face. There was an entire, glacial chunk of his life that she’d never known.

“You recall I told you about Eliza a few months ago,” Aaron began quietly, “My second marriage. Ill-fated.”

Theo’s eyes widened in realization, “Yes. I remember.” A slight blush, and she went back to picking at the cheese on her plate. “I read a book about it, I’m sorry.”

Aaron watched his daughter shrink, embarrassed and he remembered a time when he’d railed hot and cold against the history books that defiled him as a Luciferian figure , had tried to protect his daughter from them, but was entirely unable. The teenage girl’s unquenchable curiosity had gotten the better of her and she’d found out more than she wanted to know.

Noticing her father’s crestfallen face, Theo added helpfully, “You know I never believe anything like that unless I hear it from you. I was just…I was just bored. It caught my eye at the library.”

Aaron reached out and touched his daughter’s hand, “I will not fault you for curiosity, Theo. It is one of the traits I most admire in you.”

His daughter smiled, and then, “But this is the same Madame Jumel who married you…for the spectacle.”

“The same.” The colonel cleared his throat. “I am afraid the marriage was not one of mutual respect and love. I admit I was… careless with her money.”

“Oh.”

“She has defined this second chance as a way to get revenge on me, I fear.”

Theo watched her father’s face as he looked down sadly into his small meal. She knew more than she let on, and was afraid to voice any opinions on the matter for fear of upsetting him.

She knew about the divorce–knew Eliza had filed on the thirty year anniversary of the duel–knew the angry old woman had called none other than Alexander Hamilton, Jr, to be her divorce attorney, and wondered in a corner of her mind if these facts didn’t make her father, in the small hours of his twilight years, grin. Theo likened it so someone tucking him in for his last sleep. She wasn’t there to do it.

“She is a shrill, meddling thing. Has suggested ridiculous scenarios. I admit I have thought about this,” Aaron took another bite of food, swallowed it slowly, “If I do the things she is suggesting, I will make enough money, and then some. But I cringe at the thought of reporting to her. As though she is my superior.”

The teenage girl knew better than to push a subject, and went back to her own food. She thought about what sort of scheme her father and Eliza had cooked up but couldn’t land on any single one.

“Dad, you know in the past these schemes haven’t…necessarily worked out.”

“It’s why I am so hesitant.” He looked at her sadly. And then, “But we must have more money. It is an ugly necessity, you see.”

“I know.”

“I am afraid my practice has not brought me the funds I thought it would.”

“We can cut back, I don’t mind,” Theo suggested helpfully.

“Nonsense. You will not suffer on my behalf,” Aaron responded. And then, more seriously, “This should not trouble you, my dear T. These aren’t things for a young girl to be worried about.”

Theo watched him as he wiped a smudge from his tie.

“How are your studies?” He asked, not looking up from the stain.

“They’re alright, I supposed. Being in a classroom with so many people is…well, it’s exciting and tiring.” She lowered her voice slightly, “There are some real morons out there, though.”

At this, Aaron laughed, “My dear, compared to you, we are all morons.”

“I can’t make friends. They don’t like me.”

“Impossible!”

“They make fun of the way I talk. They say I talk like a snob.” Theo pushed a pile of sauce from one end of her plate to the other. “I don’t mean to sound different. I can’t help it.”

“Never apologize for intelligence, Theo.”

The teenage girl sighed, skirting around her own darker subject. She’d been thrilled when her father signed her up for public school, excited to make new friends–but they sensed something different about her immediately and that was that.

In her old life, she had plenty of friends, but was at a loss at how to reconnect with them in this one. For a brief moment after a particularly lonely day at school she considered asking her father if she could find out about this Jefferson girl, or that Lewis boy, but the dry, suspicious look he always wore told her that his enemies were her enemies, and she couldn’t bring herself to remind him. The small, dark-haired girl contented herself with her studies, as she always had done.

----------

The next morning, Aaron was up before the dawn. Quietly making his way about the kitchen, he’d silently decided that he would go into work early and get as much as he could done–it always made him feel better after working hard. Like he deserved something. After pouring water into the old coffee pot next to the sink, the small colonel reached for his phone, a blinking green light catching his attention.

Hello Col.Burr, this is G.Morris. Don’t know if you have my number. I was hoping to speak with you today about a rather pressing matter. Please respond to this message with a time and place that works for you.

Aaron stared at his phone for another second, eyebrows furrowed. That Morris?

He looked at the clock and wondered if it would be appropriate to respond at five am. The coffee pot clicked and popped, a rich, mellow scent quickly filling the air. He leaned against the counter and stared at the message.

It’s probably one of Jumel’s tricks, again. Don’t trust it.

How on earth would she get Morris’ number?” He responded to himself, pouring a cup of coffee. The black-eyed man looked at the pot and reminded himself to save at least two cups for Theo, who’d started drinking it when she was eleven.

Aaron rubbed his eyes, a new pit forming in his stomach. Pressing matter, he thought, pressing matter. What on earth kind of pressing matter would Gouvernuer Morris have for me?

The two men hadn’t spoken since–Aaron leaned against the counter and sipped his coffee and marked the years off in his head–1805. Another sip, and he recalled the nature of their last conversation. It wasn’t a warm one.

“Ah, of course. That pressing matter.” The colonel turned around, splashed cold water on his face, and wiped it dry. He waited until he got to his office and responded to the message, nervous.

----------

“I don’t think you want me to beat about the bush with this one,” Gouvernuer Morris stated plainly, after exchanging a rather terse greeting with the small colonel. Aaron watched the larger man adjust himself on the small couch that occupied the black-eyed man’s office. There was no warm re-welcome, no tearful reunion, where Burr was concerned. Even the jovial Morris eyed him with nothing but suspicion–he’d always been more Hamilton’s friend anyway.

“No, I supposed not. I see we’re doing away with niceties. How’s your leg?” Aaron offered his companion a bowl of candies he kept on his desk. Morris eyed him, a sarcastic look in his eye, then grabbed a butterscotch.

“It’s an absolute bitch in this wind. Thank you for making me come all the way over here, by the way, Burr,” the one-legged man glared, sucking on the hard candy. The black-eyed man looked at him.

“You requested a meeting with me, you come to me,” he answered simply. Aaron prepared his defenses.

Morris rubbed his eyes. “I’ve spoken to Hamilton. Just yesterday. He said you two have been in contact.”

The fuse had been lit. Aaron exhaled, “We have.”

The large man narrowed his eyes, “And you didn’t give him any ideas? About joining practices?”

“Heavens no.”

Another few seconds of silence hit the room, punctured only by the sound of the candy hitting Morris’ teeth.

“He said he wants to have you join the practice he and Troup have got, a few districts over.”

“I hadn’t heard.” The colonel looked at the other occupant for a second longer, then went back behind his desk, slowly sitting down. “Why?”

Morris glared at him tiredly, “Why do you think, Burr?”

“Because he and I are inseparable.” Aaron tried for a joke; failed.

“There’s that wit.” A loud crunch. “Because he feels threatened by your existence and wants to keep you close by.”

At this, Aaron laughed in spite of himself, “Does he? My God, how some things don’t change.”

The one-legged man finished his candy, then helped himself to another. He was thoughtfully quiet, wondering if the colonel had changed at all, like Hamilton insisted, or if he was playing at something darker. He looked around the shabby state of the office, and gathered enough information to inform himself about the lonely colonel’s state of affairs.

“I hope he hasn’t said anything to you yet.”

“He hasn’t. And thank you for informing me.”

Morris laughed, “Oh I wasn’t doing it for you. But you’re welcome.”

“So why, exactly, did you need to see me?” A small twinge of annoyance hit Aaron; he adjusted himself in his seat and placed his hands on the desk in front of him. “I was under the impression you had nothing to say to me, ever.”

For a brief second the colonel man remembered the strikingly unbiased funeral oration Morris had given for Hamilton. He waited for the one-legged man to speak.

“Look, Burr,” Morris locked his gaze on the man in front of him, and then got to his point bluntly, “You and I are realists. You know I don’t despise you the way, say, Betsey Hamilton would. I realize your use, and I realize your talents. I came here on behalf of Hamilton to tell you that if he tries to incorporate you into his practice that you graciously accept. And if this happens, I will join him too. And I believe that the four of us can annihilate whatever dangerous motives are lurking under the surface–”

“–Dangerous motives? I don’t have any dangerous motives. I don’t need to be babysat, Morris,” Aaron replied angrily, unknowingly mimicking the general’s complaint. Morris looked at him tiredly.

“You can’t keep skirting the issue.”

“What issue? There is no issue.” The colonel pulled a stack of papers out from his desk, began reviewing them absentmindedly, “Hamilton has his world and I have mine and it is best that way.”

“Answering that ad and meeting him in a bar was just, what, an elaborate illusion?” The larger man crossed his arms, a superior look on his face. Aaron looked up.

“He told you about that, too, then.”

“I spoke to him about it, yes. You can’t tell me that joining a practice that is–excuse my bluntness, Burr–actually making money isn’t a good idea.”

The colonel chafed at the insult, then looked around him.

“Is it that obvious?”

“To those who know you, yes.”

Aaron looked around him, took account of his sad state of affairs. A different practice would bring in more money, yes, but not quickly enough. He remembered the ominous power bill on the kitchen table, the countless credit cards, the college tuition that was looming on the horizon like a thunderstorm. He heaved a heavy sigh.

Chapter Text

 

The weeks passed uneventful. Aaron didn’t hear from Morris again until he called him, on a blisteringly cold Sunday, to make his decision.

“Boy, you’ve got some terrible timing. They’re about to kickoff.”

“I’ve given it some thought. About your proposition. Working together.”

The colonel played with a loose string on his vest. “I would like…I would like to meet you all for lunch tomorrow. Hamilton, included. To discuss the details.”

“I’m relieved to hear it, then. Hamilton will gloat, Troup will break out in hives.” The one-legged man interrupted his own speech with a forkful of dinner. “I think this is the best decision. Not a perfect one, but the best.”

Aaron hung up the phone shortly thereafter, deflated.

In the weeks since his illuminating meeting with Morris, much had changed. The black-eyed man didn’t reveal the other meeting he had, the very same day, with the woman who thought she owned him.

Prostitution was a strange profession, Aaron thought. A necessity, to be sure, but an ugly one. He’d always prided himself on being able to see unique perspectives, play the Devil’s advocate, and put himself in someone else’s shoes. But this was far messier than just theory. This was practice. Seven times in the past four and a half weeks. The little colonel pulled a small date book from his pocket–Yes, seven times, as he marked off the days.

The first was a wealthy business woman. Not ugly, no, thought Aaron, but lacking the conventional female softness that so often drew men in. She was a dragon–men want sheep. He liked her immediately and liked her even more when he looked at the crisp white check she presented him with.

He walked around his kitchen aimlessly, looking for an afternoon snack, something unhealthy before Theo got home.

A tiny, righteous voice was upset with him: How can you keep such an ugly secret from her? She is the only one who truly loves you, unconditionally.

“Because she is my daughter,” Aaron answered himself outloud, struggling with a bag of chips, “There are some things she needn’t know.”

He gritted his teeth and pulled the bag open, scattering chips everywhere.

“Damn!”

She will figure it out, Colonel Burr. You insult her intelligence by not confessing.

“I would rather her intelligence be insulted than her innocence shattered. Intelligence can be rebuilt.”

He washed his hands in the sink.

The second client was much like the first: a wealthy, powerful woman, nearing sixty, who’s husband had left her for someone younger. Aaron liked to hear these stories and the women liked to tell them, so it was a good match. He was continually reminded that he was not alone in his loneliness and it comforted him. She had dyed, rust-colored hair and grey eyes and cried at the end.

The little colonel sat down on the couch, looked at the time. It was nearing five pm and he knew Theo would be home soon, and he hadn’t figured anything out for dinner. He idly flipped through a magazine on his lap, not reading any of the words, not even fully digesting the pictures.

Number three was vicious–a mean-spirited thirty-nine year old who wanted to do things that disgusted Aaron. He nearly kicked her out of the hotel room until she apologized. It was the first time he sensed the danger of his new profession.

“Then buy a pistol.” Eliza sneered bitterly, then hung up the phone.

Clients four and five ran together in his mind–the only difference between the two was their hair. Four had a short, jet-black pixie cut and five wore a wig.

Aaron closed his eyes for a moment, listening to the faint sound of Christmas music from an adjacent apartment. He knew he had to check his emotions, contain them, compartmentalize them, for sanity’s sake.

The money. The money!

“We should expand your market,” Eliza hissed over a different phone call, “You’re not bringing in enough clients. When I collect my money at the end of this ordeal I need exactly enough to compensate me or it will have all been for nothing.”

Client number six was a handsome man, Aaron’s age and size, who understood the delicacy of the situation, and promised nearly twice the agreed payment. The colonel reminisced to his previous life; beautiful youths with flushed cheeks.

He felt the color rise in his own cheeks and stared out the window. It was no different, really, whether it was a man or a woman, when the end game was the same. Out of the corner of his eye, in a jacket pocket hanging from a coat rack, Aaron saw the envelope from that night. He stood up and pushed it back inside.

Number seven wanted nothing more than to talk–One thousand dollars later, Aaron recounted–he’d learned all about this man’s need for affection, his wife’s infidelities, his children’s derision, and the little colonel felt sorry for him. The client began to cry, Aaron offered him a tissue.

“I thought…I thought I could get back at her, with this,” Number seven remarked, wiping the wetness from deep brown eyes, “But I just can’t do it. This is the second time I’ve met someone, you know. The holidays are the worst.”

Aaron looked at him patiently. Outside the hotel window, a beautiful vision of the glittering nighttime city stretched before them.

“The first time was with a woman. I’ve always been, you know, equally attracted to men and women. My wife doesn’t believe in the term ‘bisexual’.” The client watched a plane lazily drift across the purple sky. “It cut me when she said that. That was the first blow.”

A loud sniff, and the client continued, “I should have known she was being unfaithful. There were signs, but..I wanted to believe in us so badly.”

Aaron felt his attention drift, then chastised himself. He watched the other man wipe his eyes again, and he reached out to run a hand through Number Seven’s hair.

The flutter of another flock of pigeons taking off from the fire escape brought the colonel’s attention back to the present.

----------

The morning sunlight drifted lazily in through the expansive windows in the small office, and Alexander stared down at the floor, his nerves getting the best of him. Troup worriedly chomped on a danish, his own defenses heightened at the thought of being in the same room with two violently different people. He wasn’t averse to calling them out–and indeed had done such things in his past life–but this was different. He turned to look at the general again who chewed a nail.

“It’s not like you to be this nervous, Alex,” he muttered, hoping that by shaking his friend’s worry, his would be cleared, too. Another bite of the danish, and Alexander turned to him.

“You said ten am, correct? Morris said it? Burr presumably agreed to it? It’s nearly quarter after. Where are they?”

“They’ll be here.”

“I knew Burr would squirm out of this. I never should have trusted him. Morris, either, to tell you the truth.” Alexander tilted his head back to the ceiling, held a hand to it, “Tell me again why we’re doing this. Explain it to me, Bobby. I’m losing heart.”

The fat man brushed a crumb from his shirt, “Because Burr being here is better than Burr being out there. Because you two have much to discuss and it’s…safer with mediators.”

“I still haven’t told Betsey. I can’t find the right moment.”

Troup looked at him sadly: “There is no right moment, Alex. You just have to tell her. And tell her you’ll be okay.”

“She will never forgive me,” the Nevisian responded, inaudible to anyone but himself.

The door at the opposite end of the room clicked, and in hobbled Morris, clutching a tray holding four cups of coffee. Behind him, came Burr. The general’s stomach flipped unpleasantly.

“A peace offering. My idea.” Morris put the coffees on the table, and got to work breaking the ice, “Troup, got you something called a Nutty Surprise.”

Alexander snorted, hid his nervous laugh behind a hand.

“Thank you, Morris.” The fat man remarked tiredly.

“Hamilton I know you like that caramel garbage,” he handed the general his drink, and then reached for Burr’s, “Burr, what is this– soy based mocha. I know what milk does to your insides.”

“You’re so thoughtful.” Burr remarked tiredly. The general stared back at the floor, silent laughter overtaking him again.

“Believe me, I did it more for us than for you.”

“You’ve made your point, Morris.” The colonel accepted his drink, and looked for the nearest seat.

The one-legged man took control of the room once again, and clasped his hands, “Shall we begin?”

Alexander’s smiled faded as he looked up to his leonine friend. Troup stared dolefully into his coffee, Aaron blinked once and watched him politely.

“Don’t everyone talk at once,” the one-legged man added, annoyed.

Aaron inhaled, and trudged forward: “I would like to extend my gratitude to both Colonel Troup and General Hamilton for their magnanimity in providing me this opportunity–”

“–Oh for God’s sake, it’s not the Senate floor. You don’t have to be so formal,” the general muttered, before he could stop himself.

The colonel ignored it, “–For providing me this opportunity at a thriving practice, to which I will dedicate all my talents–”

“–There’s a terrifying prospect–”

“–And for which I will work tirelessly,” Aaron shot the mumbling islander a scathing look, and sipped his coffee. His glare remained fixed, as he continued, “Does anyone have anything to add?”

“I was just thinking,” Alexander held up a finger, ignored the black-eyed stare, “We should do background checks. Just in case.”

Troup cut in, “I don’t think that’s necessary. We all know each other well.”

“Look Hamilton,” the one-legged man’s deep, gruff voice commanded the attention of all three other occupants, “This was your idea, recall. Enough with the sass.”

“Sass?” The general sputtered, trying not to smile. “Sass?”

“You are very sassy,” Aaron added helpfully.

“This was your idea and we’re trying to soothe the situation. Colonel Burr.”

The black-eyed man’s gaze shot up, almost startled. Morris continued:

“I’m not going to beat around the bush. Everyone in this room knows you and all your tricks. Everyone in this room also knows that you need us more than we need you–don’t give me that look–What we are doing here is trying to help you. We are willing to overlook your past…indiscretions…and help you out.”

The small, dark-featured man puffed up, insulted, “Now wait just a minute–”

“–Hamilton.” Morris cut him off and turned his determined gaze to the general, who made a face. “The exact same thing goes for you. I mean to the letter.”

“I don’t need him!” Alexander pointed to the colonel, almost childishly.

Troup cleared his throat, “He’ll bring in more clients. We can do a little more pro-bono work and it won’t hurt the practice as bad.”

The general scoffed, “Right. He’ll find widows and orphans to swindle.”

“Yes. That’s it, General. Widows and orphans. Because God knows I have no idea what it’s like to lose a parent or a spouse.” The black-eyed man’s icy response hit the room swiftly.

Alexander bit his tongue, turned red, “It never stopped you before.”

“That is enough,” Morris held up a hand. “We’re not here for a pissing match. Shake hands.”

Identically proud heads turned, in unison, towards the larger man, eyes widened in horror.

“What.”

“What?”

“I said, shake hands,” Morris motioned to both of them, talking like a stern parent to bickering siblings.

Aaron stepped forward, pointing to the general: “Do you know he tried to slap me in the face?”

“Shake hands!” Morris bellowed, causing Troup to start.

The Nevisian sighed dramatically and rolled his eyes, walking up to his black-eyed companion. Silently, determinedly, he held out a hand, and looked away.

Aaron looked at the lightly freckled hand in front of him, and grasped it, bringing the bright gaze onto him. A quick burst of electricity shot through his nerves.

“See? Harmless.” Morris clasped his hands again, please with the control he had over the room. Silently, Troup watched the scene unfold.

“Now, are we ready to actually start working? Or shall we discuss this agreement some more?”

“I have nothing more to say,” Aaron said. He looked at the general, watching the faint freckles on his nose stand out more as he blushed.

“General?”

“Not at the moment,” he replied, unable to look his old rival in the face, a gnawing feeling still writhing around in his stomach.

The handshake the two old rivals shared was like a thin coating of ice skimming the surface of a fathomless ocean.

Alexander supposed they were back at square one, at least, that’s what he told himself day in and day out, as the weeks dragged into months. He found himself in a cycle: think about the colonel, feel his stomach drop, go into work and press through the innuendos and thinly-veiled criticisms, keep his temper in check, go home. Betsey's shattered expression at the thought of him working with his old rival. He assured his wife there was nothing to fear, and that Morris and Troup would be there to mediate thing, but the ever present shadow of doubt still hung in her dark eyes, and the general felt himself grow more despondant every day.

There were several times the general let his anger overtake him. He took to calling these “incidents”, and kept a running log in his head:

There was, in late April, the point in the year where it begins to heat up again and humans foret how much they cursed winter’s refreshing chill, a moment where Aaron confessed he hadn’t paid the electric bill and so for several days the four men sat, sweating, in the dark, writing out case briefs by hand.

On the third day of this process Alexander accidentally threw away some rather important looking documents on the colonel’s desk.

Several weeks later there were four days in a row in which the colonel was at least two hours late.

“Glad you could make it,” Alexander shot angrily, from his desk. His voice reverberated off the windows, the blinds pulled up to let the sunlight in. “What is this to you? Do you not care?”

Aaron rolled his eyes, “What are you talking about? I’m here, aren’t I?”

“Two and a half hours late. You might as well just not have come in.”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” the colonel sat down at his own desk and rubbed his eyes, still exhausted from the night before. It wasn’t often, but there were times he wished all four of them could fit into the same office. At least Troup and Morris’ buoyancy would combat the deafening silence that often slammed invisible doors between them. The truth of the matter was, justified Alexander, Morris needed the office closer to the elevator and the two old rivals needed the one with more natural light for their weak eyes. The general blamed nature.

Alexander couldn’t drop the subject: “I mean, what do you do? You look like you haven’t slept in a week.”

“None of your concern,” black-eyes never left the documents in front of him. The bright sun glistened off his shining hair as he turned his head this way and that, studying what was on his desk before him.

“As your legal partner I deserve to know. No, I demand to know.”

“Demand all you want.”

“If it wasn’t something horrible you’d tell me. You wouldn’t be so cagey.”

The general tried a new tactic. He kept his gaze fixed to the man occupying the desk across from him. “I knew this would happen. I knew you’d be up to something. Just know that this time, I’m wiser.”

The Nevisian dropped his voice to a whisper, and Aaron finally looked up, interested.

“Are you, now?”

“Yes.” Each man had the other’s full attention. “You may have slipped in past Morris and Troup, but not me. I know exactly what kinds of things you get up to.”

Aaron leaned back in his chair, cut in casually, “I have a second job.”

“I–what?”

“A second job. I have one. To supplement this one.” He watched, with some entertainment, the look of suspicion on Alexander’s face turn to one of innocent confusion. “Theo will be entering college in a few short years, and I want to pay for it. I want to her focus on nothing but her studies.”

“What sort of second job?” The suspicion was back.

“A bartender.” The lie slid off the colonel’s tongue with well-practiced ease. He added unctuously, “Now, enough questions.”

The general knew better than to verbally press a subject–at least he told himself he did–and so he let it drop. But the small nagging voice in the back of his head told him it was a lie. This, he classified, was the second incident.

The third and fourth incidents ran together, each involving presumed insults during a grueling court battle.

“He’s starting it again. All over again.” The general mumbled to himself on the way out of the office one rainy Friday in June. Avoiding stares and questions he skirted the receptionist, and possible clients, and slid out the door, blessedly unnoticed.

“Pushing buttons. Always pushing buttons, seeing how far he can go without people catching onto whatever the hell he’s got planned. It’s men like him who make the rest of us look bad. Selfish. Pure and simple. ‘Bartender’, my ass. If that’s not a cover for something I’ll move back to the islands and live the rest of my days in a hut.”

Alexander walked along the side of the road, umbrella in one hand, small cellphone in the other.

“Why is he so strange? This was a bad idea…really.” Alexander looked into his phone, pretending he was reading something aloud so he could continue his one-man tirade without looking odd. He dodged a puddle, “I mean, I can’t even count the lies anymore. How does he keep them straight. I guess Theo needs college money. But..bartending? What, does he save his tips in a little piggy bank?”

A gust of wind pulled his umbrella to the left, and the general swore, scrambling his thoughts.

Chapter Text

On the way to his destination, the Nevisian began to sweat, the heat of the late spring day acting like a punishment. He found himself using any excuse to leave the office: he needed to buy groceries. He needed to catch some fresh air. He needed to buy lunch. Aaron stopped asking questions, and mostly kept to himself. The general was thankful for small favors. Troup, ever concerned, was curbed by Morris' demanding presence.

Alexander checked his phone, no texts. He had made it a habit to take a mid-morning walk, to clear his head. Every time he looked up from his papers, the colonel was there across from him like the mirror in the bar. He rolled up a sleeve and skipped over a puddle. The dead air in the city draped over him like a wet blanket, and Alexander had never felt more uncomfortable.

He toyed with the idea of going home for the day, the hour's commute back up to Albany, and asking Betsey if she'd take a long weekend together some place far away from the distractions. His wife was guarded, even cold, and the small-framed general dismayed as the truth became clearer and clearer with each passing day: she didn't trust him anymore.

Alexander found himself in a strange part of town, lost in his own mired thoughts. He looked up at the buildings, trying to cipher where he'd wound up. He pulled out his cell phone again, and swore as the GPS failed. A taxi horn blared at him to move out of the road, and the general swore louder as he jumped onto the sidewalk.

"Lost, Mr Hamilton?" She had been standing there, expectant, knowing him in an instant. Eliza Jumel stepped out from her apartment building, and Alexander turned to look at her.

"Excuse me? Do I know you?" His pulse raced as he tried to place the vaguely familiar blonde.

"I'm a friend of Maria Reynolds," Eliza taunted, leaning against the hard brick building. She smiled as the general approached her worriedly.

Alexander lowed his voice as he approached, "What did you just say?"

"Relax, Alex," the blonde chided, "I am not here to expose you."

He frowned, turning red, and she held out her hand, "Mrs. Eliza Jumel. We met a few times, briefly, in our past lives."

Still silent, the Nevisian shook her hand, confused.

"I saw you wandering around the streets and had to come say hello. I live just there," she pointed up to the third floor. "I've never seen you around this part of the city. Usually your types try to stay away."

The petite blonde watched as the expression on Alexander's face went from confusion to anger. She picked a leaf off of his shoulder, and giggled. "They told me you were supposed to be friendly and engaging, but, to me, you seem so stern and quiet."

"I am-- I was expecting a call from my wife." He held up his cell phone lamely. "She has not spoken to me for several days."

Eliza pouted exaggeratedly, "I am sorry to hear it."

The Nevisan was still wary, and he stepped back, shaking his head, "Look, Mrs Jumel--"

"--Please call me Eliza."

"Eliza. I am not sure how you found me, here, but I must be getting back to work," Alexander turned to leave, when he felt the woman's hand on his arm.

"Morris. Gouvernuer Morris, You know him?" She tried.

The general stopped short, and looked at her, "Yes. How do you know him?"

Eliza smiled sharply, gripping arm harder and leading him towards the building's door, responding carefully, "I met him at a single's mixer a few weeks ago and he mentioned your name. Seemed rather upset he'd said anything when I pressed him."

"But I thought...singles mixer--?"

The blonde ignored the ripple in her story, and pressed on, "He told me you were in a bad mental state these few months past, wandering about the city, and that you needed distractions."

Alexander stopped short, and yanked his arm away, "He said what?"

Eliza, started, replied, "Oh, don't be too upset. We were all quite drunk. And I suspect he didn't recognize me."

A cloud rolled across the sun, and a low, soft rumble of thunder in the distance caused the woman to look up. She held her palm up, checking for rain.

"Doesn't look promising, Mr Hamilton," the former actress tried again. "Would you like to come inside and wait it out?"

The Nevisian backed away further, "I don't mean to be rude, but I really must be getting back to the office."

Desperate, Eliza played her last hand.

"You seem rather eager to get back to the office you share with your killer."

She watched delightedly as the expression on the man's face turned dark. Alexander's voice dropped and he came closer.

"Excuse me?"

"You heard me, Alex," the friendly facade was dropped, "I know all about your history with my ex-husband."

The Nevisian stuttered, and the blonde grabbed his arm yet again as the rain began to fall. She led him into the small, dark corridor of the building. Outside, the first flash of lightening split the sky, and Alexander jumped. In another second, he looked back at her.

"Aaron Burr is your ex-husband?" The general followed her down a dimly lit hallway. "Did I hear you correctly?"

Eliza walked ahead of him briskly, the gentle playfulness gone from her demeanor, and the general struggled to keep up his pace. Once inside her apartment, she was all business. She twirled a gold ringlet with her finger and then carefully placed it back into the messy pony tail ta the base of her neck. Eliza turned and smiled broadly at her guest; Alexander knew the answer to his own question.

“Why am I here, Mrs Jumel? What do you want from me?" Alexander spoke up, not amused with her coyness. She beckoned for him to sit; while he squirmed against the uncomfortable cushions of the old loveseat, she positioned herself across from him.

“We both want the same thing.” Her eyes scanned him, making him uneasy. After an uncomfortable pause, she continued snidely, “I’m in a position to help you, if you can help me.”

Alexander looked away and exhaled. Eliza pressed on unctuously.

“It’s Providence that we meet like this.”

“Stop being cute. Stop being cruel. Tell me what this is about this instance. I am not getting involved with any schemes.” He snapped his gaze back upon her, quickly regaining control of the situation.


Eliza laughed in spite of herself. “You are incredible, Mr. Hamilton. Truly one of a kind.” She picked up a pen from her desk and grabbed a notepad. “Does your wife know you’re working with a killer?”

“Do not talk about my wife.” Alexander felt his mouth go dry as he met the blonde with a furious stare. She giggled again at a secret joke, and he looked away.

His eyes caught several books on the shelf, scanned the room further and saw a small stack of pornography at the base of the bookshelf. Remembered, erratically, his favorite philosopher’s testaments to the weakness of human nature and how, when he’d explained it all to Betsey, she was only too quick to agree.

Eliza, too, unfurled in her mind a landscape of human weakness as she watched the fervent Nevisian host a debate within himself. She haphazardly scribbled a flower onto her notepad and sighed heavily.

“We know each other better than you think,” she said, her voice growing stronger as the rain picked up outside. “You can’t stand to be in the same room as him, right? It’s why you go on these walks?”

The general rubbed his face, and made a mental note to chastise Morris later for being so glib with private information.

“What does it matter, Eliza? Yes. Fine. I need to get away from him.”

“I have a suggestion then, Mr. Hamilton, if you’ll allow it.” She tried to sound comforting, motherly almost. His guily eyes locked on her in an instant.

“What do you mean?”

“I understand you.” She put her pen down and finally met his gaze. “You want to feel justified in your actions. You want to feel like you’re doing the right thing.”

The general leaned back in his seat, scoffed, “Who doesn’t want to feel that way, Eliza?”

She ignored his comment, leaned forward in her seat, and whispered, “Help me get back at him.”

“Mrs. Jumel, please—“

Eliza stood up, held up a hand, before Alexander could deny her request. She made her way over to him and placed her hands on his shoulders, standing behind him, digging into his flesh with her newly manicured claws. The general winced, and became short of breath.

Suddenly, her voice was at his ear, “You know what business I am in, and I know exactly how you think, Alexander,” she whispered, “And you know we could destroy him together; my business and your mind. Make him pay for the pain he’s caused.”


Alexander closed his eyes and his heart rate quickened, hearing the intimations in her tone. He listened to the rain silently for a few seconds.

“We are…cordial again” he reasoned, “We are on speaking terms at least. He is helping the firm, and I have no reason to believe he is involved in anything nefarious—“ He felt the claws leave his back; heard her laughter ring out like a bell signaling the beginning of a game.

“You would not believe the stories I can tell, Mr. Hamilton.”

Something cold hit Alexander in the chest, and he felt light headed. “I’m sorry, Mrs. Jumel, is something humorous?”

“Oh boy, are you stubborn,” she called, head tilted back. She looked back at him in another instant with a look of cynical amusement etched into her delicate features.

“Don’t keep me in the dark, Eliza,” he responded icily, “Tell me what you want so I can be done with this meeting.”

“I want you to humiliate Aaron Burr with me.” The blonde leaned back in her chair and smiled broadly. “And I want to be the courier of this humiliation.”

At this, Alexander could not help but know. Something dark took shape in his mind, and he realized as he stared into Eliza’s large, glistening eyes, that she thought the same. The dark thought was all-pervasive.

“You and I have a common enemy, Alexander,” the Madame muttered, never taking her gaze off of him. He sat still, transfixed, knowing the conclusion of the story but transfixed at the way it unfurled, like smoke, in front of him.

Alexander kept silent, waited.

“We would both benefit from this, and, who knows,” she eyed him up and down, wryly, “You might even like it.”

Finally, the Nevisian shook his head, coming back down to Earth. He found his voice. “If you are suggesting what I think you are suggesting than you are even more depraved then I thought.”

“You’re not fooling me, Mr. Hamilton. You want this as badly as I do. This is your justification. Right here.” She placed a finger on her desk. “This is your moment to help a victim of theft regain her dignity, and through that process, regain some of yours.”

“You’re insane. You expect me to put my marriage in jeopardy for this petty slight--“

“You can’t tell me you don’t want to see that prick humiliated just as badly as I do.” At this, she slammed a fist against the desk in frustration, her cloying niceness disintegrating rapidly. They locked eyes for a moment, and she continued, “You can’t tell me you don’t want to see him pay for what he did to us.”

The Nevisian swallowed, refused to break the stare, “And you’re suggesting I do this by purchasing his sexual favors through you.” It wasn’t a question; he knew the answer and he felt an unseasonable chill ripple down his spine.

“You musn’t think of this as anything other than retribution.” Her grin returned. “I will send you to him, I know where he stays when he’s conducting his amusements. I know when he’ll be ready and what it will take to get him to agree. Money, mostly. And self-gratification. He will do it, Mr. Hamilton. He is more desperate than you know.”

Alexander looked away and let himself entertain the thought for only a moment. It would only take one night, and small, dark-eyed Colonel would be at his mercy. He thought about the burning hatred Betsey reserved for the man who stole her husband, and the general imagined the wild scenario in which his wife applauded him for infidelity. The idea made him feel reckless and he briefly wondered if all acts of vengeance were supposed to be noble. Or if some, on occasion, could be too seedy for the daylight.

 

Chapter Text

There was no confusing the issue and what Eliza had suggested. She made herself plain. Hamilton ruminated on the conversation the next night, alone in his office, afraid of going back home and confronting Betsey. He knew if he told her, looked her in the eyes and explained everything, his resolve would fall.

The Jumel woman made it seem very simple: he would confront Burr in a hotel room, and embarrass him. It would result--Hamilton was particularly chagrined at this part--in blackmail. The general paced around his empty office and walked over to the large window, staring out at the glistening skyline. He covered his mouth, and exhaled.

The Reynolds couple , he explained to Eliza, who waved her hand as if she didn’t care. This has happened to me before, Eliza, only I was the dupe .

“Then wouldn’t it stand to reason you get to be on the opposite side this time around?”

It’s not right.

“Murder isn’t right, either.”

Hamilton saw the triumphant look in her eyes, and didn’t have the heart to explain to her that he’d held a gun, too. The code duello , he found himself thinking, then quickly realized it wouldn’t matter to her.

He breathed heavy on the cold glass, and dragged a finger through the condensation.

I can’t sleep with him, Eliza.

He saw the petite blonde shrug again.

“Force him.”

At this, the general felt his insides writhe-- You’re despicable.

She went on to explain that she’d move heaven and earth to destroy her ex-husband. She’d expose him, or sell him off to the Marquis de Sade, burn his reputation to the ground along with his practice and involve the courts to take away his daughter.

“I’m getting my revenge one way or another, Alexander. I assumed you’d want a part.”

Hamilton walked over to a sofa against the wall, and laid down on it, staring at the ceiling, trying to figure out why in the world the colonel would associate himself with this woman once again, if they were nothing but thorns in each others’ sides.

Burr didn’t let on that he was struggling for money--but then again, he never did. At this, the general grinned to himself. No, he was always exceptionally good at pretending to be one thing while secretly being another. Hamilton closed his eyes and tried to remember the diner parties and social gatherings they’d been at together. There were so many, so long ago, that they all ran together in his head.

The rooms would be crowded or the table creaking with too much food, but they only saw each other.

In the beginning it was thrilling. Hamilton tried to recreate the feeling he’d had in the army with John. Misread Burr’s insinuations for flirting, read into the libelous journals what he wanted to, assumed the colonel felt the same way about men that he did. And each time Alexander tried to make that connection, it faltered. And each time, his fascination turned to resentment.

At this the general opened his eyes and blushed. That was it, really. Thirty years’ worth of misunderstandings.

But if Eliza could be believed…

The general didn’t want to think about that. He absentmindedly picked at a loose thread on the couch.

“Are you attracted to him?” He heard Eliza’s voice in his head again. “It’s a simple question, Alexander.”

He had been, at first.

That was where his memory stopped, and where he remembered picking himself up off of Eliza’s uncomfortable love-seat and stormed out of her office, confused and upset, furious with Morris for being so cavalier with his information. Once back in the office he refused to speak to him, causing Morris to slam the door to his own office in frustration. Hamilton couldn’t bring himself to explain where he’d been, and once alone with the colonel felt foolish for pretending nothing was wrong.

It had been nearly two full days since the encounter with Eliza, and now, alone, in a city that was as familiar as it was alien, Hamilton plotted.

----

Aaron sat back on the silk chair and observed the room around him.

Gently he ran his hand across the fabric, relishing in its richness—the expensive aura of the room gave him a feeling of seductive power. He felt in control: of his person, of his surroundings, of his fate. Though he wasn’t at all.

He prided himself on being able to give this impression. Impressions were, after all, a good portion of producing a lasting reputation. First impressions, especially. He took a drawn-out drag on his cigarette, letting the smoke fill his lungs, fill him up, until he exhaled, deflated. He leaned back and gripped the arms of the chair like an emperor on a throne.

The clock on the wall read 11pm. His guest should be arriving soon. Trying not to think about how he got himself into this situation in the first place, Aaron tried to focus on the mundane. In a very short time, he would be in the possession of a large amount of money. To get from point A to point B was a matter of conventionality.

If there were an easier way to acquire such funds, Aaron would have found it.

Neatly he packaged his emotions into their appropriate compartments: there was Theo, fifteen and brilliant and the only human he loved unconditionally. There was the irritating Eliza Jumel, who had lured him into this turn of events using her particularly unique blend of coercion and threats. There were the nameless faces (so many—too many to count) that by defying compartmentalization made their own group inside his soul. Nothing escaped definition. To conquer one’s feelings, one had to start here; to know one’s enemy, one had to define him.

Were feelings the enemy, here? Aaron reasoned, No.

Does there need to be an enemy? For some, apparently.

The anonymous meetings in these hotel rooms, resulting in acquisition of money, were exactly how Jumel described it: Aaron was a whore. All that was missing (all that was ever missing) was the money. He smiled to himself. These realizations never ceased to be amusing.

He thought of Theo for a moment, at home, now, dutifully finishing her homework and preparing for bed. It was for her that he did this. It was always for her. (And her dead mother). Aaron shut that compartment quickly.

His phone vibrated—a text from a blocked number asking him what room he was in, if the door was locked. Aaron stood up and checked. Room 313. And no, it wasn’t. He sighed and waited.

Another mysterious text asking him about the details of the encounter (Always the most mundane. And embarrassing.) Yes, he was clean. Yes, he had protection.

You will not tell another living soul about this.

No, of course he wouldn’t.

This is a one-time event. I don’t usually do this sort of thing. I promise.

No, of course you don’t.

I am going through a rough patch with my spouse.

They will understand, naturally.

What room did you say, again?

313.

The footsteps grew closer. Aaron caught his reflection in the two mirrors flanking the walls of the small room. He was still young. The moon reflected against his black hair. (Why did he only meet these people at night?)

A timid knock on the door. He turned his phone off and cleared his throat, shutting each soul-compartment one-by-one. Theo’s was first. At this moment, she existed only as a distant memory. Then Jumel’s. In the vague, dim light, his hand looked thinner than usual as he reached for the knob. The time was 11:26; perhaps in one, or two hours, his end game would be achieved.

He kept reminding himself of this fact, quelling the sickness that emerged in his stomach.

It took only a second for his eyes to adjust to the image of the person standing before him. Aaron stood in the doorway of the hotel room, the moon still peeking slyly over his shoulder.

“This must be a mistake. You have the wrong room.” The colonel felt a cold numbness envelope his body as he stared into the face of his guilt-ridden coworker.

“I assure you that this is the correct room,” Hamilton replied, his expression inscrutable.

For a moment Aaron considered turning him away. He turned his head and faced the room behind him, feeling the other man step closer.

“Isn’t this what you expected, Burr? To meet a client here?" Slowly but forcefully, Alexander inched passed the man in the doorway. Gripping Aaron’s sleeve with one hand, the general reached behind him nervously and shut the door.

“I don't know what I expected.” Alexander's voice came out in hurried whispers. He scanned the room to avoid meeting the colonel’s shocked gaze. “We both know why you're here.”

“I did not expect you, General,” Burr breathed, gently prying his sleeve from the other man’s grip. He took off his coat and draped it over a nearby chair.

The moon was at the highest point in the sky. Backing away slowly, he held his gaze on Alexander and seated himself patiently on the bed. For a moment, Hamilton stared at him

“So it has come to this.” Finally, Aaron was hit with full force of the brilliant gaze above him. He laughed, defeated and sad.

“You don’t have to look at me like that, General Hamilton,” Buu stood and confronted him. For a moment, the two men regarded each other, pityingly. 

“I was not expecting you to be in such a state,” Alexander’s words were quiet, caught between his head and his body. As Aaron stepped closer, loosening his client’s tie, his heart rate increased. He closed his eyes and remembered Eliza’s words.

“Colonel…” he grabbed the man’s shoulders, staring at him intently. He felt a wave of embarrassment wash over him as he removed Burr's hand from his throat. “Why didn’t you say something. Why didn’t you tell anyone you had resorted to…this.”

Aaron scoffed. Yes, he would simply explain to his old rival that he had been reduced to prostitution; surely Hamilton would understand. Surely he wouldn’t pass judgment, surely he would give Aaron the benefit of the doubt. The sarcastic thoughts brought a cynical smile to Burr’s face.

Cautiously, he moved closer to kiss the mouth in front of him; compartmentalized.

“That is not why I am here.” Hamilton managed, and he felt himself lose heart.

“Pay me. Then it is nothing more than a business transaction.”

“No, You don’t understand, Colonel—You have to let me explain—“

Burr watched the pretty man wring his hands nervously, and lunged forward, planting his mouth against Hamilton’s. The shock of the kiss struck Aaron—particularly in the tips of his fingers, where the feeling started. A surge charged through his spine as the kiss was fervently returned. Lips parted and teeth bit savagely.

There was one compartment that even in its defiance would not be defined. Struggling to make sense of the man before him, Aaron ceased to think. Eventually the reasons would come to him. But now was not the time for rationality.

Hands tore at his shirt, ripping it from his body, examining his chest—scraping it. Another tearing kiss, sucking his soul from him. Alexander straddled him on the bed, the sheets in disarray making ripples under and around them. Swallowing them like the ocean.

Hamilton threw his clothes to the floor, abandoning pretensions. In a movement as smooth as the night sky, Aaron brought his arms around the passionate body. In another flash, Alexander viciously slapped those arms away, pinning his companion to the bed by his neck.

“You have no say in this tonight.” Alexander remarked through dangerous, gritted teeth. Aaron felt his own clothes torn from his body, felt the heat of their flesh. His breath caught in his throat as he closed his eyes.

No. This was all business. Aaron opened them again, watching the man above him. In vain he tried to forget where he was, who he was with, for what purpose. Their labored breaths in unison filled the air and brought him back into the moment.

He didn’t care about explanations, reasons, justifications. Some things lacked definition. These, Burr knew, were often the most gratifying.

 

Chapter Text

 

Alexander sat at his desk the next morning, trying not to think about the night before. He rubbed his head into his hands, his eyes, pressing his features together. In front of him sat his computer and work papers, innocently, but this innocuous scene didn’t do justice to his racing thoughts. The coffee he had poured—fourth cup—had no effect whatsoever on his pounding headache.

“You look tired.”

Bobby Troup never knocked. He walked in with his cheese Danish at precisely 10am and sat down across from his legal partner. His kind visage looked on, both concerned and curious.

“I am tired,” Alexander started, sipping his coffee loudly. He had not decided if he was going to tell anyone why. Silently, he began typing away at his laptop.

“Ah, I know the feeling. I couldn’t sleep myself, either. Too hot. Couldn't get the damned A/C to work."

Alexander allowed his friend a small smile before returning to his work. His head throbbed.

Troup took another bite of his Danish and sat in pensive silence for only a second. “Did you sleep here last night, Alex?”

“…Yes.”

“Oh.”

Though caring, there were times when Troup could be slightly nosy. Perhaps to the point of hurtfulness. Of course Alexander had slept here, as he often did when he and Betsey fought. Or when he decided to go out and buy sex.

“Where is Aaron this morning?”

“Sick. He won’t be in.” Please, for the love of God, Alexander thought to himself, stop asking questions.

“I suppose that makes sense,” Troup chewed over his pastry and his thoughts, “He says he always gets summer colds around this time of year.” He inclined his head towards his legal partner. “Poor Aaron. I worry about his sometimes, being so small.  It can’t be easy for his health, raising that daughter all alone and being sick all the time. He’s been out more days than in, in the last month, I think.”

Alexander could only sit silently and type. He didn’t follow the words he was typing, rather he just hoped to look busy. Troup talked louder.

“…I suppose you and Betsey had another row, then.” Troup stared at the other man intently, trying to figure him out. Alexander gritted his teeth at the mention of his wife.

“I can’t tell what’s a full-blown fight and what’s an innocent disagreement anymore,” he responded, never taking his eyes off the computer screen. Troup nodded.

“Was it about the letters?” he offered quietly.

This new pain, entirely different from a headache, to be sure, hit Alexander’s chest speedily. Troup had not meant to be insensitive, but there were some topics he simply could not discuss.

“We all told her not to destroy them, Alexander. She had her mind set. I don’t know why she did it—”

“—Bobby. Please,” Alexander finally raised his eyes to look at his companion, “I can’t talk about this right now.”

The dark circles under Alexander’s eyes and exhausted countenance gave Troup all the information he needed. Gently, he reached out a hand and gripped his friend’s. “It’s going to be alright, Alex. I’m here for you. You’re always welcome in my home. Gouvernuer’s, too. And when you want to talk, I’ll be—”

Troup stopped short, still clutching his friend’s hand. In extending his hand to Troup, Alexander had revealed his wrist—bruised where Aaron had grabbed him. The latter man let go and furrowed his eyebrows.

“Alexander, what on earth happened?”

“Don’t worry about it.” The Nevisian’s heart fluttered as he searched for a plausible lie. Not quick enough.

“Alexander, what happened to your wrists? My God—did someone hurt you?” He reached out again and grabbed his friend’s wrists, examining them. “These look terrible!”

Without thinking, Alexander tore his hand away from his friend—perhaps a little to peeved.

“Bobby, I said don’t worry about it.” Locking eyes with the other man, Alexander rubbed his wrists. Yes, they hurt. No, he didn’t feel the slightest twinge of guilt.

“I can’t let this go, Alex, you might need medical attention—”

Alexander’s abrupt, mirthless laugh cut short his fat friend’s concern. “—Medical attention? I think not, Bobby. I’ll be fine.”

“You show up to work looking nauseous with marks on your wrists and I'm just supposed to ignore it?” Bobby’s voice was louder, agitated. If Alexander was hiding something, he’d need to be the one to find out. Better him than Morris. Or Betsey.

A loud, gruff voice accompanied by the unmistakable gait of their one-legged friend cut the conversation short. Cheerily, Gouverneur Morris let himself into Alexander’s office.

“Good morning, men!”

“Christ. Everyone just let themselves in, then.” Alexander muttered to himself, annoyed. His head throbbed.

“Something the matter, Hamilton?” Morris casually dropped his briefcase beside an empty chair and set up his own laptop. “Jesus, what happened to your wrists?”

“Oh, for God’s sake. My wrists are fine!”

“They don’t look fine. And you look like hell.”

“He won’t tell us what happened,” Troup responded. “He slept here last night, too.”

Much to the annoyance of Alexander, Morris let out a bellowing laugh.

“You did? My God, Alex. How gullible do you think we are?” His large face spread into a grin.

Alexander flushed scarlet. “Don't worry about it, Morris."

“A prostitute, Alexander. Really?”

Troup let out a crumb-spewing cough, turning a magnificent shade of purple. Alexander’s eyes widened, his red blush never leaving his face.

“Morris!”

“I’ve seen those kind of marks before, you idiot. 'Oh, I slept here last night. I certainly wasn't out buying exotic pleasures to distract myself.' Don’t lie to me!” Morris’ smile grew even wider. Another deep laugh escaped him and he shook his head. “No one here cares if you fucked some random woman than felt too guilty to crawl home.”

Troup grabbed a water bottle from his bag and chugged it eagerly, trying to dislodge the Danish from his throat.

“No one here cares, Alexander. Least of all me.”

“Morris, I assure you, you have no idea what I’m—”

“—It’s natural, Alex. The more you deny it the more dirty it becomes,” Morris’ matter-of-fact approach to prostitution made Alexander’s stomach sink. The gruff, smiling Morris was not easily surprised when it came to sex.

“Speaking of dirty, where’s our strange little colonel?”

“I didn’t see him this morning. He must be sick, too.” Troup offered, screwing the cap on his water bottle. A few more coughs escaped him. Alexander focused intently on his computer screen, his hands shaking.

“‘Sick’”, Morris repeated, smiling wider. “Of course he’s ‘sick’. Right. Yes. Of course.” Morris crossed and uncrossed his prosthetic leg, trying to find a comfortable position. “Aaron gets ‘sick’ more than anyone I know. Boy, you two are two of a kind.”

“What is that supposed to mean?” Hamilton asked.

“That devil isn’t sick. He was probably out all night causing a scandal and couldn’t be bothered to get up this morning. ‘Sick’, ha!”

“Well you should at least give him the benefit of the doubt, Morris, it is that time of year—” Troup cut in.

“Will you stop with the ‘it’s that time of year’ nonsense? Burr’s not sick, for God’s sake. Troup, I’m disappointed in you. I thought you knew these liars better.” Morris lazily indicated a hand towards Alexander and then let it drop by his side. The Nevisian raised his eyes for only a second, catching Morris’. The latter man laughed again and when back to typing.

“I just think that what they do in their free time is their own business and we shouldn’t judge them for it. Though I have to say, Alexander, I can't believe you'd visit a… ah…lady of the evening.” Troup muttered, turning red. 

Morris descended into laughter again, scrunching up his features and then covering them with a large hand.

“Oh, Christ,” he muttered, his words barely discernible. “‘Lady of the evening.’”

Troup straightened up in his chair, convinced he was defending his friend. A look of calm superiority fell on his features as he opened his own computer on his lap, jumping only slightly at the sound of the loud start-up chime.

Alexander, meanwhile, had no such pretensions. It was all he could do to ignore the men talking in front of him. He would rather be discussed as if he weren’t in the room with Troup and Morris than join in the conversation, and risk divulging something he wasn’t even sure of himself. Quietly, he tapped away on his keyboard, his face still burning.

“Look, can you both just drop the subject, already?” Alexander responded softly. Self-consciously, he tried to fix his sleeves to hide the evidence of the previous evening.

“Absolutely not,” Morris smiled, “this is too rich.”

“Come on, Morris,” Troup muttered, more to himself than anyone else.

“Alexander thinks that by buying sex he is somehow more innocent than the rest of us mere mortals who have to make due with our wives and girlfriends. Gets him off the hook.”

Alexander locked eyes with his one-legged legal partner again. “That is ridiculous. I don’t think I’m more innocent than anyone.”

“Bullshit!” Morris’ loud swear caused Troup to flinch. “You’ve always been this way. Paying for women makes you feel less guilty. Don’t lie!”

“I’m not lying, Morris!” Hamilton shouted, getting irritated. “This isn’t about me wanting to feel ‘innocent’! For Christ’s sake, just drop it already!”

Morris’ grin faded slightly. Alexander went back to staring at his screen and absentmindedly rubbed his wrists as his mind raced. It had to be done, and it made sense. It was a business transaction. Money had been exchanged. It was a way to help someone who'd been swindled. Troup and Morris assumed, at worst, he spent the night with a random woman. He was safe, as long as they didn’t press the issue.

He thought briefly about Aaron and rubbed his eyes again.

A business transaction. That’s it. Stop thinking about it.

Perhaps, reasoned Alexander, if I don’t think about it too much, it will fade into a distant memory. Aaron wasn’t one to dwell on sexual encounters. He wouldn’t make too much of it. Alexander tried to recall his words from the night before.

He had been all business. Done everything Alexander had asked. Uncomplaining.

Money had been exchanged. They both got what they wanted. The mantra repeated itself in his head to the beat of the clicking keys.

If there was one man who could bring a refreshingly impersonal feel to sex, it was Burr. Did Morris and Troup know of Aaron’s new moneymaking scheme? Surely they had their suspicions, but they would never guess. The Nevisian double-checked all his bases, trying to find a loophole that would give away the secret. If it was divulged, Jumel's involvement notwithstanding, they’d both be humiliated.

Alexander continued typing as Troup and Morris’ banter faded into the background. The poignant irony of the situation settled in Hamilton's gut.

“I need brunch. I’m starving.” Morris swung his legs from their place on the ottoman in Alexander’s office. The latter man looked up from his computer screen, shaken from his daze.

“Do either of you want anything while I’m gone?”

Troup nodded, Alexander shook his head.

“I’ll come with you. I need to do some grocery shopping. And no offense, Alex, but your office is horribly crowded…”

Hamilton scoffed.

“Perhaps you should go back to your own, then?” He responded quietly. Troup didn’t hear him.

“Are you sure you don’t want anything, Alex?” Morris repeated, putting on his large coat. Alexander shook his head again, slightly more irritated. It was nearing eleven—where was Aaron?

As his partners left in search of lunch, Alexander sunk back into his seat, finally alone with his thoughts. Rubbing his features together, he convinced himself that he could find a way to escape from this—he shook his head as the word "fate" cropped up in his mind.

Might as well make the best of it, then,” he muttered to himself, staring blankly at his computer screen. He rubbed his eyes again, his head still pounding.

Chapter Text

Morris and Troup came back with several bags full of groceries, huffing and puffing down the hall to their offices. The former man had convinced Bobby to let him ride around the store in a motorized cart, aimlessly.

“I don’t care how bad your leg hurts, Morris, that was embarrassing—”

“Oh shut up, you old nerd,” Morris responded, his booming laugh heard all the way down the corridor. Alexander looked at the clock on his computer screen, nearly twelve-thirty, now, willing the day to go by faster so he could go home. Where, exactly, “home” would be was a different story.

His friends set their bags on the ground and resumed their old seats, excitedly taking out their respective experiences.

“You should have see him, Alex. It was ridiculous. He insisted on using the motorized—”

“—My leg huts. Those carts are for people like me.” Morris responded indignantly, mouth full of tuna sandwhich.

Alexander offered a weak smile, while Troup cut in. “Yes, but Morris…they are NOT for people who want to chase women around the store.”

“We were playing tag.”

“In a grocery store?”

The light-hearted banter continued to fade in and out of Alexander’s ears. He sat quietly. Detached. The afternoon sun, muffled by thin grey clouds, slowly hovered in the sky. Eventually, he would have to explain himself to Betsey, and he wondered if tonight would be the night. He needed a place to sleep.

A silent click at the door as the knob turned, discernible only to Hamilton who sat closest to it. His partners, still arguing inanely about amputees on scooters, were unaware until the little colonel let himself in.

“You!”

Aaron, who had tried to sneak in unnoticed, jumped slightly at Morris’ accusatory shout. Troup smiled as Morris continued in his loud voice.

“It’s nearly one. Where have you been all day?” A wicked grin spread across Morris’ face, thinking he knew the answer.

“I had some errands to run.”

“Errands?”

“Shopping.”

Alexander’s heart sank as he noticed the new silk tie and shining black leather brief case. So that was it, then. A myriad of thoughts coursed through his mind while this new development settled in his brain.

You know exactly where that money came from, Alexander.

A pit formed in his stomach.

Why? Why did you have to show your face here, Colonel? Don’t you have any shame? At all?

Alexander noticed, with some annoyance, that Aaron could not even bring himself to make eye-contact.

“Where the hell did you get enough money to buy that?” Morris indicated towards the new brief case. “Wasn’t it just last week you were complaining about being unable to buy Theo new books? And now this?”

As the one-legged man swallowed the last bit of his sandwich, he stared at his dark legal partner thoughtfully.

“I…” Aaron struggled, “…came into some funds. Don’t worry about it, Morris.”

Another gruff laugh in between chews. “Now I have to worry about it. You sound guilty as sin.”

“Did you win a case?” Troup offered politely, downing the last third of a bottle of Sprite.

“Yes.” Aaron answered dismissively, situating himself at his desk in the corner of the room, unable to look at anyone. Troup and Morris exchanged glances while Hamilton pretended to disappear entirely.

“Burr, what are you hiding?”

“I’m not hiding anything, Morris,” Aaron answered calmly, rubbing his arms. He removed his suit jacket and placed it on the back of his chair, ignoring Alexander pointedly. Troup furrowed his eyebrows, watching the scene.

“Wait a second,” he began, “Alexander, I thought you said Aaron was sick. He looks fine. He went shopping today.”

Alexander’s heart raced. Morris cut in.

“I told you he wasn’t sick, Troup! You’re not sick, are you Aaron?”

Aaron looked up from his screen, a look of pleasant resignation on his face. “No, I’m not sick.”

How can you sit there with that smug look on your face and pretend I’m not even in the room?

“Hamilton, is there something you want to say?”

“Look, why are you two even in here, anyway? This isn’t your office.” Aaron spoke up form the corner of the room—agitated, but polite. Morris raised his eyebrows.

“Well, excuse me, Colonel,” he said, packing up his things slowly. Troup finished his lunch and did the same, smiling to himself. The two legal partners argued over who would carry what bag as they left the room. Hopefully, thought Hamilton, they were unaware that anything was different.

“Thank you.” the general did not look at his companion.

“Not a problem,” Aaron answered dryly. The only noise that filled the room was light typing from the keyboard. And, possibly, twin nervous heartbeats.

Chapter Text

 

The same hotel room. The same sheets. The same moon. Burr could do nothing but close his eyes and catch his breath in his throat, begging for release. He had been thinking of this particular meeting all day. All week. Since the last meeting, if he was being frank with himself. It was as if the general's stark coldness during their working hours teased him. 

He caught the bright, deep set eyes staring at him from across their desks one afternoon, then quickly averted. Their conversations were short, direct; a thin dam holding back the deluge. 

The general knocked once, rapt, on the hotel room door, and Aaron let him in. Their words escaped them again, and the former man threw the money on the table like it burned his hand. The envelope sat on the nightstand next to the tacky lamp, strangely out of place. 

Alexander hardened his touch and Aaron felt himself losing control, felt his thoughts go blank.

“You are so quiet tonight, Colonel. What’s the matter? Where's your defense?”

Gently the geberal stroked Aaron’s face, bringing his hand down the shoulder, the exposed chest, the abdomen; slipping his hand below the unbuckled belt on his waistband. Burr closed his eyes and allowed logic to slip away. 

“You are so talented, Colonel…” Hamilton managed to whisper.

Burr looked at the clock intermittently, for what purpose, he was unsure. He found himself maneuvering them wildly towards the floor, taking half the sheets with him. Their panting breaths brought him in and out of reality. 

Aaron called out, swearing as he came in shuddering jolts. He felt Alexander’s nails dig into his back, ripping a layer of skin from him. Slowly he came down, not wanting to remove himself from atop his sweating client.  Mouths open, the two men re-positioned themselves, staring defiantly into each other’s eyes.

Unable to find the right words, Hamilton looked away between labored breaths.

“I scratched you…”

“I know. I don’t care.”

The words came out meaningless, simply noise to fill the dead silence. Aaron rolled over, removing his protection and throwing it into the garbage can nearest to him. Carefully, he lay on his back, hissing as the scratches on his skin hit the rough floor beneath him. Only vaguely was he aware of the bruises now forming on his kneecaps; the tightness around his hairline from it being pulled. Suddenly, the visceral situation settled on the two men and the pain from their lust brought them down.

“Here…wait…”

Alexander moved himself towards the comforter falling from the bed, taking it completely off and laying it on the floor. He motioned silently towards his companion, entreating him to lay on it instead of the rug, avoiding eye contact. It was a good thing, thought Alexander, because he wasn’t at all certain whether or not the wetness around his eyes was sweat or something more emotional. Quietly, Aaron thanked him, his own eyes averted.

Burr situated himself atop the soft comforter, his nakedness only now causing him some embarrassment. If he noticed, Hamilton didn’t say anything. Silently the colonel wrapped himself in half the blanket, offering the other half to Alexander who accepted meekly. For a moment, they both lay on the floor, the clock on the nightstand to the left of the bed reading one forty-six. Hamilton resisted the urge to scoot closer to the warmth he felt radiating from Burr's body; remembered the money next to the lamp.

Aaron’s breaths became more regular. He slipped in and out of sleep, avoiding thinking too heavily about the figure next to him and more about the marks now forming on his back. Like battles scars, he thought pleasantly—the last thought before descending into slumber.

Alexander was not so lucky. Wide awake, he stood and dressed with excruciating slowness, taking care not to wake the sleeping man bundled up on the floor. Shutting the door on the experience that had just taken place, the general’s thoughts became a garbled mess of pleasure and pain, past and present, love and lust, reason and fate. He despaired as the thought presented itself: this wasn't as simple as Eliza had made it seem. 

His muddled, undefined thoughts created their own mental compartment and Alexander stepped over the body and made his way to the door. He knew he faced a cold, sixty minute train ride back to Betsey-- asleep in their bedroom, alone, door locked. A tiny part of him wondered how much money it would take to keep Aaron’s warm body by his side all night.

 

Chapter Text

 

Alexander arrived home shortly after two-thirty. He flicked the foyer light on, and was greeted by his wife--her eyes puffy. The general opened his mouth in shock, and she held up a hand. Her reproachful gaze shut him up and put him in his place.

“Save it.”

“Betsey—”

“—I said save it.”

She slammed the door behind him, walking into the living room. Dressed in pajama pants, hair in a careless bun, face cleaned from any trace of make-up, Betsey Schuyler looked more like a middle-America soccer mom than an heiress and the daughter of a New York millionaire.

“I know where you were. I know what you were doing.” She spat. Alexander could do nothing but stand quietly, and prepare himself for whatever would come. He fidgeted nervously with the end of his tie.

“How stupid do you think I am, Alexander?” She swung around to face him, fury etched in her pretty features. He could not answer her.

“The withdraws from the bank account? The coming and going at odd hours? Did you think I would just ignore them?”

Still the Nevisian stood stock still, his heart falling from his chest into his stomach.

“When the children asked where you were, you don’t think it dawned on me again?”

“Betsey, please let me explain—”

“No!”

Tears sprang to her eyes and she quickly, determinedly, swallowed them. 

“No, Alexander! I don’t want to hear you explain anything. I am sick to death of your explanations.” Her voice echoed into the kitchen behind them.

“You’re going to wake the chil—”

“—Don’t you dare tell me to be quiet.” Betsey cut him off, raising an angry finger. “You have no right, Alexander.” Her anger, rather than make her break down again, solidified her resolve.

“Betsey, I’m sorry—” her husband’s response was weak and empty.

“Stop it. I could write an entire book of your apologies. I should, in fact.” Betsey raised her eyes to the ceiling and scoffed bitterly, “It always worked for you.”

Their youngest daughter wailed loudly from an upstairs bedroom. Betsey covered her face and fell back onto the couch. Alexander cautiously approached her. Gently, he sat on the opposite end. Betsey kept her face covered and teeth gritted.

“I was such a fool to trust you again.”

Alexander reached out slowly to place a hand on her shoulder, to comfort her. Viciously she shirked away.

“Don’t touch me. I can smell it on you.”

Hamilton grimaced and looked away.

“You knew,” she started again, refusing to look at him, “You knew what our reunion would mean to me. You knew I always dreamed of a second chance. And now this—” Her voice squeaked, the high pitch telling Alexander she was dangerously close to losing her composure.

“I tried so hard…I knew this had to work out—had to happen—for the sake of our children, but never in one million lifetimes did I ever dream you would make the same mistakes.”

Her husband sat dumbly beside her, unable to offer comfort. Betsey swallowed again.

“Just so you know, husband,” she added, “I have explained myself and my situation to my father and he says he will support me, whatever decision I make.”

It was Alexander’s turn to cover his face in shame. “You told your father…” he replied, almost inaudibly. It wasn’t a question.

“Yes. Yes I did.” she responded defensively. “My father will never abandon me. He is the only one I can trust anymore. My father knows all of my worries, and knows my growing mistrust towards you. Now where will you go?” Her thoughts came to her rapidly and she uncharacteristically spilled the anger she'd been keeping inside for generations. 

Alexander took his hand from his face and watched as Betsey’s crumbled, her stone wall coming down in tears. He could do nothing but wait, watch as his wife wept, inconsolable, letting her words hit him with painful accuracy. His confession was not even finished.

“Please just tell me it wasn’t with that slimy Reynolds woman…please…” she whispered pathetically.

“No.” Alexander matched her voice.

For a moment the only sound that the general could hear was his wife’s silent sobs, each inhaling breath sending another crack through his heart. There was never a lost debate, a foiled bank plan, a triumphant rival, that made him feel smaller than he did at this moment.

Finally, Betsey spoke up in a more powerful voice. She dabbed her eyes with the sleeve of her pajama shirt.

“I have decided to go forward with a separation.”

Her announcement, solid and unyielding, felt like a bullet to the gut. And just like that, Hamilton was isolated once again.

He imagined hearing sirens in the distance. Something, anything, to announce the severity of the situation. Nothing came but the sound of Betsey’s words echoing in his ears.

“You…what?”

“You heard me.”

“Betsey—”

“No.” She held up her hand again. “You are not going to talk me out of this. I am not the same woman you left all those years ago. In pursuit of your lust and honor.” She pronounced the last words as if they were pure poison on her tongue.

“Betsey, I have no where to go—”

Abrupt laughter cut him off. “As if that is any longer my concern.”

Like a bolt of lightening, Eliza's words came to him, and the general's stomach burned with indignation.

This was not a romantic dally. This was payback.

At realization of it all, the anger he waited for hit Alexander forcefully. He furrowed his eyebrows.

“You act like I lived my entire life in pursuit of selfish pleasure after selfish pleasure.  You know everything I did was for you and the children. You were the first things I thought about in the morning and the last things I thought about at night—”

“—‘Things’ Alexander. That is exactly my point!” Betsey yelled, waking their daughter once again. “We were always ‘things’ to you! Accessories to accentuate your new life. The one you fashioned for yourself, in between the pointless arguments and the selfish affairs!”

Alexander stood up, unable to articulate a defense quickly enough.

“You never cared about anyone besides yourself,” her voice broke again, but deftly she swallowed the sob. Standing up to face him, she continued her case. “You never cared about anything but image. As long as your government, your politics, functioned like a lifeless, well-oiled machine, making you look like a shining genius, you didn’t care that I sat alone at night, weeping and lonely. You never cared that I felt like nothing next to my sister. You never cared—”

“—You know that’s not true!”

“You never cared! Describing me to your reckless friend like I was produce you were eager to buy.” The tears fell unchecked. Alexander stood, mouth open in shock.

“Those letters…no one was supposed to read—”

“—Well they did. And I did.” She cut in viciously. “And the day you died…” she raised her finger again, locking her burning black gaze on her husband with withering precision, “…as I held a screaming child in my hands and collapsed into the arms of Morris, for a fleeting second, I hoped you were in hell.”

She finished with a loud sniff, wiping her eyes again vigorously with her sleeve. 

Tears sprang into Alexander's eyes in shock. “You don’t mean that…Betsey…” he tried, quietly. She could not answer him.

“You wondered why I burned my letters, Mr. Hamilton,” she addressed him coldly, her voice nasal and deadened by crying. “I burned them because I was humiliated. And heartbroken, as I am now. I used to stare at that bust…” She raised an indicating hand aimlessly, “imagining where you were. What you were doing. When I would have my second chance.”

Alexander could only stand and face her; felt a tear from his own eyes hit his arm.

“Well, here it is. This is my second chance. My second chance.”

The brunette Betsey Schuyler walked over to a draw in a desk by a window, pulling out a folded packet of paper and placing it deftly on the table beside where her husband stood.

“Those are divorce papers. In New York, adultery is a perfectly acceptable legal reason to terminate a marriage. God works in mysterious ways, I suppose,” she added with vitriol.

“I expect them signed and slipped under my bedroom door by nine a.m. tomorrow morning. The locksmith is coming to change the locks at ten.”

She turned on her heel and without a second glance back, ascended the stairs to retire, leaving her husband behind in the thick, emotional fray. Alexander stood dumbfounded—reeling.

Chapter Text

 

The night that everything changed Hamilton was rougher, more violent. Angrier. It was their third meeting in one month. Burr looked at his watch, hurriedly rushing up the stairs. It was three thirty-nine. He was approximately forty minutes late. Theo had been sick and he would not leave her side until she insisted that he leave her be. Where he was going, he assured himself, she still didn’t know.

Reaching the top of the stairs of the fourth and top floor of the new hotel (Alexander had picked this one out—it was farther away from his home than any of the others, Burr noticed with some amusement) Aaron searched for the appropriate room number and opened the door quietly.

In an instant Alexander was upon him, vicious kisses leaving tooth marks on Aaron’s lip. He brought Aaron to the bed—throwing him face down into the soft pillow.

Through the tussle, Burr gripped the sheets beneath him, swearing under his breath and relishing in the wild abandon. As his eyes pressed hard against the downy softness of the pillow he could only vaguely hear Hamilton’s whispers, a jumble of incoherence. As his climax caused him to scream viciously into the neck of his captive, Alexander relaxed just as quickly and settled, heaving, onto the back of the black-eyed man, who did not even have time to remove his tie.

For twenty seconds Alexander lay atop him, intermittently kissing his back and catching his breath. Then, lazily, he rolled to the side, faced the ceiling with one hand on his naked stomach and closed his eyes. The time was four o’ six. Aaron could do nothing but lay on his stomach and wait.

“Thank you…” Hamilton managed weakly, his breaths still shallow and the beautiful flush still alight on his face. Muffled, Burr answered him.

“That was…quick.”

A still silence, peppered by short breaths, descended between them. Aaron rubbed his eyes and propped himself up on his elbows to get a better look at his client. A single tear fell down the Nevisian’s cheek before anything further was said.

“Christ.” Hamilton sat up in a flash and, covering his face with his hands, growled in frustration at his weakness. Clutching his hair between his fingers, the pent up rage from the past weeks spilled out in a torrent of words.

“…This…what we’re doing…it’s wrong. Take your money.” He pulled out an envelope from his jacket on the floor and flung it in Aaron’s face, startling him. “I should have turned away the first time…I should never have…”

“…I’m not going to tell anyone, General.” Burr whispered politely. 

Alexander regained his composure and swallowed another bout of rage. He leaned back against the headboard, and looked up at the ceiling, “I can’t even go home.”

Aaron, still startled by the explosion of anger earlier, could only lay on his elbows and look up at his companion questioningly. Alexander shook his head at some indistinct thought and continued.

“How did I get here?”

Burr knew the question was rhetorical. Another dramatic exhale.

“I can’t go home. I’m going to stay here tonight.”

The black-eyed man cleared his throat softly. ”Why can’t you go home?”

“They despise me. Every last one of them. They look at me like I’m a stranger. They don’t trust me. Betsey—”

At the mention of his wife Hamilton closed his eyes again as they became moist and he rubbed them vigorously. He heaved a sigh and pressed on.

“Betsey hinted at a permanent separation.”

“I’m sorry to hear that, General.”

“She doesn’t even allow me in our bed anymore.”

Aaron averted his eyes respectfully, unintentionally landing his gaze on the envelope between them. A curiously unselfish thought occurred to him and he toyed with it, interested.

“She doesn’t allow me in our bed anymore…” another sigh, “She has these charities she’s dedicated herself to…our children…she doesn’t even need me.”

Burr nodded, still staring at the paper.

”She lived more of her life with out me than with me.”

This was not where Aaron hoped the conversation would turn. But it was probably inevitable.

“Last week it was about the letters.”

Burr recalled an overheard conversation between Hamilton and Troup—something about letters and their destruction—that ended in Alexander walking out, slamming doors, and refusing to work the rest of the day. Aaron didn’t ask questions; in fact, when it came to work at the practice, he generally avoided discussing anything not business related with his partner. Troup knew everything, of course. Aaron waited.

“She destroyed every single one of them. Every goddamned one. Like she was ashamed.”

“You know that isn’t true, General…”

“Every last one. Why would she do that? Didn’t she know what that would do to me?” Alexander’s voice broke. “Her voice…her little scribbles…they saved me.”

Burr was unsure how to respond; unsure to what he was referring.

“And now it’s as if none of that was real…I feel so abandoned.” Hamilton closed his eyes again and a single tear trailed down his lightly freckled cheek. It was four twenty. Where was this conversation headed? Burr thought, rather impatiently.

“You know those letters are the only things tying us to our pasts. And our imperfect memories.”

“I do, General.”

The curiously unselfish thought presented itself in Aaron’s mind once again; he gently shook it away for further inspection.

“I am a stranger in my own home.”

“I know the feeling well, General.”

Finally, Hamilton brought his gaze to the other man, furiously. “Do not patronize me, Colonel.”

Taken aback, Aaron maneuvered himself into a sitting position. “I assure you, I am not.”

“You never loved anything more than yourself.” Alexander hissed, looking away.

A white-hot fury rose in Aaron’s chest. The old accusation.

“Do you remember,” Burr began, careful not to speak too loudly lest it turn into a shouting match, “Do you remember, in Elizabethtown—”

“—Now is not the time for—”

“—Let me finish a thought.”

The men locked eyes, forgetting where they were and for what purpose.

“We were…we must have been no older than sixteen. I had only known you for three, maybe four months, but had heard your name around town before—as I am sure you had heard mine.”

Hamillton rested his head against the headboard again, flattening out his blankets.

“I was curious to get to know this West Indian about whom my uncle had said so much, and so—”

“—And so you invited me out for a picnic. I remember.” Hamilton’s words were almost inaudible.

“And there you were, October, I believe it was, sitting under a cherry tree, waiting for me.”

“Is there a point to this story?”

Burr ignored him and continued.

“You had your little book of poems that you insisted on reading to me. You were so proud of them, those little hymns that won you passage to America,” A nostalgic cloud crossed Aaron’s features, “You read your favorites. And then all of them. I was not allowed to talk.”

The general closed his own eyes and reminisced. The time was four thirty-five

“I was so captivated by you. Proud that I had, in some distant way, brought you here. I supposed I convinced myself that was the case.”

“I remember that book.”

“And in the ensuing years…when politics turned more personal and I allowed you absolute authority over my reputation…” a hint of uncharacteristic bitterness tainted Burr’s voice, Hamilton scoffed to himself and squirmed in his blankets.

“As politics turned personal and I allowed you authority over my reputation, I would always remind myself of that day…of my little sunburned friend and his book of poems.”

Alexander breathed out in the darkness. There was no moon tonight.

“I knew that if I could just hold on to that image, you would be more human.”

The general chewed over this thought for a moment, remembering where he was and scanning the dark room. His eyes landed on his shoes in the corner, his pants strewn across the chair, deceptively casual. This was not where he wanted to be. Situating himself in a more comfortable position, his hip touched the pointed envelope.

“First impressions,” Burr started again mysteriously, hushed, “are important.”

“Please…please take your money and let me sleep.”

“I don’t want it.” Aaron made his decision, finally letting the curiously unselfish thought out of his mind, excited to see where it would take them.

Hamilton turned his head to look his companion in the eyes—only the second time he had done so this evening, “Take the money.”

“I told you, General I don’t want it.”

Hamilton looked as though he’d been slapped. Burr sat calmly next to him, hands folded in his lap. Struggling to find his words, the former man sputtered explanation after explanation. Aaron averted his gaze quietly, and stood up a moment later. Beside the bed and straightening his disheveled appearance, back facing his client—not client, Aaron corrected himself mutely—he listened to the general.

“You can’t…this isn’t…this isn’t what the terms are, Colonel. What are you thinking?”

Burr silently straightened his vest.

“Take the money!” Alexander, terrified, stared at the finely tailored suit, mouth open. Without a single glance backward, Aaron checked the time and mentally calculated how many hours he would have to sleep before going into the office when the sun came up. If he could manage at least two and a half, he would be functional.

“Colonel Burr!”

The black-eyed man finally turned on his heel to face his companion, eyes raised in thought to the ceiling. “Even I am capable of altruism. Think of it as a sort of pro-bono work, General.” A tiny, imperceptible smile. Aaron exited the room at quarter to five.

Chapter Text

Aaron wondered when, exactly, he stopped caring that he was a whore.

Was it most recently, when he refused payment from his favorite client? (Not client—he corrected himself again.) Was it the first time Jumel had proposed the idea, four months ago, the bright sun bleaching her hair out a--very misleading-- angel blonde? Was it in nineteenth century Paris, scribbling in a saturated journal and cursing his own country? Was it the day he was born?

These were the thoughts that occupied his mind as he strolled homeward, contemplating the stars. Passing darkened building after darkened building, Burr’s thoughts ran together. He refused the money. He wasn’t technically a whore. Yet he still felt like one. His hands dug into his pockets.

A fresh thought: Alexander. What to do with Hamilton? (Hadn’t that always been the question?) 

Yes, he could play the part of Satan if he was supposed to. Towards the end he even started dressing the part: black and red silk (when he could afford it), cigars trailing smoke around his ever-slight frame, gentlemanly walking stick. It was a good thing his eyes never lost their luster. 

Was it Wirt? Was it that mouthy, obnoxious lawyer and his self-serving, overly dramatic speech—comparing him to the snake in the Garden of Eden—that set his place in history? Burr remembered sitting in court, never slouching, listening with mild attention at Wirt drone on and on, as a student would listen to a lecture that may or may not be on the next test.

Another gust of wind snapped him from his thoughts. He was only two blocks from his apartment. His hands wriggled the coins inside his pockets as he kept his head down, a force of habit. Yes, Aaron kept trying to remember the first time he realized he was a whore. He wondered if there was anything praiseworthy in his legacy. It was not easy, being a creator of martyrs. Though the job was absolutely necessary.

Thoughts traveled back to a book Theo had mentioned. Foxe’s Book of Martyrs—he had seen it before, but never read it. Now he was insatiably curious.

Flipping through the pages he saw graphic illustrations of Protestants being hanged, drawn and quartered. Women with babies in the womb being burned alive. People being crushed under the weight of boulders until their screams couldn’t be heard any more. A bullet, by comparison, was gracious.

That’s how Burr made it through those final thirty-two years. That’s how he was able to make the situation light-hearted; it was all in one’s perception. The colonel saw the monuments being erected and the poems being composed and the books being written in Hamilton's praise and knew that it was all okay. Yes, he shot his friend (was that when he became a whore?) No, he didn’t feel the slightest twinge of guilt (in the daylight hours). In fact, Aaron thought arrogantly as he rounded the corner of a dirty brick building, his place in history was as indispensable as the martyr himself.

----------

Alexander paced around the hotel room, entirely unable to sleep. His heart rate hadn’t settled, it beat wildly in his chest. He wrung his hands, looking at the envelope of money still on the disheveled bed. The sheets had been torn from the mattress, the pillows scattered, the comforter scrunched at the base of the bed. It looked like a war-zone.

His chest hurt—whether from suppressed tears or inability to catch his breath Hamilton didn’t know. It was nearly six in the morning, the first barely discernible white-blues of the sunrise could be seen on the horizon and he knew he would not be sleeping tonight. Reaching into his briefcase on the floor, Alexander pulled out two small white caffeine pills and took them with out water.

He sat on the edge of the bed and waited. He contemplated staying home from work. But where would he go? He could stay here, in the hotel room, and pay for another night. Alone.

Alexander thought about the conversation he would have to have with Betsey. It would most likely come back to the letters (it always did). His figure was cast in stone, eternally, and yet she couldn’t even be bothered to keep those precious sheets of paper that meant more to him than eternal fame ever did.

Yes, he was well aware of his place in history. He had been the moment he locked eyes with General Washington. He made sure he locked eyes with General Washington.

The Nevisian knew what was said about him. Strange, though, how the accusations hadn’t changed in nearly two hundred years: pet of the rich, pawn of the bankers, self-interested foreigner, evil monarchist.

Did you know that Hamilton wanted to be king? He is the reason Wall Street and the corporations own this country!

Alexander remembered, with some annoyance and some amusement, a conversation he’d had with a random stranger in a bar long ago. Unaware of who he was sitting next to the stranger proceeded to list all of Hamilton’s sins in beautiful detail to the general who could only sit and listen and wait until he’d get a chance to do what he did best: defend himself.

Alexander raised his voice to the roof of that bar, drawing attention onto himself and the embarrassed stranger, refuting everything the stranger had said with vicious accuracy. He pointed a finger into the man's face, pointed to the people around him. No, they had no idea the lengths the old Treasury Secretary had gone to to ensure economic growth and prosperity. And they never would. Alexander plopped down on a chair next to the window, loosened his tie even more, and wondered if his other illustrious compatriots would ever know what it felt like to be hated. 

He exhaled, waited for the sun to come up. He wondered whether this was why he came back—to educate the masses about American fiscal policy, one lazy philosophy student at a time.

Alexander eyed his lawyer’s briefcase, his pulse racing from the caffeine pills. The law was a good place to make a home. He felt much safer there than in an educator’s position. He didn’t have the patience for it, quite frankly. Of course, everything came with stipulations and his comfortable home in the law was another’s comfortable home, too. There was that black-eyed Catiline who instinctively knew everything about mankind. Every sin, every selfish motive, every trick--and exploited them. It was becoming more and more apparent why he and Eliza married each other.

It made almost mathematically precise sense, reasoned Hamilton, that the devil he created in his mind would come back to haunt him. He screamed at the poor stranger that he had done more for this country than any canting Virginian hypocrite could ever do. Written more for the economic interest of this country than any subsequent man, comparatively a mere shadow. Written more in regards to saving this country from foreign terrors and wars. Written more.

Alexander’s hands shook—whether with caffeine or angry memories, he had no clue. He wrote letter after letter after letter. In the heat of battle his hands had minds of their own. He was a soldier, after all, defending his fallen comrades with those letters against outside evils. And evils from within. His dexterous hands and rapturous words painted an all-to-explicit Devil, created from his own heart and soul, the black ink reflected in the black-eyed Catiline. In the last hours of his previous life he lay there and recalled the final letter and he knew.

He knew exactly what he was doing--No words could ever last for eternity the way those would.

Chapter Text

Rain began to fall in the lazy, heavy, afternoon air and Bobby Troup sat at his desk, balancing a pencil on his finger. He hadn’t gotten any work done. He couldn’t concentrate, if he was being honest with himself. Too much on the mind.

“But where is he, though? He won’t answer his cell phone.” The pencil fell dramatically to the ground.

“I told you, I don’t know.” Burr stared out the window into the streets below. He quietly sipped his coffee.

“I don’t believe you. Not for one second.”

Aaron shrugged it off.

“I think you know exactly where he is, Aaron. I called Betsey, too. She says she hasn’t seen him since yesterday morning, since before he left for work. And he never came home last night.”

The black-eyed man took another sip, never averting his eyes from the window. Troup was not satisfied.

“Aaron, if you know something, you need to tell me.” He stood up from his desk and walked over to the window, facing his legal partner.

“He could be in trouble,” Troup added quietly, “he could be hurt. Or worse. You know Alexander.”

Burr let out a small laugh despite himself. Troup watched him warily.

“Are you just going to stand there and stare into space, or are you going to talk to me?” he asked again, exasperated. Troup was in no mood for the Colonel’s silent mind games. 

Finally, Aaron locked his gaze on his friend. “Troup, he’s going through a separation. He’s not suicidal. He’s probably at some hotel and doesn’t want to talk to anyone.” Aaron added for for emphasis.

The bigger man eyed his companion up and down, measuring his words, “So you do know where he is?”

“I guessed.”

“You sound pretty confident.”

Burr sighed, slightly annoyed. He had not slept last night, either, though Troup had no idea. Aaron fidgeted in his clothes, wanting to change and shower.

“Aaron.”

“What, Bobby?”

“Where is Alexander?” Troup practically stomped his foot.

“I told you, he’s probably at a hotel. If he didn’t go home, he stayed in a hotel. Did you ask Morris?”

“Yes, first thing this morning when he came in. He had no idea. Said the same thing you did, actually. That he found a hotel to stay in. But no one can tell me which one.” Troup looked down, defeated.

Aaron looked out the window again. Of course he knew exactly what hotel Alexander was staying at. He self-consciously straightened his tie, hoping Troup’s senses didn’t give him away.

“I worry so much about him.” Troup casually dragged the conversation out.

“He’ll be fine.”

“The 11th could not have been easy.”

“He probably got drunk and went to bed early.”

Troup tsk-tsk'd and then changed his demeanor quickly, “I want to go find him, Aaron. He shouldn’t be suffering alone like this, especially during a separation.”

He chewed on that thought for a moment.

“Give me the address of the hotel he’s staying at.” Troup held out his hand. Aaron looked at it and then back to his friend.

“Troup, I told you, I have no idea where he is.” The lie glided from Aaron’s mouth with delicate ease. Still, the outstretched hand before him told Aaron Troup didn’t believe him. The black-eyed man looked at the empty hand.

“What do you want me to do? High five?”

“Write the address down and give it to me, Aaron!”

For a moment, Aaron deliberated. Never taking his eyes off his friend, he walked over to the desk and scrawled some numbers and letters onto the back of a receipt.

“He probably checked in under the name James Hamilton.”

Troup took it, smiling.

“Thank you, Aaron. He will be happy to know someone in this world cares about him.” Mollified, Troup put his coat on and walked briskly out of the office. Approximately twenty minutes later, Aaron was in his car, heading in the opposite direction than the address on the back of the receipt, to the real hotel.

Chapter Text

One knock. No answer.

Three knocks. A muffled swear.

Four knocks. Aaron cleared his throat softly and raised his voice several octaves.

“Room service!”

A shuffle inside, a loud thump and a slight turning of the doorknob. Cautiously, Hamilton opened it in a bathrobe, hair wet and dripping. Before he had a chance to slam it, Burr smiled and put his hand up, stopping the Nevisian from locking himself inside once again.

“Goddamnit, Colonel.”

“Let me in, please.”

“Go away. Now.”

Aaron pushed the door harder and squeezed inside, despite his companion’s best efforts. Alexander hung his head, defeated, as his companion’s gaze swept the messy room. Clothes covered one of the chairs in the corner. The curtains were drawn to let in some sunlight; the kitchenette showed some signs of use. But Aaron’s favorite part was the great bed, still unmade, a single Bible open on its sheets.  

“General, what the hell?”

No answer. The TV broke the silence.

“General—”

“—I decided to stay here for a while. I didn’t feel like going to work. For obvious reasons.” He tightened the tie around his robe and walked to the steaming bathroom to towel-dry his hair a bit more.

Burr scanned the room again.

“Troup and Morris are worried about you.”

Hamilton answered him from the bathroom. “I figured as much. You didn’t tell them  where I was, did you?”

“I gave Troup the wrong address. I think in about thirty minutes I will be receiving an angry call.”

Aaron stood in front of the TV, watching it with mild interest. The general emerged from the bathroom and reached for his pants and shirt.

“Thank you.”

“Not a problem.”

Alexander shut the bathroom door and dressed himself quietly as Aaron took inventory of the room again. That Bible.

Walking over to it quickly, he noticed with some amusement bookmarked pages and highlighted quotes, a single green highlight stood out on this particular page.

Joel, chapter two, verse twenty-five: I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten.

Alexander reached out and shut the book, dressed in everything but a tie. Burr straightened up and faced him, afraid of whatever emotion was undoubtedly brewing inside his volatile friend.

“Can you hand me that tie?” Alexander indicated to the floor beside the bed. Aaron picked it up and walked cautiously over to the other man. Wrapping the tie around his companion’s neck, he bound it deftly.

Silence fell into the eight inches that separated them.

“Thank you.”

“Not a problem.” Burr repeated.

Another chunk of quiet.

“I apologize for not coming into work today. You understand why I didn’t.”

“I do.”

“I don’t want either Morris or Troup knowing the address of where I’m staying. Or Betsey.” Hamilton swallowed.

“I will make sure no one finds out.”

The TV droned on restlessly, the only other noise in the room. Aaron averted his gaze to see what was on, happy for the distraction.

“The History Channel? General, I’m disappointed in you.”

“Did you know martians built the pyramids, Colonel? Fascinating stuff.”

Burr plopped down on the bed behind him, exhaling, smiling. In an instant, Hamilton was next to him, thick hair only halfway dry. Together they watched the moving pictures before them, wordlessly, hardly synthesizing it. 

“How long will you be staying here, do you think?”

Alexander shrugged. ”Until I can figure out how to talk to Betsey.”

The black-eyed man nodded absentmindedly.

“Will you go through with the separation?”

“I don’t want to discuss that.”

“Fair enough.”

Hamilton reached behind him and swept the Gideon Bible into his suit case. He did not look at his friend as he kicked the top shut on the bag. The two men spent the rest of the afternoon critiquing the television programs, and ignoring their buzzing cell phones.

Chapter Text

 

Several minutes before eight pm, Aaron finally woke up.

Laying on his back in the artificially lit hotel room, hands folded across his stomach, he realized he’d been napping for close to four hours. Next to him, casually, lay Alexander, still asleep. The television was off, and he was starving.

Picking up his cell phone, Aaron prepared to order a pizza and noticed with some amusement the seventeen missed calls (fifteen from Troup, one from Morris, and one from a blocked number.) He promptly deleted them and mentally prepared himself for the next day when he’d be accosted about it. Would Alexander be there to back him up? He looked at the sleeping body as he dialed the nearest pizza restaurant.

“Probably not…” Burr muttered mutely as he hung up after the order. “Where are you going to stay?”

Bright eyes popped open. “Here. I’m going to stay here.”

Aaron jumped. “You’re awake?”

“I’m a light sleeper. And I don’t like pepperoni, by the way.”

“Noted.”

Aaron reached for a newspaper that sat on a table by the window and spread it out onto his side of the bed. Sitting next to it, he began reading it.

“How long were we asleep?”

Aaron cleared his throat. “I would say close to four hours. Slept right through dinner time.”

“Troup called me twenty times.”

“Twenty? He only called me seventeen times. I’m hurt.”

A reluctant smile formed on Hamilton's mouth as he sat up. His hair, Burr noted with some affection, had dried in awkward ways while he was asleep and stood up fantastically at odd ends. Alexander did not seem to notice.

“I don’t look forward to explaining this to anyone.”

Aaron continued to peruse the paper. “Nor do I. And so I just won’t. It’s none of their business, anyway.”

The general furrowed his eyebrows and pointed a finger.

“Oh no. I know what you’re thinking and it’s a terrible idea.”

“What am I thinking?”

“You’re going to just ignore everything and let people think what they want. Usually the absolute worse. No,” Hamilton shook his head and looked down into the sheets covering his legs, flattening them with his hands, “No, we are attacking this head-on. It will be hard but we have to. We are going to explain ourselves and put this, whatever this is, to bed and kill the rumors.”

“I rather like the mystery of it.”

“Well I don’t. And I am the one most affected here, and so I think it should be me who—”

It was Burr's turn to look quizzically at his companion.

“—Wait, what? You’re most affected?” He closed the newspaper. “I would say we are both equally effected.”

Hamilton caught himself before he revealed anything else, and covered it with a laugh. The irritating scoff reminded Burr why he used to sometimes go home early from parties at which the former man was in attendance.

“Colonel, come now,” Hamilton spoke to his companion the way an overbearing father would to a wayward child, “I have a wife and family. You have…well just Theo. And it was your idea to prostitute yourself. I simply paid the money.”

Aaron could not believe what he was hearing. “This situation does not effect you alone, General."

“Yes but you see what I’m saying—”

“—No. No I don’t.”

Hamilton looked at him exasperated, and bit the inside of his cheek. After a beat, he tried again.

“Colonel, you have lived a life full of these sorts of actions. No one will be even the slightest bit surprised. Not even Theo. You know deep down she already knows.” The Nevisian explained Aaron’s entire life to him as though it were an addendum in a badly written textbook.

Burr meanwhile, had mentally noted the things Alexander accused him of but could not bring himself to waste the breath it would take for defense.

“What I do in my spare time is no one’s business but my own, and so help me God, if you tell anyone what happened here, I’m going to—”

“—What? You’re going to what?” A tiny smile played on Hamilton's mouth. “What are you going to do, Colonel? I’m not scared of you.”

Burr shot back, “You don’t see what you’re doing? I’m not the selfish one here, you are.” He stood up from the bed and faced the other man, crossing his arms. “You’re going to confess everything so that your own conscience can sleep at night and throw everyone else under the bus in the process. That, my friend, is the definition of selfish.”

Burr hit with memories of being blind-sided by Hamilton's conscience and his rage increased. He paced the room, unable to look at the man sitting on the bed.

“You never learn, do you?” Aaron continued. “Why is it so difficult for you to understand that there are other people in this universe besides yourself? That your actions don’t happen in a blasted vacuum?”

Aaron’s loud voice caused a baby in an adjoining room to wake up and mewl for its mother. Ignoring it, he continued.

“As long as you can live with yourself, it doesn’t matter, does it? People are disposable, aren’t they? God forbid the public see you as anything other than a martyr.”

Burr threw himself in a chair neighboring the bed, unprepared to deal with the dark, ancient emotions that had risen up inside of him. He covered his face; rubbed his eyes with a single hand and listened to Hamilton's breathing.

The Nevisian recalled that envelope of money and the way Aaron had callously refused it-- in an instant making Alexander perfectly guilty.

In the heat of the argument the men had forgotten the pizza. The loud, persistent knocking at the door brought them down from the high of their discussion and Alexander was the first up to answer it. Quickly he pulled out some crumpled bills from his pocket, determined to pay for it himself.

“I don’t care, General.” It was as if Aaron answered the Nevisian’s thoughts directly.

Upon opening the door, Alexander was hit with a stench of alcohol so strong it made him gag. The disheveled man in front of him, wearing a baseball cap so low it practically covered his eyes, was clothed in a dirty uniform stained with pizza grease. The general took the hot pizza box.

“My God, man,” he muttered, handing the pizza box to Aaron who had stood up behind him and dropping money into the deliveryman’s hand. “You smell like—”

The deliveryman raised his blurred gaze slightly to see who was in front of him. Dizzily, he squinted his eyes.

“Smell like what? And who are you to judge?” The deliveryman swayed and tried to focus on the men in front of him. Alexander held a hand to his mouth while Aaron stepped back, placing the pizza on the counter in the kitchenette.

“You should not have driven here, sir. You’re going to get into an accident.”

“I took—I took my bike.” The drunk man lifted his cap to further reveal his face. Behind Hamilton, Burr swore audibly.

“General, shut the door,” he hissed, his eyes scanning the grimy face of the deliveryman, recognizing it. Alexander was a step ahead of him. The deliveryman held up a hand to stop the door shutting in his face.

“Wait…wait a minute…” he mumbled, his glassy stare widening. His mouth formed an “Oh!” as the realization hit him. James Callender may have been drunk, may have been such a drunkard that he’d recently lost his editing job, but he knew exactly what he was seeing at this very moment. He let out a screech of laughter.

“What the hell are you two doing?” Callender’s open mouth slid into a triumphant grin. Drunkenly, he laughed.

Alexander didn’t know whether to address that question or address the fact that the old writer had been reduced to delivering pizzas on a bicycle and yet still had the gall to laugh at him. Aaron walked up behind Alexander and put a hand on the door, embarrassed.

“Get out of here, Callender. Your job is done. Go crawl back into your hole.”

“And…why are you two…” Callender swayed, still smiling, “…in a hotel room together….at this time of night?”

“We’re working on a case. Get out.” Burr pushed harder on the door, trying to shut it. Still the drunken man persisted.

“A case!”

Hamilton’s heart sunk as he watched the old newspaper editor chuckle triumphantly before him. Backing away from the door, he went into the kitchenette, blushing. The slam of the door brought him back from his thoughts. Burr swore again and Hamilton knew they were thinking the same thing.

Chapter Text

 

The two men chewed on their dinner in silence, sitting on the edge of the bed, barely tasting it. After the last bite, Hamilton stood up and began to pace.

“I can’t stay here. I have to go.” He wrung his hands.

“What? Where?”

“Home. Back to Betsey. I can’t stay here now that Callender knows.” His pacing became more pronounced; he walked to the window, touched the curtains absentmindedly, and then back to the bed. Burr watched him silently, chewing.

“There are several things working in our favor.” He offered flatly. 

“Which are—?” Alexander’s eyes were pleading.

“One: he was drunk. There is a chance he won’t remember any of this.”

Alexander let out a defeated laugh and raised his eyes. “He was lucid enough to deliver a pizza on a bicycle and follow directions to get here!”

“Two: We told him we were here on business. Which isn’t exactly a lie.”

Hamilton shot him a look somewhere between disbelief and confusion.

“I meant law practice work, General. Although, technically—”

“—There is absolutely no way he believed that. The bed. The bed!” Hamilton motioned to the sheets behind Burr, strewn carelessly onto the floor beside the mattress; some of the pillows in a scrunched up heap at the headboard.

“Why would the bed look like this if we had only been working on business?” Alexander grew hot with worry.

“Well, perhaps we can convince him that one of us took a nap.”

“Why would we even need to buy a hotel room to work on a case anyway?” Alexander shouted, not allowing the other man to finish his thought.

“You’re thinking too much into this.”

“You’re not thinking enough!” Standing by the bed, Alexander covered his face, his heart sinking. It was all over. He was caught. Again. And there would be no intermediaries. Burr sat quietly, looking up at his companion.

“I have to get to Betsey before he does.”

Aaron cleared his throat and reached for a glass of water on the nightstand. Swallowing, he spoke up. “If Callender is your biggest worry, Betsey’s not going to be able to help you.”

“What?”

“Callender isn’t going to go to your wife, General,” Burr continued, reclining back onto the bed and closing his eyes, “He’s going to go to one of those parasites in Virginia.” He finished his thought casually.

Hamilton swore loudly and dropped into a chair next to the window. “I feel like a caged animal. I can’t be here anymore. I have to go do damage control—”

An abrupt laugh from the bed stopped Alexander short.

“Your idea of damage control is akin to adding gasoline to a forest fire. Just give me the money, General.” Burr continued quietly. “That way your crime will just be the oldest one in the world. Less damaging to your marriage, if you ask me.”

Alexander still sat in the chair, face covered. He muttered to himself, discussing different, half coherent options. At the mention of the payment, he looked up.

“Have you completely forgotten everything that happened with him all those years ago? It won’t matter that I paid you. It won’t matter that it’s…’the oldest profession’. Goddammit, Colonel. Do you think anything through? At all?” Alexander’s voice raised, angry and frustrated. “Not only is this—”

The Nevisian cut himself short, and stood up in a flash. The rapid movement caused Aaron to sit up straight, slightly startled. Alexander pointed a finger at the man on the bed.

“You.”

Burr looked at him and raised his eyebrows.

“You set this up.”

“General, what in God’s name—”

Hamilton began pacing again, never taking his gaze off the other, bewildered, man. “You set this up. I don’t believe it. How could I have been so stupid.” He shook his head in disbelief. Aaron furrowed his eyebrows in confusion.

“Now wait just a minute, General—”

“—I don’t believe it. You…” a disgusted looked fell over Alexander’s features, “You seduced me. And now you’re going to happily sit back and watch as my marriage is destroyed and I blow my second chance.”

It was Burr's turn to stand up, defensive. “That is the stupidest thing you have ever said in your entire life.”

The colonel was barely able to articulate his anger. His friend, however, paid no mind, taking a step back and picking up his things.

“I should have known you would stoop to something as disgusting as this,” Hamilton muttered, furious, as he snapped his briefcase shut. He put his jacket on quickly. “I should have known. How could I have been so stupid—why did I think this was a good idea--”

“—Would you listen to yourself?” Burr shouted.

“And now you’ve involved Callender, and it’s all over. It will be just like Reynolds. Which you probably had a hand in, too, come to think of it,” Hamilton added with venom. Aaron scoffed.

“Don’t flatter yourself, General. I hadn’t the time for those sorts of childish games. I was too busy attending my own family. Quietly waiting for you to ruin things for yourself. You never needed my help in that department.”

Alexander’s bright eyes burned with indignation. “You truly are a snake, Colonel Burr,” he spat.

“I had nothing to do with this! What do I care if you ruin your marriage? Again!”

“Because, you—”

“—Do you honestly think I wanted things to come to this?”

“I think you would do anything for an easy fortune. Because you are a prostitute in every sense of the word.”

Burr bit his tongue, allowing the insult time to sting him thoroughly. Hamilton scanned the room, looking for things he might have forgotten to pack. Careful not to look the other man in the eyes, the general pulled the envelope of money from his wrinkled suit jacket and threw it at the feet of the black-eyed man.

“Take it. You are one of the lowest creatures to ever pollute this earth. Spineless, despicable—”

“—Shut your mouth already.” Burr cut him off, livid. “I did not stoop to this level of abject humiliation with you in mind, you self-centered prick.”

Alexander flushed a deeper scarlet.

“Unlike you, General, everything I do does not involve around trapping my enemies. Every waking thought of mine is not about gaining the upper hand over rivals. You suspect everyone because you yourself are one of the most guilt-ridden men I have ever known.”

“How dare you—”

“—You’re the one who searched out sexual favors. Not me. And I didn’t see you turning away,” Aaron cut in, furious.

“It’s all so convenient!” Hamilton knew his anger was directed more towards Eliza Jumel, but he could not reign himself in.

Burr let out a growl of frustration. “You egotistical bastard.”

The colonel's tirade was cut short by an ashtray that whizzed past his arm, leaving a dent in the wall behind him. Ducking, he looked back at the other man in shock. Hamilton, hyperventilating, defended himself.

“Don’t you ever—ever—use that word around me again. Do you understand me? Or next time my aim will be better.” His eyes flashed dangerously. Aaron could only stand and face him in silent fury. Heatedly withdrawing his gaze from the other man, Hamilton swept up his cell phone from the nightstand. He pushed past his companion, violently knocking him with his shoulder, causing him to stumble backwards.

“I’m not paying for the bill here, either,” he spat, refusing to look at Burr as he left the hotel room. “Deduct it from your payment.”

Silence filled the room after the slam of the door and the glass ashtray by his feet glittered prettily in the artificial light from the lamp.

Chapter Text

 

The next day at the office was just as awkward as Aaron knew it would be.

He was late, of course, having spent half the night walking home, and then the other half sitting in quiet contemplation at his kitchen table, cup of coffee in his hand. It was around one a.m. when he finally got home. Theo had resigned her watch and gone to bed. It was around eleven when he finally showed up at work, Troup and Morris already thick with worry-- Troup mostly.

“I drove for an hour—an hour—in the wrong direction. And then I had to drive an hour back!” Troup complained, pacing around Aaron’s office.

“An hour? Jesus, Bobby, you drive like a grandfather.”

“And then, when I finally get there, the hotel manager looks at me like I am insane, asking for ‘Alexander Hamilton’—”

“—I told you he would have checked in under the name ‘James’.” Aaron corrected him quietly, intently studying a piece of folded paper on his desk.

“And the worst part of it is…you lied to me. You both lied to me.”

Burr picked up the folded paper and toyed with it some more, catching his reflection in the black screen on his laptop. “Bobby, we didn’t lie to you. We just…felt that some things needed to be kept private. Please don’t take this personally.”

Troup reached for a drink from his bag and chugged it. Then, “I still don’t see why you needed an entire hotel room to discuss Morris’ Christmas present five months in advance. So damned ridiculous. Can’t you two do anything normally? Or does it always have to be a production?”

Burr smiled at his handiwork.

“I mean, you could have just gone out to eat.”

“No, no, Bobby. We needed room to think. And in restaurants, we might be overheard.”

“And where on earth is Alexander? What’s his take on all of this? Does he know you lied to me?”

“He is at home. Gathering supplies. And yes, he knows.”

Troup stood in front of the window and stared out. He was inherently used to being third-wheeled, but it never got easier. He tried to recall the feeling that hit him on the July afternoon when their trio was reduced by one—and the look on Burr’s face when the truth was revealed. The fat man shook his head. No, not now.

“You know I don’t believe you, Aaron.”

The black-eyed man shrugged. “That’s your prerogative, I suppose.”

Troup turned around and narrowed his eyes. He wasn’t a particularly piercing man, but he was dogged. “What did you say Morris’ present would be?”

“Well I can’t reveal everything, but it will involve eighteen strippers and a chocolate fountain. The eighteenth stripper was Hamilton's idea. He’s so creative.”

“Aaron, for Christ’s sake—”

“Oh! And a twenty-four carat solid gold prosthetic.”

“If you expect me to believe—”

The two men were interrupted by Morris, who came hobbling in wiping crumbs from his lips and stubble. “Heard you talking, heard the words ‘solid gold prosthetic’, and knew I had to come investigate.” Morris allowed himself to drop down onto a chair across from Aaron’s desk.

“Oh, Bobby! Now you’ve done it!” Burr slammed a palm onto his desk in mock anger. “You’ve ruined the surprise!”

Troup rolled his eyes and turned back to the window.

“What surprise?” Morris asked, pulling out a yellow legal pad from his bag and grabbing a pen from Aaron’s desk. “The solid-gold prosthetic? Troup, don’t tell me you believed that. Let me guess, Burr's excuse for being so cagey these past few days was that he was ‘planning my Christmas gift’, and—”

“—you knew?” Troup faced Morris, eyed widened. The latter man burst into loud laughter.

“Bobby, he used that excuse all the time.” Morris raised his head to look at Aaron, who sat at his desk expressionless. “Did you tell him about the seventeen strippers?”

“Eighteen, this time.”

“Oh, Bless me, eighteen. Well that’s just the limit.” Morris chuckled again and continued writing. Burrsmiled and nodded.

“This is stupid. You’re both being incredibly stupid. Why am I not allowed in on the secret?” Troup walked from the window and placed a hand on Aaron’s desk, leaning into it. Placing the other on his hip, Troup looked like an angry parent.

“I know of no secret,” Morris mumbled, scratching through different words on his yellow pad.

“Yes, there is no secret.” Burr mimicked.

“Then where have you been and why are you and Alexander being so odd lately?”

“Goddamnit, Troup,” the one-legged man slammed his pen down on his legal pad, “if they’re hiding something, let them hide it. What’s it to you? Why do you have to be involved in every goddamned thing that happens? They’re grown men, for Christ’s sake.”

“Because the last time we let them have their little secrets one of them ended up dead, Morris. That’s why.”

Aaron bit the inside of his mouth--Of course it would come to this. Morris chuckled louder through the awkward silence and leaned his head back.

“Lovely dramatic flair you’ve got, Troup. Sorry, Burr.”

He shrugged, “I’ve heard it all before.”

Troup stood looking from one man to the other, exasperated. “So that’s it? We’re all just going to pretend like Aaron didn’t lie? Like Alex isn’t M.I.A.?”

“I don’t give a shit where Hamilton is, Bobby,” Morris replied, good-natured but gruff. “He’s probably lying in a pool of women right now having a lovely time. God speed.”

Troup made a disgusted face.

“You’re getting Hamilton and myself confused again, Morris,” Aaron offered helpfully. “He’s probably at church, you see.”

Morris nodded, never raising his eyes. “Ahh, yes. Thank you, Burr. I always forget who is the good guy and who is the syphilitic whore-monger.”

“Not a problem.”

As the two seated men went back to their work Troup still stood beside them, confused and slightly nauseous. “Wait, so is Alexander at church or not?”

“Let it be, Bobby!”

“I can’t! The last time this happened and I tried to look for Alexander I was given the wrong information entirely,” Troup shot a scathing look at Aaron, who pretended not to notice, “leading me to believe that something is going on. Something bad. And if you’re not going to tell me, I’m going to find out myself.”

“Now, why does it have to be ‘bad’? Why can’t it be ‘whimsical’ or ‘ quixotical’?” Burr pressed the button on his laptop, turning it on.

“I’m calling Betsey again.”

“You already called her?” Morris finally looked up, a defensive glint in his eyes. “You brought that poor woman into this? Troup, for the love of God, hasn’t she had worry enough?”

“She didn’t even pick up the phone.”

“Because she doesn’t want to talk about it!”

“So she knows something, too!”

Morris tore out the sheet of paper he was writing on, balled it up, and threw it at the fat man’s head and roared, ”Who cares, Bobby?”

Aaron sat in front of his screen quietly, hoping to sink into the background. If he could just keep them arguing over meaningless topics, he could make it through the day with his secret unscathed. Of course, Callender still knew—or thought he knew—something. Aaron assumed he was safe. For now. He knew that Alexander had gone home to Betsey to face the music. Whether or not the Nevisian spilled the truth out in florid, wordy waves, was still up for debate. Aaron rubbed his eyes.

“What’s wrong?” Troup’s question brought the black-eyed man out of his thoughts, trying to fish for more information. 

“Nothing. Just a headache.”

“Guilty conscience, more like.” he muttered.

“Yes, Bobby,” Aaron’s patience wore thin. “Guilty conscience. You’ve got me. You’ve solved the mystery. Alexander is dead and I’ve killed him. Now I can put my evil plan into action! Morris—gather my things! Call my daughter! We are going to Mexico!”

Morris snorted and never took his eyes of the paper on his lap. Troup shot Aaron an unimpressed look.

“Your making jokes about this kind of thing is truly incredible, Burr.”

“Don’t tell me you’re surprised,” the one-legged man responded, matter-of-fact.

“Troup, don’t make this any more dramatic than it needs to be,” Aaron looked up from his screen and returned the glare to his friend, his jocular manner quickly evaporating. “I’m not kidding.”

“Tell me what is going on. Give me something, Aaron. Please.”

The room fell silent at the sound of urgency in Troup’s voice. Aaron felt bad about lying to him, he truly did. Troup was good-natured and sincerely worried about their famous Nevisian friend. He was only trying to do the right thing, as he always did. Aaron sighed.

“Alright, alright,” the black-eyed man exhaled and removed his finger from the keyboard in front of him. Morris looked up, mildly interested.

“Last night he stayed in a hotel with a…” Aaron bit his lip.

“A prostitute. I knew it.” Morris finished, looking back down to his paper. “That son of a bitch.”

“Oh…” Troup lowered his eyes.

“If he could keep his dick in his pants for one day—just one day—I would run for president. And I wouldn’t even use an alias.” The ever-blunt Morris shook his head and laughed softly. “I wonder what this one was like. I wonder if he went high-end or just grabbed some slut off the street—”

“—Morris, please.” It was Aaron’s turn to shoot reproachful looks.

“Oh, of course. Aaron doesn’t use that word. ‘Working woman’. Is that PC enough for you, Burr?”

Troup rubbed his face and cut in. “It all makes sense, now, I suppose. Why he’s been so erratic lately. I mean, besides the possible separation. I should have known it was something like this. Prostitutes, I mean.”

“What I don’t understand, and Aaron can back me up on this,” Morris nodded in his dark-haired friend’s direction, “is why he wouldn’t just tell us. It’s not like any of us are strangers to the more…illicit pleasures. Well, maybe not you, Bobby. No offense.”

“Why would I take offense to your suggestion that I don’t frequent prostitutes—”

“—I don’t understand why he wouldn’t just come clean. We’re not going to judge him.”

Burr sighed again.

“Am I right, Burr?” Morris inclined forward in his seat, interested.

“You are absolutely correct, Morris.” Aaron responded in even, expressionless tones.

“I mean, Burr here,” Morris raised a giant hand, “Burr here probably single-handedly repopulated France after that Terror, for Christ’s sake.”

Aaron stared blankly at his computer screen.

“Morris, come on…” Troup replied weakly.

“I should know. I counted the bodies as they were being hauled off. Me and Aaron work as a team.”

The conversation, in Aaron’s opinion, was quickly becoming less friendly and more accusatory. The black-eyed man felt the old familiar pit forming inside his stomach.  Oblivious, the Morris continued his speech.

“So our friend Hamilton finds comfort in the arms of slu—sorry, Burr—prostitutes. I think the best thing to do is just pull him aside the next time we see him and let him know that we’ll be there for him. No judgments, no accusations. Just friendship. You hear me, Troup?” Morris turned his head to look at the man behind him.

“What? Of course I hear you. But I’m still going over tonight to talk to him. Before you two degenerates get a chance to fill his head with more justifications for his behavior.”

“Our sex life is none of your concern, Troup,” Aaron hissed, irritated, before he could stop himself. In one split section, silence hit the room.

Morris furrowed his eyebrows. “'Life'? Singular?”

“Lives. I mean lives. Of course.” Burr's heart began to race as he corrected himself quickly. Troup walked over to the desk slowly and sat in the empty seat next to Morris, a silent look of realization spreading cautiously over his face.

“Aaron?”

“What.” he stared at the computer screen, moving his cursor around absentmindedly.

“Is there something more to this story that you’re not telling us?” Troup asked him again, quietly. Morris’ look of concern turned darker. The interrogation team faced their associate, one kind, one harsh.

“Colonel Burr you unholy rake.”

Aaron finally raised his gaze. Morris' mouth hung open and Troup looked wildly back and forth between the two other men.

“What? What is it? Morris, what?”

Morris didn’t answer, but kept his eyes locked on his black-eyed friend. The latter man sat quietly, accused, afraid to show emotion. Silently, Aaron wondered if he just didn’t answer the questions, they would go away.

“Aaron, what?” Troup asked again, exasperated. Aaron felt his hands become clammy. Morris’ dangerous glare was almost unbearable.

“Do you want to explain yourself, Burr?”

“Not really, Morris.” Aaron shot back, a bit more venomously than he had anticipated.

Troup followed the conversation back and forth as a dog would a tennis ball during a game of catch.

“I don’t need to explain myself to you, Morris,” Aaron continued as he broke the stare, slammed his laptop shut and placed it into his bag. “If there are no further questions, I would like to announce this meeting adjourned and go home for the day.” Burr stood up defensively.

“Tell Hamilton we said hello.” Morris replied angrily. Aaron ignored him. Troup, in his own mind, tried frantically to piece the story together.

“Is he…is he visiting Betsey? Why would he visit Betsey?” Troup asked, nonplussed.

As the black-eyed man left the room in a flurry of suppressed embarrassment, he could hear Morris let out a peal of cynical laughter, much to the further dismay of Troup. Aaron rounded each corner quickly as he left the building, his heart racing.

Chapter Text

 

Approximately twenty-four hours later, a father and his quiet, serious daughter would have a much calmer conversation on a small couch in front of a muted television.

“Do you remember when you memorized that passage from Wollstonecraft for me, Theo?”

“Yes…” she responded cautiously.

“The one about souls?”

Theo placed the book down she was scanning quickly and looked over at him. Her father was never a nervous man, but tonight he had taken on a distinct shade of pale green.

“There were a lot of passages about souls,” she cocked her head to the side, “What is this about?”

Aaron shook his head and sighed. “There is one passage where she mentions that souls are sexless. How does that one go?”

His daughter took the book from her lap and put it on the table next to her.

“Again, that seemed to be the entire theme of the pamphlet, remember? She said society raises the soul to be either ‘feminine’ or ‘masculine’, and that the soul itself is an independent…thing. And can be conditioned so.” Theo struggled to find the right wording. Situating herself so that she faced her father fully, she watched as he lifted his gaze to the illuminated lamp next to him, blankly staring.

“Dad, what is this about?” She asked again quietly. He merely shook his head.

“I just needed something to bring me back to earth, that’s all.”

“Uh oh.”

Aaron turned to look at his daughter, her eyes widened and reproachful.

“Dad, what did you do?”

“Nothing, Theo. Forget I said anything.” he forced a smile.

Remembering his odd absences (even odder than usual) of late, Theo could not let this opportunity pass. So eager to always stick his nose into her business, the black-haired girl pressed her father further.

“Well now I’m intrigued.” She rested her head on her hand, using the back of the couch for support. Aaron shot a sideways glance at her.

“It’s nothing terrible, I promise.”

Aaron paused; Theo waited.

“For the past few weeks…I have been… acquiring extra money.”

His daughter nodded and indicated a hand to her new laptop on the floor.

“I have been…selling something. Something expensive and precious,” at this word, Aaron, lost in thought, looked down and smiled to himself, “well, maybe not ‘precious’. Bur certainly expensive.”

“Dad…have you been selling drugs?” Theo whispered hurriedly.

“What?” Aaron turned his head quickly, smile fading, “Heavens, no.”

“It’s not…it’s not that god-awful grape syrup again, is it?” Theo made a face. In generations past, recalled Aaron sadly, there had been a four year stretch when he  was so desperate for money he had taken to inventing schemes and products to peddle. The minute he got a second chance he had of course told Theo, though refrained, as of yet, from letting her read those four-year journals in their entirety.

“The vinegar scheme?”

“No. Look, my dear, just don’t worry about it. Forget I said anything.”

“Oh God, it’s not dentistry again, is it? Dad, you need an actual degree in that nowadays. You can’t just…dabble in dentistry.”

Aaron laughed at the phrasing. “I’m not ‘dabbling in dentistry’, Theo. Suffice it to say I have, for the past weeks, been selling a product that has left me with more cash, but…” His smile faded.

“But what?”

The black-eyed man swallowed. “But has left my soul in a bit of a tattered state, if you will. Hence the Wollstonecraft.”

He was not ready to confess the full degradation of his money-making scheme; not ready to admit that he’d let Jumel get to him once again. Certainly not to his daughter, whose opinion mattered more than any other creature on the planet. Theo, meanwhile, sat with her head in her hand, lost in thought.

“Is that why you’ve been working extra hours? Odd hours? For the past few weeks?”

“Yes.”

“I noticed, but didn’t want to call attention to it.”

“Well, I appreciate the privacy,” Aaron responded, kindly, but rather clinically.

Chapter Text

 

“He’s a drunk. We’re not going to listen to him. That is my final verdict.” Jemmy Madison sat at his expansive, if rather plain, dining room table in the company of his radiant wife, Dolley, and his old colleague James Monroe. The tiny little man poured himself another glass of wine, one for his wife, and one for his friend, and waited for the dominant inhabitants of the room to overpower him.

“He was drunk two-hundred years ago and he still knew what he was talking about.” James reasoned, biting into a small sandwich, careful not to drop crumbs on the pristine floor.

The mansion, Montpelier, was as grand as its name. And a great stroke of luck put it back into the hands of its most famous inhabitants, the Madisons. The unassuming little man, when finding himself in the modern world, had decided to play the lottery. Together he and his wife chose the numbers—and won a sizable sum. Their first purchase was the grand home that held so many memories for them, under an alias, of course (they were all ever used to using aliases and fake names, Jemmy thought pleasantly as he signed the deed). Insisting on purchasing Ash Lawn for his friend James, unassuming little Jemmy Madison made the best of his tremendous serendipity in the most generous way possible.

Thomas, of course, was the first person he went to after depositing the check. Inexplicably (like so many things regarding him, thought Jemmy, more than a little hurt) the Virginian politely declined Monticello.

“Don’t you grow tired of these silly games, Monroe?” Jemmy asked, swallowing his drink. “I thought those things were behind us. I thought this new life would raise us up to a higher cause.”

“You sound like Thomas.”

Jemmy shrugged.

“I just think that what Callender saw was probably misinterpreted as something negative when it almost certainly wasn’t. Who are we to get wrapped up in this business again?”

Dolley cleared her throat. “Why are we worried about those two, anyway? Why are we trying to ruin things—whatever is happening—between them? Haven’t they paid their dues enough?”

James looked at her skeptically, furrowing his brows. Remembering all the wrongs done to him, and the lies spread about him, by the two infamous New Yorkers, made Monroe’s skin crawl.

“No. No they haven’t. I would like to see them suffer some more.”

“James, please.” Madison spoke up in his small voice. “You’re wasting your time.”

Dolley nodded at her husband’s words and stared defiantly at James.

“You remember what he wrote about Thomas,” she offered.

“Well that wasn’t exactly a lie, was it? Though I would have put it more delicately, I suppose,” James responded remembering the look of fear on his friend’s face when the news broke about his illegitimate children. “All I’m saying,” he continued, more softly, “is that Callender may be a dog, but dogs have a way of sniffing out things that humans can’t.” He finished with another bite of the sandwich.

“But he’s certainly not as loyal as a dog,” Dolley reasoned, tapping her manicured nails against the shining wood.

“I’m not hiding anything. Why should I be worried?” James shot back, defensively. “I would only be worried about him breaking his loyalty to me if had something to hide. Something he could dig up.”

Dolley narrowed her eyes. “Well you’re not even sure they have something to hide, so why waste your time?”

Jemmy leaned back in his chair and digested the food, as well as the conversation before him.

“He saw them in a hotel room together, Dolley. Late at night.” James’ patience wore thin. “They weren’t playing scrabble, I can assure you.”

“Oh you can, can you?” The curvaceous brunette matched James Monroe’s ire. “So what? Whatever happened, I have no doubt that Betsey put her husband in his place. I trust her to take care of her familial matters and I think you should do the same.”

James shook his head and laughed, more than a little condescendingly.

“And the other one? Burr? Do you think Betsey took care of him, too?”

“James, perhaps we should just switch topics,” Jemmy interjected. A little too quietly.

“Don’t worry about Burr. It’s not your business, it’s not Callender’s business, it’s not anyone’s business.” Dolley’s temper flared and she raised a pointed, tapered finger. “Just drop it, Monroe. Do you understand me?”

“I’m sorry, Dolley, but no,” James gritted his teeth stubbornly. “Better safe then sorry.”

“What does that even mean? Why are you so worried about them?”

“That’s enough.” Jemmy raised his voice and finally got the attention of his bickering companions. They looked to him, sitting like a tiny king at the head of the table, and silenced. Outside, the relatively balmy Virginian evening turned dusky—it was nearing eight pm.

“James,” Jemmy began wisely, “I am going to have to agree with my wife. There is nothing ominous going on. Do whatever you think is right, but Dolley and I will have nothing to do with this.”

“Do you not see what they’re doing?” James continued as if his companion said nothing. “Why would they be meeting in secret, in an isolated hotel, if not to plan something? When Callender contacted me, he was entirely sober. Had plenty of time to clean up and synthesize the things he saw. He may be a raging drunk, but the man’s a journalist at heart, and he knows when he has a story.”

“I don’t see why you need to involve us,” Jemmy reasoned.

“I’m trying to protect you. To warn you. Don’t you see what’s happened here? This is Providence, right here,” James Monroe placed a hand definitively on the table. “Of all the people to catch them, to spot them together, it was James Callender. What are the odds? And you want to just sit back and ignore it?”

“Yes.” Dolley toyed with the pearls around her neck, more than a little irritated.

Jemmy looked over to his wife approvingly while James shook his head. “Well I can’t. And I won’t. There has to be a reason behind this.”

“You’re going to drive yourself crazy, constantly searching for reasons and motives, James,” Jemmy responded quietly.

“Alexander Hamilton already fucked this country up once. I’m not going to let him do it again.”

At the curse word, Jemmy flinched nervously. Dolley exhaled, annoyed.

“Alright. Excellent, James. You go do that. Fight the good fight.” She rolled her eyes and toyed with the cigarettes in her pocket, desperately needing one.

“I plan on it, thanks,” Monroe sneered, wiping his mouth with the napkin next to him. Jemmy shook his head sadly.

Chapter Text

The old, slender Virginian slowly made his way to the front door of his small house, glancing sideways out the window before making it to the foyer. Flanked as it was by several thick pines, it was hard for him to see when someone was coming, and harder still for prying eyes to look in on him. Thomas liked it that way; had enough of humanity for one lifetime. His socks hit the wooden floor softly. He cleared his throat and opened the door, unprepared for who stood before him.

“I knew I’d find you here!” The crooked grin, slightly greasy hair, and almost imperceptible Scottish accent caused Jefferson to squint, confused–he tried to place the face, who so clearly recognized him.

The man smiled more, seemed to indicate the old Virginian let him in, and regard him with familiarity.

“Eh? Mr. Jefferson? You remember me?”

The quiet Virginian was slightly embarrassed, “I’m sorry, sir. No, I do not remember you.” He blocked his doorway, hoping the man couldn’t see inside. “Are you lost?”

A short, barking laugh, “Typical!”

Jefferson cocked his head to the side, and waited.

“It’s me, you old scoundrel, James Callender.” The journalist smiled more broadly as the color drained from Jefferson’s face.

The Virginian never lost his composure, but quietly stepped outside onto his rather cluttered front porch, closing the door behind him.

“What do you want?” He asked, as flatly as possible.

The journalist let out a deep laugh, as if remembering a good joke, “I just can’t believe my luck, actually finding you…”

“I am very busy, sir,” Thomas continued, his pale visage turning pinker.

Callender held up a hand while he composed himself. Swallowing one final laugh, he stood up straight, inhaled, and prepared himself. He turned and faced the confused, slightly worried Virginian.

“I do apologize, dropping by like this, but I could think of no one else to come to. At least, no one else who’d need to know.”

Thomas rubbed his features, beleaguered, “Know what, Callender?”

“You’re not going to let me in?” The journalist craned his head to see inside the windows, ‘Bit of a change from the last place, eh?“

The Virginian, rather than make a scene on his front porch, acquiesced to letting the old scandalmonger into his house, his own mind a jumble of nervousness. The last time Callender was in his employment, his reputation was destroyed.

Jefferson shook the thoughts from his head as he closed the door, "I am not used to having visitors,” he began, somewhat vaguely–trying to blur the line between annoyance and hospitality.

“I’ll say,” Callender sneered slightly, looking around. Here and there were odd trinkets and antiques, meticulously placed on the numerous shelves around them. He noticed they were standing in the living room, and didn’t notice a television. Though everything was orderly, it felt like a cross between a museum and a nursing home.

“I assume you did not come here to insult my decor,” Thomas tried again, attempting to get the man’s attention.

“No, I daresay I didn’t,” another crooked grin, and the journalist plopped down on a nearby loveseat, “I just got in from New York City last weekend.”

“How very interesting.”

“You don’t seem shocked to see me!”

Thomas sat down slowly, avoiding the man’s gaze in front of him. In truth, he was unpleasantly surprised, but this was not unexpected. He heard talk of other members from his generation, but decided not to search them out, for fear of– the Virginian couldn’t honestly answer. He remembered Jemmy’s offer to purchase Monticello, and vague embarrassment.

“It would stand to reason that there were others,” Thomas flattened a wrinkle out in his pant leg, “It was only a matter of time.”

“Wanted to stay anonymous, did you?” Another unpleasant laugh from the journalist.

“That was my hope, Mr. Callender.”

“The digging I had to do to find you, oh boy,” Callender reminisced, raising his gaze to the ceiling, “First I tried the phone book–you know, giant book. Too many names. There are about two thousand Jeffersons in one area code alone.”

Thomas felt himself grow hot; the journalist pressed on.

“Then I tried the internet, but got knows searching 'Thomas Jefferson’ was a joke.”

“I insist you get to your point.” Jefferson shifted uncomfortably.

“So I came to Virginia. Thought I’d just search it out myself."

"We have no reason to speak, Mr Callender. I am living a quiet life here, and I suggest you do the same.”

“Hanging out in this part of town, well, it didn’t take long for me to recognize some faces. I knew at least one of you had to have re-purchased some remnant of your old lives. How couldn’t you? And then I saw in the papers that Ash Lawn had been purchased by a private investor–well, I just knew.”

Thomas tried to feign interest. “You met with Mr. Monroe.”

“I met with–” The Virginian took the wind out of Callender’s reveal. The journalist looked at the other man with slight annoyance. He had, in fact, met with the Monroes the day before, to no avail. Though Monroe was rather interested in seeking out the two New Yorkers who’d made his life a living hell. Madison was reticent; Dolly was fully against it.

“Frankly, Mr Callender, I am not interested in scandalmongering,” Thomas stood, and picked up a nearby watering can, giving a tiny potted plant on the side-table some much-needed water. “I am not quite sure what Mr Monroe told you, but he does not speak for me.”

“It wasn’t what he told me, it was what I told him!”

Thomas began to pull the dead leaves out of the dirt, and threw them into a nearby trashcan.

“Would you like a drink, Mr Callender?”

“I–what?”

“A drink?” Without looking at his guest, the Virginian slowly made his way into the kitchen, skirting a table stacked high with books. “I have just purchased a new drink I would like to try. It is entirely green, quiet grotesque looking, but it has the appropriate dose of vitamins and minerals in it for a fully grown man.”

Callender followed him into the kitchen–a neat, pristine thing– and watched as the other man poured the viscous, smoothie-like liquid into a small clear cup.

The journalist made a face.

“I’ll pass.”

“Very well.” Thomas took a sip; his face was inscrutable.

“I can see that you’re not going to make this easy, so I’ll cut to the chase.”

The Virginian turned his back to his guest, putting his drink in the fridge.

“I making my rounds a few weeks ago,” Callender delicately avoided saying he delivered pizzas, “and I happened upon none other than your old nemesis, Alexander Hamilton!”

The journalist paused, expectant. Thomas scratched his chin and stared at a stain glass mocking bird that hung in the window over the sink.

“Does that look crooked to you? I hung it myself, and was quiet sure of it’s symmetry but now it doesn’t look right.” Thomas made his way to the decoration while Callender stood agape.

“Did you hear me? I said, Alexander Hamilton! Alive and well, in New York, practicing law as if nothing’s happened!” The journalist followed the other man, watching him. “Surely you have something to say about that?”

Thomas was quiet for several seconds, stirring through the words in his mind. Before he could speak, Callender’s words came out in another deluge.

“Fine. You don’t care, or you don’t believe me, or you don’t want to start any more drama. But you should know that he was with Aaron Burr, and they seem to be getting along very, very well.” Callender crossed his arms, waited.

“How pleasant for them.” The Virginian looked at the stained-glass bird, squinted his eyes, then grabbed it. “This has a spot on it. I wonder how on earth it got there?”

“I can’t believe this.”

“Would you hand me that can of Clorox wipes?”

“Burr and Hamilton were together in a hotel room, you know. I left that part out of my story because, hey, it’s not my business who’s getting your rocks off, you know? If it was anyone else, I wouldn’t care. But I figured you of all people would want to know that they’re–”

“–Why do you think I moved here, Mr Callender?” Thomas pulled a wipe from the bottle and set to cleaning the glass bird.

Exasperated, the journalist answered, “I don’t know. Why?”

“Anonymity.”

“Fantastic. So you’d like to pretend nothing ever happened.”

Thomas held the bird up to the light, satisfied that it was clean. He hung it back up, straightened it for a while, then calmly sat at the breakfast table. He stared out the window for a moment while the journalist’s labored breathed gave away his impatience and frustration.

Callender made his way to the table, raising an accusatory finger, “You paid me…paid me a hefty sum…to write those things for you…I mean–” he sat down and ran a hand through his hair, “…I know it was a long, long time ago, but surely you don’t forget?”

“You are untrustworthy, James,” The Virginian stared at the man across from him for the briefest of moments, then looked away. “I do recall how you turned your pen against me when it suited you.”

Callender puffed his chest, “I had a duty to report the truth no matter who it benefited.”

“I am sorry to disappoint you, Mr Callender, but I want no part in any schemes.”

“They were planning something! I just know it!”

“I can assure you, whatever they were planning has nothing to do with me."

Jefferson leaned back in his chair, closed his eyes, and exhaled. "Mr Burr and Mr Hamilton were two pawns in a game they lost. And I knew them far too well to be afraid of them.”

“That’s a damned lie.”

Jefferson shrugged, picked at a mark on his table, slightly insulted.

“You won’t be saying that when they expose you.”

“An idiotic move at best, as I could just as well expose them.” Thomas smiled, “Though Mr Hamilton always had a talent for doing that himself. I recall one cabinet meeting when the wine flowed a little too loosely, he confessed some rather embarrassing vices to which I was unable to reciprocate enthusiasm.”

“I’m glad you can be so cavalier about this.”

“Anonymity suits us all, Mr Callender, and I would advise you take it as well. Country or city. Anonymity comes in both guises.”

Chapter Text

 

Morris refused to explain things any further. It had been two days since he’d figured out—or at least thought he’d figured out—his associates’ secret and he had imagined the scenario enough times and with enough annoyance to make him wish the thought had never been placed in his mind in the first place. Let alone Troup’s incessant nagging.

“Troup, if you don’t get it, I’m not explaining it. And that’s that.” And with a finality only seen in the strongest willed of people, Morris shut down in the face of his legal associate and left the poor, bewildered Troup grasping at explanations. The one legged man spent the rest of the day in his own office.

“Now, if you don’t mind, I’d like to get back to work,” Morris concluded, his features pale and distraught. His usually gruff demeanor was slightly thrown off balance. Troup, unprepared to leave the situation shrouded in mystery, hounded him.

“So you’re saying—let me get this straight—you’re saying that Alexander has been …unfaithful again… and that two nights ago he finally went home to Betsey, got in trouble, and that’s why he hasn’t been here?” Troup crossed his arms and leaned against the frame of the door to Morris’ office. Angrily, Morris pulled his buzzing cell phone out of his pocket and turned it off.

“Yes. For the ten thousandth time, yes. Now would you please go back to your own office?”

“But I don’t understand —”

“—Alexander spent the night with a prostitute, crawled home to Betsey, and probably got caught.”

“Well, we don’t know that for sure—”

“Jesus Christ, Troup, that man has all the subtlety of goddamned baboon!” Morris, quite unnecessarily, slammed a fist on his desk, making several pens jump. “She probably saw it coming a mile away.”

“So what does this mean for…the practice?” Troup continued, picking up a pen from the floor and placing it in a coffee mug on his associate’s desk. “I mean, if Alex is going to be this erratic…we can’t…we can’t really rely on him. He can’t keep missing days, as much as it pains me—”

“—You want me to kick him out?” Morris cut straight to the point, checking his phone again. Troup cringed and scratched a round cheek nervously.

“No, no, not at all. I just…”

“What?”

“He has got to be more reliable, you know? I mean, prostitutes? Just…missing work? And not telling people where he’s going? Now this new madness with Betsey….” Troup trailed off, flustered. Morris’ cell lit up again and he swore.

“He’ll be fine.”

“This is….” Troup counted on his fingers, shook his head, “This is the third day in a row when he’s been absent.”

“It is indeed.” The man at the desk refused to look up from his phone.

“Why do you not want to talk to me about this?”

Morris indicated to his cell phone, annoyed. The fat man exhaled, rather let down.

“I’m not trying to be gossipy, Morris. I want to help him. Does he have a place to stay?”

“I don’t know.”

“Well then where they hell has been for the past two nights?” Troup asked, exasperated.

“I don’t know.” Morris finally gave the other man his full attention. “Alexander is a grown adult. He can handle his own problems. No matter how…” he closed his eyes and frowned, “…no matter how scandalous.”

Troup chewed a nail and spat it out quickly. “I’ll offer to let him stay with me. Jenny won’t mind. The kids love him. And he hasn’t met my dog yet.” Bobby Troup was talking more to himself than to Morris, who had ceased to listen as his phone illuminated for the seventh time.

Two days previous, a locksmith tapped hurriedly on the freshly painted front door, carrying his toolbox. The Nevisian opened the door and wordlessly stepped out, refusing to look at the visitor in the eyes, his own eyes pink with sleeplessness and emotion.

Chapter Text

 

“Wake up, Dad. Let’s go. Off the couch.” The black-haired Theo kicked the soft fabric forcefully, causing her middle-aged father to sit up with a start. She giggled slightly at the scene.

“Come on, Dad. It’s half-past ten in the morning. You’re usually up by six and out the door by seven.”

Aaron rubbed his eyes, yawning. He had slept on that couch, too miserable and lazy, frankly, to drag himself to his bedroom down the hall. The apartment was decent, for the city: two comfortably-sized bedrooms and one tinier one that acted as an office, a kitchen with a single window and a place to eat, and the living room. Which, on occasions such as this, acted as a fourth bedroom.

The father absentmindedly reached down and felt his matted clothes.

“Yep. You slept in those. That’s a silk tie, too, and I think you drooled on it. Great job, Colonel,” Theo added sarcastically. She held out her hand as her father slipped it off and gave it to her, eyes still half closed.

“I’ll see if the dry cleaners can get drool out. Maybe tomorrow.” She took the tie and walked into the kitchen, placing it beside the sink.

“It’s Thursday.” Aaron muttered, cringing as his head pounded. “Why aren’t you in class?”

“I’m taking a mental health day!” Theo called from halfway down the hall.

“You’re fifteen. You don’t get mental health days.”

Aaron slowly dragged himself from the couch and made his way into the kitchen to make coffee. In an instant, Theo was next to him, her hair pulled back, dressed in jogging clothes. She took the paper filters from her father’s hand.

“Already made it. There’s iced coffee in the refrigerator. It’s better for you anyway.”

Still adjusting to being coherent, Aaron blinked once. “Where on earth did you hear that? That sounds like something you made up.” His daughter smiled and pulled the pot from the fridge.

“But you believed me for a second, and that’s what counts.”

“Go to school, Theo. You know I don’t like you missing days.” Aaron sat at the counter, instinctively blowing on the cup of coffee. Theo raised a skeptical eyebrow as he realized his mistake.

“Dad, those kids are idiots. I’ve gotten straight A’s on every test this year. Every single one. I’m allowed to miss one day.”

Aaron sighed and sipped his drink. Cringing, he grabbed the cream and sugar.

“No,” his daughter anticipated this and pulled them from his reach. “None of that. Starting today I think we should eat healthier.”

“What.”

“Starting today, I think we should eat healthier. That means, if you’re going to drink coffee, it has to be black.”

“Theo, it’s too early for this…”

“And I’m going to start going for jogs. Or maybe just walks. I haven’t quite decided which is more appropriate for my age and physical endurance yet. I should start walking and then in a few weeks work up to running.”

“Have you had black coffee too, this morning, my dear?”

“Oh, yes. Three cups. But I drank water with them, too, so don’t worry. I’m not dehydrated. And I finished the next two chapters in my book—the ones I’d be missing today in class. Actually, I’ve been up since six. I’m surprised you didn’t hear me. I dropped the measuring cup in the sink twice when I measured out the coffee grounds. It was quite loud. I—”

“—What was the ratio you used to make the coffee, my dear?”

“Two and a half cups of grounds for every one cup of water,” Theo answered him proudly, her face flush with energy. Aaron closed his eyes and laughed, covering his face.

“Oh my goodness.”

“Yes-- I made sure to make it strong so you would have that extra jolt when you woke up. Cold coffee is good for that, too. Cream and sugar just makes you lethargic. Will you be going into work today, then?”

The rapidity at which Theo jumped from subject to subject made her father smile wider.

“No. Probably not. I’m not feeling well, to be honest. The past couple days I’ve not been myself.”

“Will you go on a walk with me, then?”

Aaron shook his head sadly. Theo looked mildly defeated.

“Well, if you’re going to stay home again, you shouldn’t sit on the couch all day. It’s bad for your respiratory system. And your joints. Especially at your age.”

The father swallowed his coffee in an amused gulp. “What on earth has gotten into you, Theo? Why the sudden health kick?”

The black-haired girl’s features darkened slightly. Smiling, she placed a hand on her father’s.

“I’m going for a walk. Or jog. I’ll be back in a couple of hours.”

Leaving in a flurry, Theo made her way to the front door and down the stairs, into the blinding fury of the morning sky.

Chapter Text

 

The one-legged man finally picked up his phone and immediately regretted it. A tiny, broken voice hit Morris’ ears with heart-wrenching clarity.

“I…I did it.”

Only faintly could he discern the breathing on the other end.

“It’s been two days now. I don’t know where he went.”

He wasn’t quite sure he knew what he was hearing, however. He removed the cell phone from his ear and looked over his shoulder, assuring himself Troup was back in his own office.

“Morris…are you there?” The female voice sounded faint, pained. It took him a moment to respond.

“…Yes. Yes, Betsey, I’m here.”

The woman on the other end collapsed into silence.

----------

Aaron yawned and stared into his coffee, uninspired. The ice melted, leaving slicks of water across the top of the jet-black brew. He reached for the cream and poured it in. Following that was three cubes of sugar, transforming his coffee into something that more closely resembled milk.

“Now that’s better…” he muttered, making his way to the couch. Pleasantly, the morning paper had been laid out for him on the table next to the arm. The black-eyed man situated himself comfortably on the cushions beneath him and perused the paper casually. He had about two hours to himself. Theo needn’t know about the cream and sugar.

He took inventory of the events of the past week. The past several weeks, more specifically. But those technically ran together.

There were a few things that needed to be addressed.

The little politician inside his mind cleared its throat and prepared to face the coldness of the facts with a similarly cold eye.

He was a prostitute. And had been for nearly six months.

Aaron’s eyes adjusted to the vague, black and white words in front of him. Since his return to the living world, he had done everything within his power to acquaint himself with modern modes of thinking and new inventions. It certainly hadn’t been easy--he often thanked God Theo was a fast learner--otherwise he’d be lost. He assumed that’s what it had been like for most of his contemporaries.

He assumed the afterlife would have been something entirely different, if there even was one. Even on his deathbed he’d refused to make a commitment.

“Serves you right then, you sneaky devil,” the black eyed man mumbled to himself, the words escaping before he could stop them.

He had always been a prostitute, just like that peevish little general said.  Rather than wound him, Aaron found the remark rather humorous. He stopped reading the paper for just a moment to relish in all the times his favors were bought. Now, and back then.

Most of these modern people ran together in his mind. He took their money and gave them something intangible: a polite, dark smile and perhaps a velvet kiss, and then sent them on their ways. Hopefully to be productive members of society. But, alas, he came to the realization rather quickly that most of these people were too rich to think, and had to purchase their ecstasy from a black-eyed stranger.

“We’re all prostitutes, in a way,” Aaron straightened the paper before him, turning its pages.

A violent rapping at the door almost made him jump out of his skin. Worrying immediately that it was Theo, or worse, someone come to tell him about Theo, Aaron rushed from the couch and without looking through the peep hole threw open the door. Unshaven, hair matted and clothes reeking terribly, the same peevish little general stood expectantly in the doorway.

“Betsey kicked me out. And I would like you to let me stay here until I get back on my feet.” Hamilton's words were rushed, breathless, but well rehearsed. He stared at the ground. 

He inhaled deeply and steadied himself. “Please don’t argue with me. Please don’t try and change my mind. Please don’t try and kick me out. You owe me this much. And I assure you I will be gone as soon as humanly possible.”

Burr slowly moved to let the other man in, and shut the door, mouth hanging open.

“What a pleasure to see you again.“ Aaron remarked sarcastically in the seconds following Alexander’s dramatic entrance. He confronted the general in the kitchen, who was chugging a glass of water over the sink.

Hamilton refused to look at him. “Will you please let me use your shower?”

“You you go missing for two days while Morris tries to solve the mystery and Troup practically has a breakdown.”

“I’m going to need to borrow some clothes. I know we’re the same size.” Hamilton dropped his glass into the sink with a loud clank and pushed passed Burr again, turning his head this way and that, searching for the bathroom and bedroom.

“You smell like a goat.” Aaron called after him.

“Where is your shower?”

“Where in Christ’s name have you been for the past two days?” Burr followed his new guest with rapt interest.

Alexander once again ignored his question, walking briskly down the hall towards where he assumed Aaron’s bedroom was. In a last-ditch effort to gain the upper hand, Burr grabbed the intruder’s shoulder and forced him to turn around.

“I asked you a question.”

Hamilton shook the grip off of him and laughed mirthlessly, “Try and get an explanation out of me, Colonel. Because quite frankly, I don’t even know what’s going on anymore.”

“What happened?”

Finally, Hamilton locked his gaze on the other man. “I slept in my car these past two days. Betsey served me with divorce papers. She actually went through with it. She actually—” Alexander swallowed the lump in his throat. Aaron averted his eyes.

“I’m terribly sorry about that, General, but I—”

“—Oh shut up. You know it’s your fault I’m in this horrible mess anyway.” Hamilton turned again and headed back down the hallway. Aaron close on his heels.

“All I’ve had to eat in the past two days is one Lunchable, a sixteen pack of powdered donuts and stale gas station coffee. So yes, I might just be out of my mind, Colonel.” Hamilton found the door he was looking for and opened it. Turning around to look at Burr once again, he was rather pleased to see the look of outrage that now played across his pretty features.

“And you are the only one I can come to now. How do you like that?” Alexander stared at his companion, a pointed, sarcastic grin spreading across his handsome, tired face. For a split second he regarded the black-eyed man across from him, and then slammed the bathroom door in his face.

Chapter Text

 

Aaron sat at the kitchen counter, where 45 minutes before he and Theo had discussed the benefits of iced coffee, and took stock of his situation once again. This was indeed a new development. One he should have anticipated. He grabbed his phone and poured through the contact list.

His guest, if he could even call him that, thought something similar inside the thick steam of the shower. Alexander ran a hand through soapy hair and scrubbed vigorously, as if it could clean his very thoughts. No, there was no other option. He had run over this in his mind continuously in the back of his head for two days, laying scrunched up in the back of his cramped Acura. Mentally he made a list of all the people he could go to, to stay with. Troup and Morris were out of the question. The Church's, too. As much as his sister-in-law loved him…she loved her sister more.

He rubbed his face, swearing as the soap stung his eyes.

There were others who’d come back, too, Alexander reasoned. Though he had no idea where they were. The Virginians, of course, but two problems presented themselves. One: they lived in Virginia. Two: they were Virginian.

“Marshall is a Virginian,” Hamilton spoke out loud, forgetting himself. “He would gladly allow me to stay.”

This reasoning buoyed his spirits and Alexander smiled to himself.

“No he won’t.”

A faint voice from just outside the door startled the Nevisian. He dropped the shampoo bottle loudly—turning off the water.

“Jesus, Colonel, how did you even hear me?” Hamilton spoke to himself a bit more softly. He stepped out of the shower, grabbed a towel, and dried himself. Wrapping it around himself he exhaled and reached for the doorknob.

Upon opening the door, he faced the little black-eyed man, who was holding a change of clothes, a forced smile plastered on his face. Alexander frowned, annoyed, and grabbed the clothes impatiently.

“We have a strict rule in this apartment. Showers must be ten minutes or less. You were in there for twelve. You’ve broken the first rule.”

Hamilton slammed the door again.

The Nevisian flicked on the fan to try and reduce the steam on the mirror. He dressed quickly, hating the moist, sticky feeling of bare feet on wet tiles, and opened the door again. Aaron smiled more genuinely as he viewed his new guest in his new outfit.

“Ahh, you look wonderful in that.” He clasped his hands together. Hamilton scowled.

“I look like a used car salesman. Please let me use your phone, mine’s dead. I need to call Marshall.”

Aaron held his own cell up, showing the email conversation that had just taken place between he and the famous Chief Justice, who, surprisingly, had actually responded to Burr's out-of-the-blue demand.

Colonel Burr, firstly, how did you get this email address? Secondly, if you think for one second I am going to get in between whatever is happening with you and General Hamilton and possibly risk taking a bullet to the head or worse, going to jail, you are sadly mistaken. I have plenty of things to worry about. Please stop asking me for favors. This is not 1807. -JM

“He’s so lovely,” Burr smiled to himself, rather sardonically, and shut his phone off. Hamilton stood in the bathroom doorway, eyes covered.

“Great.”

The opening of the front door brought Alexander’s gaze up again, in surprise.

“What’s that? Who’s there?” he asked, bewildered.

“That’s my daughter, General. Did you know she’s saying here, too?” Aaron answered him sarcastically, putting his phone back into his pocket. He left the Nevisian standing awkwardly in front of the bathroom for the brightness of the kitchen where Theo had appeared, taking her headphones out of her ears and pouring herself a glass of water.

“Hi Dad!” she said cheerily.

“Hello Theo. How was your walk?”

“I ended up jogging half of the way. I feel great. It’s going to be a lovely day, too. Cooler than usual for this time of year. I think later on we should—” The young girl stopped short as Alexander appeared next to her father. He stood awkwardly, silent.

“Um, Dad—”

Aaron looked to his left at his guest and jolted back, dramatically. Returning his gaze to his daughter, his eyes widened in mock fear.

“You can see him, too, then?”

“Dad.”

Hamilton grumbled and held out his hand to the girl in front of him. Confused, she shook it.

“Hello Theodosia.”

“No one calls me that.”

Ignoring her, the general dropped the handshake and continued in a rather pained, forced voice.

“I don’t know if you know this, dear girl, but your father recently put me in a very terrible position. A sequence of events transpired which resulted in me losing both my home and my marriage. And these events have left me completely at his mercy.“

“Dad what the hell.”

“Those are not the facts in their entirety, General. I will ask you not to skew the information about me in front of my daughter.”

“Actually those are the facts. And she needs to know what an utter disgrace you are so she can prepare herself for the inevitable day when she wakes up in an abandoned parking lot inside of a stinking Acura staring at the ceiling wondering what it all means and starving after having only a pizza Lunchable to eat in sixteen hours and peeing in a bush.”

“Dad... what the hell.”

Burr clenched his jaw and ignored his daughter, facing the man next to him. “She also needs to know that she is responsible for her own actions and decisions and cannot go around blaming others for her shortcomings, or else she will grow up to be an intrusive, bad-tempered member of society who takes pleasure in guilt-tripping those around her into feeling sorry for them—”

“—And don’t forget, she needs to learn the importance of owning up to her actions and making reparations and confessions in regards to those she has harmed, because frankly, up until now, she has acted in a manner most offensive and insultingly arrogant, not to mention unapologetic—”

“—Oh my God, please stop—” Theo cut in helplessly.

“—Well perhaps if she learns to stop provoking her opponents at every damned opportunity she gets she can learn to live in harmony with those who may have different opinions and avoid getting herself involved, unnecessarily, in affairs—”

“Stop!”

The two men ceased their bickering and looked at the young girl in front of them. Theo stood before them, her expression both annoyed and confused.

“Just stop talking. Both of you. Please.” She turned to face the Nevisian first with a definitive  motherly glance. “General Hamilton. What are you doing here? You have ten seconds to explain, starting… now.”

Burr looked at his daughter proudly. Hamilton faltered.

“I…well, it all started—”

“—seven seconds—”

“—your father schemed to have me cheat on my wife and—”

“—five—”

“—and she has served me with divorce papers and I have nowhere else to stay, currently, other than a cramped car—”

“—three—”

“—and so I think it only right that he make amends to me by letting me stay here until I get back on my feet.” Alexander finished in one breath, cheeks red with frustration. Theo blinked once, skeptically.

“Is..is that true?”

The two men answered her simultaneously; one definitive, confident “yes”, one slightly quieter “not exactly.” Theo smirked.

“It is precisely true, Colonel. Not only did you scheme to have me cheat on my wife, I need not remind you of all the pain you caused in our previous—”

Aaron held up a hand, silencing him. “Don’t go there.” Alexander bit his tongue.

The daughter, meanwhile, stood watching her father and his associate with interest. She, of course, knew the previous events to which Alexander referred, but was thankful that, at least for the moment, the old wounds would not be uncovered.

“Needless to say,” Alexander continued through gritted teeth, suppressing himself, “I have reason to believe that it is your father’s fault, amoung others, that I am in this situation and so I have decided to appeal to his kindness and request shelter. I’m not leaving without an answer. I am out of options.”

“You do realize, General, that we could call the police and tell them there is an insane man squatting in our apartment and could have you taken to jail.” Burr responded, as irked as his companion was mollified. Much to Burr's irritation, Alexander laughed loudly before he could finish his thought.

“And you do realize, Colonel, that along with squatting, prostitution is in fact illegal in New York, and you could very well end up sharing that cozy jail cell with me.”

Theo furrowed her eyebrows. “What he is talking about…?”

“General, you forget that buying as well as selling is illegal, and so—”

Alexander talked right over him, “And so we might as well share this apartment, wouldn’t you agree?” Hamilton had a triumphant inflection in his voice, his smile widening cruelly. “Better here than prison.”

An identically cruel smile spread across Burr's face. “With you here, General, it might as well be prison.”

Theo quietly watched the interaction, afraid to ask any more questions. Without being told, she removed herself to the tiny room that acted as the office and prepared to straighten it up. Behind her, Alexander’s incessant chatter pressed on, interspersed with her father’s soft rebuttals.

“Good, then. Serves you right.” Alexander walked past the colonel and into the living room, situating himself on the couch and grabbing the remote control.

“God damn you, General.”

“It would appear he already has!” Hamilton called sarcastically from the other room. The television clicked on, the noise quickly filling up the empty space between them. As Aaron stood helpless in the hallway his daughter appeared beside him.

“I’m going to take a shower, now, dad,” she spoke up, softly. “I have no idea what’s going on but…I trust you’ve got it…under control?” she added hopefully. Alexander overheard them.

“I wouldn’t do that if I were you! Hot water’s gone! I think I might have used it up—your hot water heater needs to be replaced.”

“Goddammit. God damn him.” Aaron muttered under his breath, covering his face. Theo sighed.

“I’ll take a cold shower, dad, I don’t care.”

“That’s not the point, I—”

She held up her hand. “Just, save it. I really don’t mind. And I don’t want to know the story, to be perfectly honest. Especially if it involves General Hamilton and prostitutes.”

It was Aaron’s turn to sigh, exasperated.

Chapter Text

 

Theo found her father in the tiny office. Sitting hunched over a desk, face in a book, he took a long drag on his cigar and tapped it gently against an ashtray before him. The dark haired girl waved a hand in her face to clear it of smoke. The room had begun to stink.

“Dad…?”

“Yes, my dear?” Another puff; a flip of the page.

“It smells really awful in here. I thought you only smoked next to windows. So you could blow the smoke right out.”

A deep inhale and a subsequent, satisfied exhale. The smoke danced before his face and then evaporated, and the black-eyed man placed a finger inside his book to mark it.

“General Hamilton is sleeping in here.”

“Well, yes, Dad, I know. That’s actually what I wanted to talk to you about. You’re going to make it stink.”

Aaron looked at his daughter over his glasses, knowingly. The television outside muttered something incoherent, followed by accusatory yells from the man in front of it. Theo flinched.

“He’s watching CSPAN.”

The black eyed man looked away, eyes closed, shaking his head. “Masochist.”

“He’s been at it for about two hours, now. Actually since before I got into the shower. Dad, are you really going to let him stay?”

Aaron stood up and put the book back on the shelf, throwing his cigar on the carpet, next to futon where Alexander would be sleeping, and snubbing it out with his shoe.

“Dad.”

“Oops.”

“You’re going to have to clean that up, you know.”

She followed her father out of the office, still talking. “He’s only going to complain. I’ve never heard a single person talk more in my entire life. Was he this bad…back then? I can’t remember.”

“Indeed he was, Theo. A fascinating pain in the ass. Impossible to like but impossible to actually hate.”

The daughter nodded dutifully. “But you seem alright working with him at the practice, though,” she spoke up quietly, “you’ve never had problems with him before. I mean, not since you…reunited.”

“Oh, we work wonderfully as a legal team. Always did.” Aaron sighed. “But the devil is in the details, as I think the saying goes.”

“And I guess Troup and Morris are there to mediate—” Theo mused, more to herself than her father, who suddenly looked as if he’d forgotten something. “What? Dad, what is it?”

“Troup and Morris. They’re going to come looking for us. Or me, rather. Or maybe just him. But they’ll eventually come here and they’ll see him…” Aaron’s thought trailed off as his daughter watched him. A loud shout from the living room brought her mind into clearer focus.

“Wait, but—” she grabbed her father’s arm as he began to head towards the living room, “who cares if they see him staying here? They have to know by now he’s got no where to go. Didn’t General Hamilton say he’d been sleeping in a car for two days?”

Another angry shout at the television.

“Yes, yes…yes that’s correct,” the father answered her but absentmindedly rubbed the back of his neck.

“So what’s the big deal?”

Burr began towards the living room again, ignoring his daughter’s questioning.

“Dad.”

He turned to her. “Theo, do you think you could…perhaps go to the library for a few hours? I have to speak to General Hamilton privately.”

The daughter began to protest. “I don’t see why it has to be me who leaves. This is my apartment—”

“—Because it is two in the afternoon and you should have been in school anyway. Yet by the goodness of my heart I let you stay home. Now you will do this favor for me.”

She almost refused—thought about all the things General Hamilton had said to her father and wanted to be there to refute them, should he bring them up again—but that somewhat worried look in her father’s eyes told her otherwise. With one last poignant stare, Theo turned her back on her father and went into her bedroom to gather her things and make the three-block walk to the library.

Alexander, meanwhile, had not given up his campaign against CSPAN.

“I still can’t believe there is an entire television channel—an entire television channel—dedicated to these incompetent morons. I might as well go to the circus.” He sat on the edge of the couch, face reddened.

“Then why don’t you turn it off?”

Hamilton practically jumped off the seat. “Where the hell did you come from? I thought you were working in your office?”

“I live here. And I’m done.”

“I don’t want to talk to you.”

A small, annoyed smile played on Aaron’s features. “Maybe you didn’t hear me. I live here.” The other man ignored him.

“You’re out of grapefruit juice.” Without looking at Burr, Hamilton faced the television and held up his glass over his head. “You should have told Theo before she left. Oh, and milk. You’re out of milk.”

Aaron forced a smile. “I will text her, of course, and let her know to pick some up on the way home.”

“Skim, this time. None of that 2% garbage. It’s like drinking yogurt. And it’s nauseating.”

Another polite, pained smile as Aaron stood perfectly still behind his new roommate, the television flashing and chatting intermittently. “Is that because of your irritable bowel syndrome?”

Alexander whipped his head around angrily. “I do not have IBS…I told you not to…where did you get your information—”

“I will text Theo.”

Hamilton blushed deeper and spat back. “Tell her to get some nicotine patches, while she’s out.”

“Ahh! Yes, of course. Nicotine patches, skim milk because of irritable bowels,” an indignant growl from the couch uninterrupted Aaron, “grapefruit juice, Pepto-Bismol—”

Aaron raised a finger to his chin in mock thought and talked over him. “Speaking of nicotine, there is an awful smell of ash and cigarette smoke in my office. Which will act as your bedroom. Perhaps I should put ‘aspirin’ down, too, you’ll probably get a migraine.”

The blue-eyed man lifted himself from the couch. He walked briskly down the hallway to the office/guest bedroom to investigate, never ceasing his commentary. “Did you smoke a cigar in the bedroom? Oh god it reeks in here. It absolutely reeks.”

Aaron stifled a laugh and stood alone in the living room, calling after him. “I’ll put Febreeze on the list too, then, General. ‘Tropical mango’. Or perhaps ‘Island Paradise’.”

“Great. Wonderful.” Alexander called after him, irritated. He began to mutter more quietly to himself as he straightened the pillows on the lumpy futon , wincing. 

Aaron shut his cell phone and followed his guest into the office, where Alexander had grabbed, indiscriminately, a paper off of the former man’s desk and was using it to pick up the cigar butt from the floor. One hand over his mouth, he dropped it dramatically into the trashcan by the desk.

“Disgusting. Absolutely disgusting. How can you live like that?”

“It was an accident.”

Alexander scoffed. “Of course it was an accident.”

Aaron ignore him and pressed on. “There is a chance Troup and Morris will come looking for you here. How do you want to handle this?”

Hamilton stopped complaining and looked at him. “I don’t know.”

Aaron’s pulse began to race with frustration. “This isn’t exactly my problem, General.”

“We’ve been over this. It actually is.”

“Regardless. What do you want to do about Troup and Morris? If they come here and see you, they may tell Betsey, and she will demand an explanation.”

“I don’t know.”

“And they will wonder why you chose my apartment to stay at. Because I certainly didn’t invite you here.”

“This is—”

“And then we can talk about envelopes filled with money and hotel rooms. In court.”

“Stop talking.” Alexander cut him off and held a hand to his temples.

Chapter Text

 

The mini-cooper outside of the apartment building told Theo her father had a guest. Ascending the stairs (having forgone going to the store in favor of getting home before any real damage was done) the dark haired girl strained to listen to what was being said inside. Unable to articulate anything, she took a deep breath and opened the door.

In front of her was her father, of course, on the couch. Next to him was General Hamilton, scowling. The two other men in the room, the one-legged, rough-looking Morris and the fat, nervous Troup sat opposite the first two men, wearing looks of confusion. All eyes turned on her as she slipped inside and shut the door. Only her father smiled a greeting.

“Theo! You came back just in time. You’ve met Mr. Morris and Mr. Troup, before,” Aaron indicated towards the two other men. Troup forced a smile and Morris merely grunted.

“Colonel Burr, I don’t think this is an appropriate conversation for your daughter to be hearing.” He responded, growling.

“What’s going on, Dad?”

“Never you mind, young lady. Please give us some privacy.” Morris answered Theo before her father could in a tone she was entirely unfamiliar with. She looked at her father and began to protest. The black-eyed man opened his mouth to answer, but again Morris cut him off.

“It’s for your own good, Theo. There are some things a parent needn’t share with his child. No matter what your father says.” Morris held out a hand towards the bedroom. “Please give us some privacy.”

Feeling herself grow slightly warm with embarrassment, Theo walked quickly past the four men, avoiding their gaze, and into her bedroom. She’d get the information later. That much was true.

In the living room, Burr sat with his arms crossed, annoyed.

“She’s going to find out, Morris. There’s no keeping anything from her.”

Beside him Hamilton tapped his fingers against the arm of the couch, expressionless. Morris spoke up, eyeing the tapping fingers with some annoyance.

“If you know what’s good for her, you’ll find a way to keep this under wraps.”

The colonel lifted his gaze. “I’ll ask you to not tell me how to raise my daughter, Morris.”

Troup cut in quickly. “I don’t think child-rearing is why we’re here.” He looked pleadingly at his oldest friend. “Alexander?”

Hamilton looked up, breaking his thoughtful stare. “Yes?”

“Would you please tell us why you’re here? Of all places?”

“I know exactly why he’s here, Troup. You needn’t slow this down with niceties,” the gruff Morris cut in again, face slightly reddened. He reached down to scratch his leg and then leaned back in his chair, surveying the awkwardness around him. In an instant, he locked his gaze on Aaron.

“You have some explaining to do.”

Aaron raised his eyebrows. “Do I?”

“Don’t play innocent. Don’t play dumb. Don’t try and get out of this, Colonel. We’re all here right now and we are waiting.”

Alexander cleared his throat next to him. The colonel shot him a look and the former indicated his head towards a calendar hanging on the wall, eyes widening.

“Still waiting,” Morris tapped his foot impatiently.

“Well it would seem, Morris, that you already have some idea about what’s going on here, so I don’t think it necessary to explain myself any further.” Burr answered finally.

“I want to hear it from you first hand.”

“There is no need for that.”

“We’re not leaving until we get full confessions.” The one-legged man crossed his arms and leaned back into his seat again, situating himself into a more comfortable position. Troup looked over to him, worried. A full minute of silence descended into the room while Aaron eyed his rough associate politely, as silent as death.

It was Alexander who broke the silence, face flushed. “Colonel Burr was operating as a male escort and I had a moment of weakness.”

Troup wheezed and put a hand to his chest, “General Hamilton!”

Beside the flustered general, Aaron’s features darkened and his mouth opened in protest, “Seven moments of weakness.”

“—No one here is counting Colonel. Seven or seven thousand, I am still sick with regret—”

“—And why are you insistant on implying that I tricked you? You're a grown man—”

Alexander cut him off with a quick, sharp laugh “—Oh don't even go there, Burr—”

“Alright stop!” Morris held up a hand, commanding the room. For a moment, all eyes were on him. Troup’s wide and pleading; the two men on the couch, angry and defensive. The one-legged man rubbed his features and tried to make sense of what he was hearing.

“Is that…is that why you have been so…discreet lately? Because you’ve been…because you are a…” He looked at Aaron, trying to find the right words. Aaron nodded silently.

“Aaron,” Troup finally spoke up, softly, disappointed.

“Jesus Christ,” Morris swore under his breath, unable to look at his friend. “I had some idea but…to hear it confirmed…”

Alexander was not impressed. “Oh come on. Come on. You’re telling me you feel sorry for him? He did this to himself!”

Morris shut him up angrily. “No, Hamilton, we actually feel pretty sorry for you, too.”

Another round of silence hit the group of men. Down the hallway, faint music could be heard from Theo’s stereo, along with the tapping of a keyboard. Aaron inhaled deeply.

“I need a cigarette.”

“I need six cigarettes.” Morris echoed him, uncomfortable. Alexander shifted in his seat.

“Does…does Betsey know? I mean, about—” Troup faltered. He inclined his head toward Aaron. It was Alexander’s turn to exhale.

“She knows I…always knew I…”

“She knows he cheated on her constantly. Doesn’t know I was simply the latest," Burr remarked acidly.

Alexander shot him a vicious look. “‘Constantly’? ‘Constantly’? Excuse me, sir, but you have no idea what you’re talking about.”

“I know plenty.” Aaron answered him.

“Alright, shut up. Both of you. Just shut up.” Morris shook his head angrily. “It doesn’t matter now. None of it does. Hamilton, you fucked up. Big time. Burr, you have no shame and what you resorted to is beneath you—not to mention illegal. If you needed money, you should have come to us.”

Troup cringed at the swear word. He spoke up, quieter, after Morris had finished. “I’m…I’m really disappointed in you two.”

These words hit the two men on the couch hardest. There was a particular look of betrayal in Troup’s face that neither Aaron nor his flustered companion could place, but it still stung.

Morris, however, would have none of it. “I’m not here to bemoan these two and their choices. They know what they did and deserve everything they get.”

Alexander bit his tongue, thinking of a defense. When nothing came to him, Morris filled the silence once again.

“You two have backed yourselves into a corner, and it’s a damn wonder Troup and I are the only two who know about this, especially with this one involved—” he pointed a finger to Hamilton, who looked as though he remembered something terrible.

“What is it, Alex?” Troup caught his look and spoke up, worried.

“Callender.”

“What?” Troup and Morris responded in almost perfect unison.

“Callender might know,” Alexander turned an even deeper shade of red and covered his face. Only Aaron seemed composed.

“Now, General, we don’t know that for sure—”

“—Oh would you stop being so goddamned positive all the time? He was there. He showed up at the hotel. He saw us together, you idiot. He might have been drunk but he’s going to milk this for all it’s worth—”

“—Nothing’s come to light yet. I still say we hope for the best. It’s healthier than worrying all the time.”

“No! What you’re suggesting is entirely unhealthy! You can’t just walk around pretending things are alright and be unprepared for when your plans inevitably collapse!” Hamilton shot back, his breath increasing.

“What the hell are you two talking about?” Morris shouted before Aaron could respond. “What do you mean Callender knows?”

“He happened to be delivering pizzas to our hotel room one evening, and—” Aaron answered in calm, even tones as Morris’ expression when from concern to pity to anger. Troup merely shook his head and covered his eyes.

“—I don’t need the details, Burr. You’re saying he spotted you and, more importantly, recognized you.”

“Well, yes and no, you see,” Aaron leaned forward, “he was drunk, and we gave no indication that we had been—”

“—The bed was unmade!” Alexander interjected.

Aaron’s dark, out-of-place laughter cut the general short. “—There was a Bible on the bed, General, perhaps he thought we were praying—”

“—Stop! Stop talking! I don’t need to hear the details, please. A Bible, Jesus Christ…” Morris had control of the room once again. He sighed, frustrated. ”I didn’t know Callender was involved. This changes everything. He’s going to try and humiliate you both.”

“He doesn’t know Colonel Burr was a goddamned hooker.”

“I prefer the term ‘high end male escort’, General, if you please—”

Morris cleared his throat angrily. “How many people know about this?”

Alexander rubbed his temple and counted off on one hand. “Five. He and I, you and Troup…and Callender. But if Callender knows we might as well up this figure to about seven million.”

“Six.” Aaron spoke up quickly, quietly.

“Whatever, Colonel. Yes. Fine. Six million, then.”

“No, I meant six people. Six people know.”

The three other men looked at Aaron, confused. Alexander, whose skin had suddenly grown cold with fear, bit his toungue. It was true he has forgotten one other person.

Troup was the first to speak up, exasperated, “Who is the other person?” 

“Eliza Jumel.” Aaron lazily picked at a hangnail. Beside him, the general shrunk in his seat, covering his face. 

Morris cocked his head to the side, disbelief on his face. “How the hell does she know? Jesus Christ, Aaron.”

“She was the one who put the idea in my mind, and—”

“—And you involved yourself with her, did you?” Alexander interrupted quietly. He stared at the other man for a moment before putting his head in his hands, defeated. He prayed silently to himself for a split second. 

“She doesn’t know about you, General.” Aaron offered, unaware. He watched curiously as Hamilton smiled to himself bitterly. “She just knows about my…side-job.”

Troup and Morris sat dumbly, the latter man shaking his head. Trying to piece together the story—and in the process what would need to be done—Troup ran through the events of the past conversation in his head. Before he could speak up, the Nevisian had voiced his own concerns.

“Too many people know too much. I’m going to be ruined. Again.”

“This doesn’t effect just you,” Aaron responded, temper flaring. On the seat next to him, Morris tried to swallow his anger and think with a clearer mind.

“James Callender is not going to care if you two screw each other senseless.” Morris spat the words out, pained and slightly purple with repressed fury. “But what you two did in this case was illegal. If money exchanged hands…it was illegal. That’s what he’ll get you for. You two better grab that Bible and pray to God he doesn’t have some connection to Jumel.”

Down the hall, the music had stopped playing, unnoticed by the four men in the living room. For how long, it was unclear. But the dark-haired girl from within her bedroom had made some attempt to discern what was being said—largely unsuccessful.

Chapter Text

 

Morris was the first to storm out of the apartment. A mixture of fury, embarrassment and pity mingled inside of him as he turn his back to his associates and stepped into the hallway, Troup close behind. The latter man was more saddened than anything. He had, after all, been lied to.

“I thought I was their best friend. Or at least closest. I can’t believe it…I just can’t believe it…” Troup muttered to himself, descending the stairs.

“Well, believe it,” Morris grunted in return, taking one step at a time. “You should have known by now that those two can’t be trusted.”

“But to do something like this—”

“—Look, Bobby, I don’t really feel like talking about the details. All we need to worry about is Callender and his minions. If this gets out, they could lose their jobs. Worse yet, our firm's reputation will be tainted.”

Troup mumbled something resembling an agreement. Reaching his mini-cooper and getting in, the two legal associates drove in silence to a late lunch, much on their minds.

----------

Alexander slammed the door.

“That went well.” Aaron looked at him calmly.

The former man stormed into the kitchen and threw himself down into a chair at the table.

“That went horribly.” He responded, staring at the wood in front of him. The black-eyed man quietly joined him in an adjacent chair.

“It could have been a lot worse. At least it’s just Morris and Troup—”

“…And me.”

The two men looked up to see Theo standing nervously in the doorway. Her eyes widened, she had caught the very last snippets of the conversation before Morris and Troup had left. Unsure she knew what she heard, the dark-haired girl decided it was best to confirm it with her father.

“Ah, hello, Theo.” Aaron greeted her happily. Alexander nodded in her direction, and then helplessly put his head on the table.

“I guess that saves me the trouble of explaining, then.” Burr added brightly. “Not the way I would have chosen for you to find out, but I suppose it works.”

“Dad…I had no idea…the new gifts…”

Aaron held up a hand. “I don’t want to hear it. Don’t think about it, please.”

From the other side of the table, Alexander let out a small, muffled, slightly insane chuckle.

“Dad, I can’t use that laptop knowing how it was bought.”

“Then don’t think about it.” Aaron repeated his plea, his face darkening.

Another muffled chuckle. “Think of it as a gift from me.” Hamilton rolled his forehead against the cold wood of the table.

“Wow.” Theo breathed, looking down.

Aaron cleared his throat, placing his hands in front of him. “Theo, you have to understand, when a person needs money, there are things that he or she will do—”

“—Are we actually going to have this conversation now?” Alexander interrupted him. He couldn’t speak the thoughts that reeled inside his mind, waves of embarrassment and hopelessness coursing over him.

“—There are things that I have done now, and in the past, that I am not proud of—

“Dad, you don’t have to explain anything. I get it.”

Aaron quieted himself, thankful he needn’t go further. Memories of cramped boarding houses in the dead of winter flew to the forefront of his brain.

“Regardless, Theo, I want you to know that those days are behind me. And I am sorry for keeping secrets from you.”

“It doesn’t matter now. Stop apologizing. This is all really sweet, a nice father-daughter moment, but my job is on the line and I would like to focus on that.” Alexander lifted his head, the reeling thoughts still plaguing him–making him furious. Aaron looked at him blankly.

“Mine is on the line, too, you know. Or at least my credibility.”

Theo looked at the two men and then sat herself down at the table beside them

“It will turn out alright. Just deny everything. Everyone knows Callender is a liar and a drunk. Even if he does get the facts right, no one is going to believe him,” She reasoned confidently. “Just use that to your advantage. You have plenty of evidence against him.”

“He did lose his editing job for being an alcoholic.” Alexander’s featured lightened considerably.

“See? Completely discredited. If you guys ever end up defending yourselves just bring that up.” The dark haired girl, pleased with herself, smiled at her father. A small smile was returned.

“It’s not necessarily Callender we’re worried about, my dear. It’s who he will tell,” Aaron reasoned. “And how he’ll skew the facts to make it seem like we…oh, I don’t know…run a brothel or something.”

Theo snorted and Alexander bit his lip.

“He has no evidence to claim something like that, Dad. Just take every day one step at a time, and you’ll be alright. Oh, and..uh, General?” Theo faltered with a title for her new guest.

“Yes?” Alexander looked up from the napkin he had torn to pieces.

“I think you should...well, you need to go talk to your family. Or at least call them. They’re probably worried about you.”

At the mention of his family, Alexander’s heart sank. Not from fear or dislike—but disappointment. It was the Nevisian’s turn to remember a darker time: fatherless days and nights that felt like they would stretch on for eternity.

“I know,” he responded quietly. Burr watched him, interested. “I know I need to. I just need to find the right time. And words.”

“You shouldn’t think about it too much. It will seem contrived.” Theo answered him.  Hamilton looked at her silently. “It has to come from a more organic place than the mind, General,” she added quietly. Alexander nodded absentmindedly and looked away. He began chewing his lip again, lost in thought.

Burr exhaled. “I think dinner is in order,” he offered, trying to lighten the mood. Theo watched him and nodded approvingly.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

Alexander sat nervously at the small table in the farthest corner of the small cafe, avoiding every gaze. His thoughts weighed heavy on his mind: what he'd done, what he'd hoped to accomplish, and the way it all came crashing down spectacularly in the blink of an eye. 

He grabbed a tiny paper straw wrapper, and twirled it around his finger. "If I could only make her see the purpose of it all," he muttered to himself.

He fidgeted with his shirt and tie, another set borrowed from Aaron, and sipped a lemon water slowly. He hadn’t ordered any food, fearing if he ate anything it would come immediately back up. He checked his watch. At two he expected his guest to arrive. As if reading his mind, she walked in and spotted him—her face expressionless.

“Thank you for meeting me, Betsey,” Alexander managed a smile and stood up to hug his wife.

“Of course, Alexander. Of course.” She returned the hug, unsure whether or not to kiss him. Her husband decided for them and brought her mouth to his. Betsey pulled away first, albeit reluctantly.

“I still haven’t changed my mind, Alexander. I still want to go through with the divorce.” She said, unable to look at the man sitting across from her.

“Betsey, please…can we at least talk about this before making any rash decisions? Please let me explain myself first.”

Betsey eyed her husband cynically, weary. It was a look he had never seen her give him before—or perhaps never noticed—and yet in an odd way, suited her to him perfectly.

“You’re not one to give lectures on avoiding rash decisions, Alexander. Come now.” Her voice softened. Her husband looked down into his water.

“Do you want anything to eat? Or drink?” He offered politely as a waitress showed up to bring Betsey her drink. She shook her head, no.

For a moment, the couple sat quietly, sipping their complementary waters and occasionally staring out the window at passers by. Alexander toyed with his straw, wanting desperately to get on with the conversation and come to some sort of conclusion. Betsey, however, was reluctant to say what she knew she had to say. She inhaled and took control.

“We both know why we are meeting here, Alexander. We should put everything on the table,” she swallowed, “we have always been honest with each other. Even if it hurt.”

Alexander nodded.

“Firstly,” the small, dark haired woman, began in a timid voice, “I would like to apologize for some of the things I said to you during our last conversation. I’m sorry, Alexander.”

Her husband watched her, eyes tired and head slightly pounding. The night before, along with tossing and turning, head filled with thoughts about the encounter with Troup and Morris in Aaron’s apartment, he had to put up with the stench of ash right by his head. There had to be another way to go about this, Alexander thought desperately.

“Of course I accept your apology, Betsey,” Alexander added happily, reaching out to grab her hand. She averted her eyes and allowed him to hold it. “You don’t know how happy this makes me.” He kissed her hand.

The wife kept her gaze on her water, watching several lemon seeds sink gracefully to the bottom of the glass. She pulled her hand away. It was not her job to fell guilty.

“I want to know several things.” Betsey began again, finally bringing her gaze to her husband. It pained her to see such a look of hopeful expectancy on his face.

“Anything. Anything at all. I swear to you, I will be completely honest.” The blue eyes searched her face eagerly.

His wife could not bring herself to ask the questions that had plagued her since their return. Specifically, she wanted to know how many times Alexander had been unfaithful. That was the endgame in this meeting, though how to get there without breaking her heart, Betsey had no idea. She cleared her throat and shut down her emotions.

“We were wed under very different circumstances,” the dark haired woman breathed, deciding to begin at the beginning. Her husband nodded. “But even then, your heart was not fully mine, was it?”

“Betsey—”

“Just answer yes or no, Alexander.”

“It’s…it’s not as simple as that.”

Betsey cleared her throat again. “Alexander…you cannot profess to be entirely mine in one breath and then pledge yourself to another person in the next.” She held up her hand as the general began to contradict her. “You know to what I refer.”

“Those circumstances, Betsey, were unique in the history of mankind—”

“—No. No they were not.”

Alexander eyed her, heart beating faster. She spoke the name that had been floating in the back of her mind since they day they were wed.

“You and Colonel Laurens were not unique.” Her hands shook as she hid them from view, placing them in her lap. Alexander locked his gaze on his wife. “You were not special. You were not exceptions to any sort of rules.”

“Betsey,” Alexander tried to reason with his wife, “You were not there. You didn’t know the codes we followed—”

“—And you were not there when the other wives and I spoke of our husbands. We knew what happened among all of you men. All the wives did. And all felt the same helplessness. No, you and Colonel Laurens were not special.”

The Nevisian sat in silence for a moment, searching for his defense. “Things are different among soldiers than between a man and his wife.”

“That may be so, but codes and rules have no bearing in the human heart.” She finished quietly.

The submissive woman Alexander had married several lifetimes ago had changed—he realized with a pang—and he had been helpless to stop it.

“There were hundreds of Johns and Alexanders, each pair thinking they were unique. Unanswerable to the women they were attached to.”

The chatter from the people around the couple seemed to increase in Alexander’s ears. Betsey’s own heart raced as she felt her temper rise. Too many times in the past had she quelled it; too many times had she swallowed her reasoning and let her husband have his way. She told her self that that was love—making the other person happy at any cost. She thought of her beautiful, exuberant sister and her scowling, drunken husband. It would appear, thought Betsey, that marriages, as a whole, consisted of at least one miserable person.

“But I told you about him…I told you everything, Betsey. You never raised a concern,” Alexander whispered.

“What could I do? Announce My concerns in front of my family?”

“Your father was a soldier.”

“Alexander, don’t be absurd,” Betsey shot back, her temper slowly boiling. “He wanted this marriage just as much, if not more, than we did.”

Alexander shook his head in disbelief. “Betsey, I loved you. You were exactly what I wanted. Everything I wanted.” His voice, barely above a murmur, was almost overshadowed by the din around them.

In an instant, it hit her.

“Of course I was. Of course I was everything you wanted. I really was the perfect wife for a man like you.” Betsey’s black eyes stared Alexander down—suppressing every secret in their impenetrable thickness.

“What is that supposed to mean?”

“You know exactly what I mean. I allowed you to blossom like a flower. I was merely the dirt you planted yourself in.” She finished with an uncharacteristically bitter inflection.

Alexander reached for her hand again. “Don’t say that, Betsey. You know that is untrue—”

She pulled back and cut him off. “—You blossomed in the sun, effecting everyone around you.”

“You kept me grounded, Betsey. I needed you. I still do.”

“You are still thinking of only yourself, Alexander!” She whispered hurriedly. “For fifty years I had no one to think of but myself—and what I wanted—” Betsey stopped herself before the tears could spring to her eyes. Alexander watched her in shock.

“No. I don’t want to go there.” The dark haired woman spoke more to her own internal emotions than to the man in front of her. She placed her hands on the table definitively. “I was never the only person you loved. There was always someone else. Something else. A project, a goal, a distraction.”

Alexander shook his head in disbelief, though he knew she was correct.

“You even spoke of compartments…in your letters to John. In your letters to me.”

Another bout of laughter from the table several feet away belied the seriousness of the conversation the couple was having.

“You cannot have that anymore. You cannot compartmentalize me like that. I waited fifty years for your entire soul to belong to me and me alone.”

“Betsey, it always did—”

“—You spread yourself too thin. Gave yourself to too many people. Different parts of you belonged to different people and thus I never felt like you were wholly mine.”

“I had no choice in the matter! I had duties that, had I ignored, would mean the ruin of—”

“—Of the nation. Yes. I know.”

Alexander chewed his lip. It was becoming another nervous habit he fostered. His fingernails were bitten down to the quick, and his bottom lip stung daily from bite marks. Even his heart never seemed to stop racing. He was always warm, always out of breath.

“And so you will fault me for being a good statesman.”

“I will fault you for being a selfish husband.”

Betsey pulled the divorce papers from her purse—the ones Alexander had reluctantly signed several days ago before leaving their mansion like a criminal. He blushed and his heart sank.

“I was hoping you had destroyed those.”

Betsey didn’t answer him.

“I was not a selfish husband, Betsey. I cared more about you and the children than any other person on the planet. I still do. ”

Still she sat silently.

“I gave everything for you and the children—yes I did—” he reiterated himself as she shot him a look, “—in an era that placed honor above all else. Don’t look at me like that.”

He finished his thought awkwardly. It was a curious experience: viewing, and digesting, hindsight.

Betsey silently flattened out the papers before her, reading them. Finally she spoke.

“I am going to give these to a lawyer to look over.”

“Anyone I know?” Alexander asked flippantly. He chugged the last of his water, mouth entirely dry. Another symptom of his perpetual nervousness.

“Oh, I don’t doubt it, Alexander, considering you familiarize yourself with everything that moves.” Betsey shot back. She flipped through the papers professionally.

“I am going to need to cite instances of adultery.” The dark haired woman finished with a longing sigh. Alexander muttered under his breath.

“Unbelievable. I can’t believe you’re doing this—”

“—I will need to know how many times and on what occasions—”

“—Betsey, please—

“I am assuming most of them are prostitutes.”

The sinking feeling hit Alexander’s gut once again. He looked at his soon-to-be ex-wife and thought about confessing the scheme. Before he could open his mouth to defend himself, his wife had found her voice.

“I wonder if you even remember their names. Men and women, I’m sure. Did you pay them, Alexander? Or would that sit badly on your conscience? Actually,” Betsey finally put the papers back together and locked her gaze with her husband, “Payment might make you feel better about yourself. Like it did with Reynolds.”

Alexander could only close his eyes and shake his head in disbelief. His life replaying again, out in front of him, like a broken record. A woman's shriek from the table next to them brought to his mind's eye the proud, cunning face of Eliza Jumel.

“I will of course discover everything once this goes to the lawyer. So you might as well confess now, to me, before I find out from someone else.” Betsey looked at her husband knowingly. “We run in the same crowds, Alexander. You know what I mean.”

Betsey’s cellphone vibrated, causing her to jump. Looking down at the text, she wordlessly silenced it. Alexander eyed her cautiously.

“You want me to confess how many times I…”

“…Cheated on me. Yes, Alexander. Go on and say the word. Let it play around on your tongue for a bit.”

Alexander closed his eyes again and sighed.

“I want to know with how many different people.” Betsey swallowed the lump in her throat. “Not…not how many times.”

She waited. The Nevisian deliberated the choices he had in his mind.

“I would rather hear it from you personally, Alexander, than read it on some blog.”

A new emotion welled up inside Hamilton. Fear mixed with anger hit him immediately, remembering Callender, and pamphlets written generations ago.

“Don’t start with that again, Betsey.” He hissed. She shot him a burning black glance that shut him up immediately. Alexander subdued himself.

“How many people, Alexander? Now and then.”

“Betsey, you need to understand—”

“—How many?”

The Nevisian thought for a moment, toyed with a lie. Examined all the sides. Discarded it.

“Four.”

The innocuous little number hit Betsey in her chest. She wrote something on the paper, her mind blank and unfeeling. Her heart, however, shattering. She placed the cap back on her pen and put it in her purse. Using her free hand to put a shining section of her dark hair behind her ear, she used the other to hoist her bag onto her shoulder. Her eyes could not meet her husband’s.

“They were…Betsey, I was…” His reasoning was lost on her.

The dark-haired woman stood up, walked over to her husband and inexplicably placed a single kiss on his head before walking out the front door of the cafe, amid happy chatter. Alexander watched her leave, helpless, her heels making sharp clicks against the tile.

Chapter Text

Day seven. Aaron marked it on a small, pocket-sized calendar he kept in his pocket. He had always felt secure with these sorts of time-telling mechanisms on his person: watches, calendars, even mobile phones. Things that kept him attached to reality. It had been seven days since his guest had implanted himself into the office bedroom at the end of the hall. Seven days of “vacation”, too, if one could call it that. They had been absent from work in a sort of limbo. Troup and Morris knew the circumstances, but none of the four men could bring themselves to meet up and discuss the matter further, to define it.

Was it embarrassment? Aaron asked himself as he poured his second cup of coffee. It was nearly noon and his guest was still asleep. What, exactly, did he have to be embarrassed about? The apartment seemed deadened when he was home by himself, while Theo was at school.

Aaron always wanted company, an extra roommate to liven things up, but not this kind.

There was, of course, the women here and there who stayed for a day or two or three, but didn’t feel right. And, frankly, didn’t care for him the way he cared for them. There was always a disconnect. Nothing ever fit, like a puzzle. Theo stopped introducing herself to the women. Regarded them as necessary evils. That was what bothered Aaron the most.

A rustle from the hall grabbed Aaron’s attention.

“You’re awake. Finally.” He stared his new roommate down, hair matted and eyes puffy with sleep.

“I was up until almost four. I am going to buy a bed. Your futon is unbearable.” Hamilton finished his thought with a stern look and locked himself in the bathroom.

Once inside, he took inventory of his decisions. He was, without a doubt, in a very bad situation. Discarding the conversation he had with his wife, rather then mulling it over in his brain (the real reason he hadn’t slept the night before) was easier than trying to make sense of it. Oh yes, everything was different—and yet exactly the same.

Alexander looked at himself in the mirror. Same face, same eyes, same hair. Same fluttering heartbeat and perpetual warmth. Were his freckles in the same places? He hadn’t noticed. Though there was a spot of interest on the pinky finger of his left hand that had always struck him as an odd place for a mole. He turned the faucet on and ran his hands under the water, wetting down his hair.

Why bother showering? Why bother with anything?

No. Another voice chastised him in the back of his mind. No. You will not succumb to those thoughts again. Alexander splashed water on his face, making him shudder and causing him to gasp. Outside, he could hear, faintly, Aaron rustling around in the kitchen—doing god knows what. A small smile appeared on his mouth.

Shaking the water from his hands, he shut the faucet off.

“How old are you, Alexander?” He asked his reflection. “You are probably forty-something. Old enough to know better.” He answered himself.

It was true. He wasn’t exactly sure how old he was. His identification card told him that his birthday was January 11th, 1969. That, of course, was completely fabricated. Catching a glimpse of Aaron’s one day, he noticed it read February 6th, 1968. Another fabrication. Betsey’s read August 7th, 1973. Yet another fabrication. It was impossible for him to know how old he was.

“That’s not true, you idiot. You are two hundred and fifty-five. Or two hundred and fifty-seven.” Alexander laughed softly to himself as he continued his conversation with his reflection. He never knew how old he really was.

He stared at the face looking back at him for a moment longer.

“What do you see, General?” Alexander prepared to answer himself with absolute candor. “I see a man. I see a man who has made selfish decisions that hurt those around him. I see a man who is middle-aged and has children to care for. This man is about five foot seven,” Alexander reached out and wiped away a smudge from the mirror, “possibly one hundred and sixty pounds.”

“You are fatter than that, Alexander. Too many of Troup’s danishes.” The Nevisian continued the conversation with himself while Aaron poked around in the kitchen aimlessly.

“I’m not that fat. To be sure, I have put on a few pounds,” Alexander lifted his tee shirt. The scar reflected in the mirror.

He put his shirt down quickly and ran a hand through his wet hair. His reflection did the same.

“We will say, for the sake of argument, that you are one hundred and sixty pounds. You are still a slight man. You are a soldier.” Alexander nodded to himself. Yes, that was a good description. He flicked the fan on to drown out his own voice. He touched the mirror again—touched his own hand. The ever-present ink stains were gone, true, but in their place callouses next to the fingernail on his right middle finger had formed. Evidence of his writing-intensive profession.

“You still hand write your briefs sometimes, don’t you? Even though a laptop is much easier.”

“Yes. Yes I do. I find it comforting.”

“That is absolutely absurd. Why work hard when you can work smart?” Hamilton took a step back from the mirror.

“Because that is cheating. That is lazy. The easiest path is often the most unprofitable and will teach you nothing. Taking the easy way out does not build character.” He corrected himself and furrowed his eyebrows at his reflection. His eyes were tired. Old. Deep set and short-sighted. He was feeling his age. Alexander leaned in closer to examine his skin.

“Wrinkles.”

He noticed the hinges on the side of the mirror, indicating that it would open. That there would be something inside. The tiny smile returned to his mouth.

“Alexander, how old are you? Grow up.”

“The Colonel should know that if he gives me free reign of his bathroom, he runs the risk of me—”

“—You will not open that medicine cabinet. That is childish.”

Alexander frowned at himself.

“But—”

“—No. Do not open that mirror, General. You may not like what you find.”

Alexander stood and faced himself in defiance. His right hand tapped the bathroom counter, impatiently waiting for him to make a decision. He reached out and touched his small reflection again, leaving a streak. The knob was inches away. He took his chances.

Upon opening it, Alexander was faced with a myriad of pill bottles—many of which had gone out of date five years previous. Many of which were opiates, pain killers. Here and there they were labeled with a woman’s name. A woman’s handwriting. Some were entirely empty. Some only half used. A sharp pang hit him in the center of his chest.

Alexander stood for a moment, taking inventory of what was inside the mirror. Evidence of a painful, drawn out death and man’s feeble attempt to stop it.

He slammed the mirror shut, too hard, cracking it, distorting his reflection.

“I told you. I told you.”

Chapter Text

Theo sat in the lunchroom by herself, scrolling through her phone. No one texted her but it helped to feel some kind of connection to the outside world. Most of the applications she had put on her phone were news-related. Some favorite blogs, some games. But mostly she liked to read about current events.

She watched as the other students congregated into groups and shouted their jokes. They avoided her, sensing something different about her. That was ok, too. She was always more quiet than extroverted and preferred the company of her thoughts to the company of other people.

The dark-haired girl sat in silence, flicking the back-light on her phone on and off intermittently. She refreshed the screen, yawned lazily, and put her head in her hand. In an instant, a name caught her eye on the lighted screen. She sat upright and read the article quickly, her heart beginning to race.

“Oh no...”

----------

“Are you going to be in there all afternoon?” Aaron tapped impatiently on the bathroom door, causing his guest within to jump at the noise. “You’re not practicing any speeches, are you? We could be here all week.”

The dark eyed man smiled at his lame joke. In a flash the door was opened, Hamilton faced him.

“Your mirror is broken. You need a new one.”

“What on earth…” Burr stuck his head inside the bathroom to see the damage done. “Did you slam it?”

“Yes. I am sorry.” His guest stood impatiently in the doorway, hungry and wanting to get to the kitchen.

“Well you shouldn’t have done that, General.”

Alexander inhaled, irritated. “I figured that out, thank you, Colonel.”

“Why were you looking in my medicine cabinet, anyway? Nothing in there pertains to you in any way shape or form. I think in addition to a new mirror, we will have to buy lockable medicine cabinets.”

“We?”

“Why yes, of course. ‘We’. You’re the one who broke it, you’re the one who should buy me a new one,” Aaron reach around his guest and grabbed the bottles—the empty and the half-filled—and placed them on a table in the hallway.

“Perhaps today, before Theo gets home, we can go shopping.”

Hamilton pushed past his host, still shaken from his discovery. He knew about Aaron’s wife’s illness, of course. But didn’t know Aaron had kept the relics of her slow decline in an easily attainable place. He wondered what would posses someone to keep things like that.

“I am not going shopping with you, Colonel. I am going to enjoy the rest of my days off in the most relaxed way possible.”

“Which is…?” Aaron followed his guest slowly into the living room, where he had seated himself on the couch with a piece of toast. Alexander smiled smugly.

“Which is ignoring you and eating toast.” He wiped his mouth with a single finger and flipped through a magazine in front of him, causing crumbs to fly everywhere.

“I try very hard to keep this place tidy. Theo, as well.” In three steps, Aaron was behind him. “Take that to the kitchen.”

Alexander, true to his word, ignored the plea and continued to read.

“Perhaps you didn’t hear me. I said, take that to the kitchen, please.”

Several awkwardly silent page flips later, Aaron ripped the magazine from his guest’s hand and flung it on the coffee table in front of them.

“You are not going to be like this, General. I know what you’re doing and I will not allow it.” Aaron felt his temper flare—quickly quelled it.

“Whatever do you mean? I was simply enjoying my toast, when all of the sudden—”

“—You snooped around in my personal things and are getting food all over the cushions when I specifically asked you to take that into the kitchen. If you are going to stay here, there are—”

“—There are rules. Yes. I know.” Hamilton sighed and shoved the rest of the toast in his mouth. Truly, he was in no mood for any kind of lecture. Least of all from the black eyed man who stood before him, arms crossed like a parent.

“Don’t give me that look, Colonel,” the general began arrogantly, “I can’t leave because I have nowhere else to go.“

Burr clenched his jaw. “You have plenty of places to go.”

Alexander placed his finger on his chin in mock thought. “I do? I suppose I could go to Troup’s. Or I could go to Morris’—now that they’re both in on this debacle, too, I suppose. They could keep a secret.” He continued to stare off into space as the black-eyed man interrupted him.

“Save your energy, General.” Aaron seated himself at the kitchen counter and pulled a cigarette from his pocket. Lighting it quickly, he blew smoke directly in the face of his guest as the latter man walked over—face twisted with disgust.

“I thought you didn’t like to smoke in here. Theo told me that.”

“I do now.”

Hamilton pulled the cigarette from the black-eyed man’s mouth and threw it in the sink defiantly, “Not while I'm here.”

“Oh, General. I forgot to tell you. I took a shower this morning and there is no more hot water. You are going to have to use cold water now.” Another self-satisfied smile returned to Burr's face as he watch his guest’s countenance darken. He pulled another cigarette out of his pocket and without averting his eyes from the other man, lit it.

The general scoffed quickly, “Maybe for you a cold shower is a punishment. But I find them rather bracing and soldierly. Perhaps if you had spent more time in the army, and had not abandoned us in ‘79—”

“—Ahh, you mean after I suffered from sun stroke. Yes, of course General. I would have been considered irreplaceable help, vomiting and falling over myself every few feet.”

Hamilton waved his hand dismissively. “The fact remains, Colonel, that I know you are trying to get under my skin. I know you are trying to get me to leave in a fury. And I will not leave until we fix this situation and figure out what to do.” Alexander's flushed, repressed complexion belied him. 

“Not even if I smoke all over the place? Drop ash on your pillow?”

Alexander cringed disgustedly. “You wouldn’t.”

Aaron shrugged. “If the spirit moves me.”

The general scratched his head, messed up his thick hair, perturbed. He walked form the kitchen back into the living room and resumed his place on the couch. Calling back to Aaron, who had begun to make himself a lunchtime sandwich, Alexander stated his case.

“If you start acting like a child, you will have only yourself to blame.” Alexander swiveled his head to look at Aaron, who silently raised his sandwich. His vocal response of assent, shortly thereafter, was predictably crumby and muffled. The former man sighed and reached for the magazine in front of him.

“You should view my staying here as a blessing in disguise. Considering I am the only human on face of this earth who sees you for what you truly are.” Alexander casually flipped another glossy page. His words had no effect on the man in the kitchen—who merely nodded, mockingly, again.

Another page flip. Sensing that his diatribe was getting him no where, Alexander increased his vitriol: “You may think you are guiltless, how and why still eludes me, but don't think I'm unaware of your schemes."

Aaron shrugged and put his glass in the sink. He checked his watch. “If we stopped arguing about cigarette ash and honor, and headed to the store right now, we can go look at proper beds. I would like to be back before too late. I need to help Theo pack.”

The last lines of his sentence were barely discernible to the Nevisian; his host walked halfway down the hall to his daughter’s bedroom before he was stopped. “I’m sorry, did you just say ‘pack’? Where is she going?”

Aaron turned around to see the other man on his trail. He closed his eyes and let out a sigh, slightly annoyed. “She is going to a college open-house. For a few days, with a school group.” He absentmindedly flicked a fleck of dust off the side table against the wall and picked up the pill bottles.

“For—for how long?”

“A few days. Three, perhaps. This weekend.” The black eyed man turned away from his guest and continued on his way. Like a shadow, Alexander followed him.

“Wait, so…what will you do? Just stay here?”

“No, General. I am going to fly to Spain.” Aaron reached Theo’s bedroom door. “Yes of course I am going to stay here." He leaned in closer to his guest, eyes widened, making his point known. Alexander stepped back, annoyed.

“I just figured you would be going with her. That’s all.”

From inside Theo’s closet, Aaron removed a book bag, a pleased look on his face. “Found it!”

Alexander ignored the discovery and leaned on the door frame of the young girl’s bedroom. “So I will have to put up with you. On my own.”

“Well,” Aaron began, from inside the closet again, “Me and my company.”

“…What.” Alexander stood up straight.

“My company. Female company.”

“No.” The guest raised an accusatory finger as the disgusted look reappeared on his face. “No female company. Please, Colonel, for the love of God.”

“—Where is that blasted raincoat?”

“You cannot expect me to sit idly by while you—”

“—I told her to hang it up, it’s going to get wrinkled—”

“—Please listen to me, Sir.”

Burr poked his head out of the closet, a polite look of feigned interest on his face. His guest straightened out his pajama tee shirt self consciously.

“Please reconsider bringing women over while I am present because—”

“—Then go away—”

“—Because I can’t bare the thought of being in the next room while you and a prostitute—”

“—She’s not the prostitute you idiot,” Burr tugged at a raincoat that was stuck underneath a stack of books. Finally breaking it free with a slight grunt, he continued, “I am.”

Hamilton stared at him, dumbstruck for a moment. “Are you out of your mind?” He hissed.

“Quite.”

“Did you not sit here with Morris and Troup and discuss the ramifications if you got caught? That you could lose your job?” The Nevisian began counting off on his fingers, “Job, daughter, probably apartment, respectability, dignity, all gone—not to mention what would happen to me, being unfortunately… attached to …”

“Nothing will happen to you. She is a respectable lady of about thirty five. Her name is Albertina.” Aaron threw several tee shirts onto the bed behind him.

“Respectable lady. Of course.”

“Whatever your opinion is on the matter, General, learned as it may be,” Burr shut the closet quickly to avoid an avalanche of school-related paraphernalia, “Albertina will be coming over in a few days and I expect you to treat her with courtesy and make her feel comfortable here. In my apartment.”

Hamilton chewed his lip and shook his head disdainfully. “I am at a loss for words. I would rather face the wrath of the Schuylers and die penniless in the streets then pretend to find anything reputable in what you’re doing.”

“That can be arranged.”

“You made a mistake telling me about this, you know that.”

“We’ll see.”

“You are going to regret this, Colonel.”

“We’ll see.”

“And I’m not going to the store with you, either. Frankly, I don’t want to be seen with you. I am considering going to a new law firm.”

The last bit, Aaron knew, was exaggeration. He looked at his guest, brows furrowed.

Chapter Text

Alexander spent the rest of the day, contrary to what he promised himself, in his guest bedroom, rearranging things. The Colonel had no sense of interior design whatsoever, and neither did his daughter. Poor thing—Alexander thought quickly. He chastised himself for being too judgmental. She couldn’t help it, having a suffocating boa-constrictor for a father.

With more than a little jealously, he thought of his own Philip, no doubt either at home, napping, or out with God knows who. So much promise, Alexander told himself. Philip would be made in his image. Brilliant. If not a statesman, then a politician. If not a politician, then a lawyer. And a damn good one.

“Not an …actor,” The general huffed to himself as he pulled the desk from one corner of the room to another. Without thinking, he spoke openly to himself. With the Colonel gone to the store, Alexander assured himself he wouldn’t be overheard. Dropping the desk into place, he stood back to take a look at it.

“Good enough.”

He walked over and examined the wood. Fine wood, very expensive. Probably too expensive. Hamilton shook his head. Some people never learn.

He pulled from a drawer a picture of his eldest son from a few years previous. Same bright smile. Beautiful child, they all complemented him. Betsey was never prouder when she held out Philip for everyone to coo over.

As the years passed, and the son took no visible interested in politics or the law, Alexander grew worried. Something was wrong, he told himself secretly. He didn’t even share his thoughts with Betsey, back when they were still speaking, that is. No, he kept them to himself. Philip would change—he would grow into his profession. Not everyone knew their calling at such a young age, Alexander reassured himself.

The years continued to pass. The new life they had been thrown into shaped and molded their young son in ways they never imaged it could. Philip laughed, red-faced and exhilarated, during plays as a young child. Memorized songs and performed them with his sister. Glowed in the warmth of adoring gazes. His father taught him the old war ballads, hoping to inspire him to the military, perhaps. The night Alexander made the suggestion, Philip turned as pale as a ghost and went to bed at seven-thirty.

Concentrating on his surroundings, Alexander picked up the odd piece of paper here and there. Carefully avoiding a certain cigar stain on the carpet he threw the garbage out.

“Good enough, good enough,” he repeated with little satisfaction. It was passable, this guest room. He sat on the edge of that awful futon.

He kept telling himself that staying with the Colonel was a good opportunity to rectify their relationship,though he despised the way they'd been brought together. He examined each facet of the affair in his mind, likening it to what the Reynoldses had done to him all those years ago. Alexander knew that if he didn’t stand up, keep moving, turn on a song, the thoughts would settle in his brain like coffee grounds in an old mug.

The day he woke up in bed next to Betsey was truly the happiest in his life. He was in his prime once again. He turned over and touched his warm, very much alive wife, and kissed her like he’d never kissed her before. Hugged her every curve, breathed in the warm scent of her hair. The morning sunlight streamed into their bedroom, a private oasis, their quivering breaths the only real noise.

There was a moment of unadulterated heaven, and then the inevitable descent.

Alexander stared into his wife’s black eyes, happy to be alive. Happy to hear his eldest son pitter-patter down the hallway of their new home, asking for breakfast and if maybe they could go to the park later. The sound of his slightly younger daughter singing to herself in her toddler’s bed. The noisy box on their nightstand playing patriotic marching hymns at the stroke of eight am. Who had set the alarm?

In his reverie, Alexander saw himself moving with great care from his sleeping position. A scar—painless, but discolored and pink—sat defiantly near his pelvic bone. And every single thing was tainted.

The general threw himself onto the futon with a heaving sigh and came back to the present, right hand absentminded grazing his hip. It was hard to truly process how convoluted a turn events had taken since his first night with the Colonel. Unclear in his tired mind were the intricacies of a plan he once convinced himself would be beneficial. He rolled over onto his side and closed his eyes, brows furrowed.

No, those thoughts would not do. Alexander moved a strand of hair from his face. Best to keep to the path.

Chapter Text

 

Alexander did not know how long he’d napped on the futon, curled up like a cat, his head in an awkward position. A light tapping at the door woke up. Wiping his eyes and ignoring the heavy pain in his head that was rapidly forming, he opened the guest bedroom door. Wordlessly, Theo held up her cell phone.

“What is it, Theo? Your dad isn’t here right now. He went to the store.” Alexander yawned.

Theo stubbornly, quietly held up her phone, screen illuminated.

“What, Theo?” Alexander responded, irritated.

“Look!” The dark haired girl finally shouted back. 

Alexander squinted his eyes and leaned forward to read the small text. His heart sank, “Callender—”

“—Yes. Callender. I left school a little early to come tell you. I don’t know what you can do about it now, though, frankly.” Theo took her phone back and looked at it sadly, her finger scrolling up and down on the obnoxiously colored webpage.

“Here’s to hoping your wife doesn’t read blogs.” She responded smartly.

“Don’t talk about my wife, Theo, you don’t know what you’re saying.” Alexander’s response was sharp as he locked his gaze with the precocious fifteen year old. Theo balked under his glance and stepped back.

“I’m only trying to help. There’s no need to be rude with me,” She reasoned. “Actually, you should thank me for telling you before it got blown out of proportion.”

The Nevisian could not think of a reason why she was incorrect, but still chaffed under her motherly demeanor, “Well there is nothing to discuss until your father gets back.”

Theo eyeballed the man before her skeptically. “You’re going to…wait for my father to get back…to decide how to respond to this?”

Alexander stepped passed her, nodding. Theo was close on his heels.

“Uh…General? I love my father dearly but…” she walked briskly to keep pace with the guest, “…But he’s not the best person to turn to in a crisis—”

The elder man stopped at the dining room table and picked up several sheets of paper, absentmindedly sorting through them. “You don’t think I know that? I know your father better than you think.”

“What is that supposed to mean?”

Alexander did not answer her directly. Instead, he rambled to himself. “He’s going to ignore everything. Refuse to explain himself. When confronted, he will change the subject and once he has escaped danger by the skin of his teeth, laugh into his sleeve at the stupidity of the people he’s duped.” Hamilton slammed down another sheet of paper. Keep to the path.

Theo stared at him blankly.

“I plan on confronting him the minute he walks through that door. Your father is not going to drag me down with him. No.”

The daughter searched for the right response, her temper flaring at the obvious insult. “You don’t know that for sure, General. He is probably going to come clean. He never keeps secrets.”

Hamilton's abrupt, somewhat unpleasant laughter cut her off. He stared at her. For a few seconds he regarded the young girl sadly, her large black eyes so much like her father’s. For another second, he imaged the manipulative Colonel planned it that way.

“You know what? I’m glad I’m staying here, Theo.” The Nevisian remarked, his stare pinning her in place. “There are many things that you don’t understand.”

When Burr came back from the store, it was Theo who greeted him first, cellphone in hand. She waited for him directly in the middle of the living room, one hand on her hip. Her father shut the door behind him and eyed her.

“What is it? Why are you looking at me like that?” He removed his coat and flung it on a nearby chair.

“Callender published a story.” Theo said, shortly. “About you.”

Aaron grabbed the phone from her and read it rapidly while his daughter watched. His expression changed from mildly worried to amused in a matter of seconds.

“Theo, this is completely fabricated. Has General Hamilton seen this?”

The dark haired girl furrowed her eyebrows.

“He says…Oh, for God’s sake…” Aaron did not finish his thought, but rather ran down the hall to see where his new guest had gone. Upon opening the bedroom, he found the Nevisian laying on his back on the futon, a cold cloth on his eyes.

“General!”

Hamilton jumped, causing the rag to fall to the floor.

“General, have you seen this?” Aaron could not hide the mirth in his voice. The Nevisian sat up, irritated.

“No, I haven’t read the damn thing. I don’t need to. I know what it says.” The startled man rubbed his eyes—he looked pale. Aaron sat beside him and cleared his throat.

“He didn’t even get the city right, General. Nor the name of the hotel.”

“It doesn’t matter, he’s still got to know that we—”

“It says here there were three other women with us. And spilled alcohol on the carpet. And he postulates that drugs were involved. The man must have been out-of-his-mind drunk. There’s no way anyone can take him seriously.” Burr finished his thought cheerfully and handed the phone over to his guest for a better read. Standing up, he breathed a sigh of relief.

“Now that this is over with, I can get on with things!” He clapped his hands together while the Nevisian raised his eyes and watched him. “The whole thing is absolute garbage!”

Aaron could hardly hide the laughter in his voice.

“So that’s it, then? You’re alright?” His guest asked him warily. 

“Oh, yes. Yes. I will be fine.” Burr began to hum softly to himself as he left the room and headed for the kitchen. Close behind him, with a slightly dumbfounded look on his face, Hamilton followed him.

“And you’re just going to pretend like nothing happened?”

Aaron opened the refrigerator, pulled out a bottle of water and took a small sip. “Everything turned out fine.”

“And you think he’s just going to go away? You think that if we ignore him, he’s not going to try and find some other outlet to spread this horrible gossip and ruin our lives even more?” Alexander’s voice grew more urgent with every reason.

Aaron took another sip. “If we ignore him, he’ll—”

“—He’ll find another way to get attention. You don’t understand how he works, Colonel.”

“I know plenty,” The black-eyed man responded, more than a little defensively.

Meanwhile, Theo had retreated to her own bedroom, her thoughts a swirling mass of confusion. She heard the men argue, discerning what they were saying with expertise. She could not lie to herself any more: she despised the way her father acted. Hated his never-ending search for the elusive, perfect high. Cringed when he stayed out all night—knowing, even as a young girl—that he was out doing bad things. Activities a daughter shouldn’t know her father participated in.

Theo sighed to herself and swallowed a tiny lump, remembering her mother and her father and their perfect unit. But she loved him nonetheless, couldn’t help but love him. And in her mind she imagined Angelica and Philip Hamilton, hiding their anger behind their beautiful facades of music and song and knew they felt something similar for their father.

The dark-haired girl turned on her side and stared at her bedroom wall, listening to the two men argue in the living room. She was fifteen, now. She knew what sorts of things adults did with—and to—each other. Theo closed her eyes and tried to find a justification.

“Souls are sexless!” She heard her father, in her memory, proudly proclaim. While her mother was in her last years, Aaron had taken to putting his whole effort, his entire being, into educating Theo. The voices from the living room brought her out of her reverie and from her bed.

“So it doesn’t matter that Callender is on our case, and will be until something drastic changes, just as long as you’re alright? Just as long as you’re safe and happy? Am I understanding you correctly, Colonel?” Alexander shouted, face reddened at the black-eyed man who sat at the kitchen counter on a bar stool. The Nevisian held Theo’s cell phone in his hand precariously, waving it as he spoke his defense.

“I am saying that we should take every day as it comes and not make a big deal out of this, or it will appear as if we do have something to hide.” Her father answered his guest, his own voice uncharacteristically raised.

“How can you be so casual about this?”

“Why are you taking out your anger on me, General? You got yourself into this damn mess, you can figure out a way to fix it!” Aaron shouted back, the general's mouth open in anger.

Theo sneaked, unnoticed, past the two men and into the adjoining bathroom to hear the conversation better.

“This isn’t just about sex!” Hamilton raised his voice louder than before and Theo felt herself blush with embarrassment. She shouldn’t be hearing this. Her father lowered his own voice and tried to calm the situation.

“General, please do not shout. I know what the consequences of my—our—actions are. I don’t need a lecture.” He finished sourly. Theo heard the general scoff.

“I bet you know the outcome of your actions, you evil cheat.”

“–Because the truth will always come to light, and these lies will be put to rest simply by the nature of their falsity.”

“But the doubts are already in people’s minds—our coworkers’ minds, Betsey’s mind—about you and your…” Theo leaned in closer, hearing an audible disgust in the General’s voice, “…your profession.”

There was a moment of silence, and Hamilton  spoke up again. His voice was muffled as his hands covered his face.

“What have I done? What did I get myself into?”

Her father could not answer him. The dark-haired girl strained to listen further, for any more shreds of information to share with Angelica and Philip, if she could meet with them. At the thought of her peers, Theo’s heart sank. She wondered if they’d seen the article--If they’d believe it.

 

Chapter Text

Hamilton shot a murderous look to his roommate, whose black eyes widened pleadingly.

Down the hall, Theo rustled around her room, gathering her belongings and preparing to leave for her long weekend, head to the bus stop, and meet her classmates.

“You don’t really have a say in the matter, General. We’ve been over this. She’s a dear friend of mine and I have asked her to stay for the weekend.” Burr swept himself up from the couch in a fluid movement, taking with him a glass of water and an empty plate.

Alexander’s response came out hissed. “Theo will know what you’re up to. You can’t hide this sort of thing forever. Think of what she’ll say if she found out—” the flustered general followed his roommate into the kitchen, who appeared to be ignoring him, “—think of what she will say if she found out her father was still…selling himself.”

Burr faced him haughtily. “She already knows.”

“She made you promise you would stop. You acted like you had put that sort of thing behind you.” Alexander’s voice raised with each reason that fled from his lips.

“Albertina is a dear friend of mine,” Burr repeated, “and will keep me company over the weekend.” He smiled devilishly. “And if she wants to sweeten the deal a bit, who am I to deny her that pleasure?”

Alexander scoffed and let his hands drop loudly to his sides. “I can’t believe what I’m hearing. After all that has happened over the past month—after all the humiliation—you still won’t change.”

Burr walked away from him calmly and sat himself at the kitchen counter, atop a bar stool. Reaching into his bag, he pulled out a magazine and began flipping through it idly. Across from him, Hamilton fumed.

“Are you even listening to me?” His voice took on a more pleading inflection, “Colonel, please. Listen to me. You cannot let this visit get out of hand—”

A casual flip of a glossy page and a jet black glance shut him up deftly. 

“General if it pains you so much, how I choose to spend my weekends,” Aaron’s voice was as quiet as his roommate’s, “then you may find another place to stay.”

“Where, Colonel?” Alexander demanded, “Where would I go?"

At this, Aaron let out a small laugh and flipped another page, accidentally tearing a corner.

“Marshall is out of the question and if I told—” Alexander choked back that ever present, at least nowadays, lump in his throat once again and dropped his voice to a pained whisper, “—If I somehow managed to find Washington and explain to him what happened, he’d be disappointed. He’ll never look at me the same way again.”

“If he’s as altruistic as everyone says he is then he’ll accept you for who you are,” Burr answered him acidly. Hamilton reached out and tore the magazine away and the black eyes burned him again.

“He is the closest thing to a father I ever had and if you had any shred of decency you would have a little more respect for him. I have no need for your sarcasm.” The general took the magazine and, with one last furtive glance at the cover, tossed it on the counter opposite him. He faced Aaron.

“That was unnecessary, General.”

“No. What is unnecessary is you inviting a woman over here for God knows how long and possibly letting her pay you for sex. That is unnecessary.”

Aaron shrugged, annoyed. “Say what you want. She’ll be here in about two hours.”

As if waiting for a cue, Theo emerged from her bedroom struggling with two large duffel bags full of clothes.

“Everything alright?” She asked between breaths. Aaron nodded before Alexander could respond.

“Of course, my dear, let me help you with those—” The father reached out and took one of the bags from his daughter, and walked it over to the door. He stood for a moment and took inventory of the situation.

“Now, Theo,” Aaron looked at his daughter, “you promise me you’ll text me when you get there?”

“Yes, dad,” Theo answered his dutifully.

“And you will talk to absolutely no one.”

“Yes, dad.”

“And you will not get off the bus for anything other than dinner and a bathroom break.”

“Yes, dad,” the daughter picked up the smaller of the two bags and hoisted it over her shoulder, “I’m only staying for a few days. And it’s not like I’m going to war.”

“I understand that, Theo, I am simply taking precautions.”

From the kitchen, Alexander let out a sarcastic laugh. Theo eyed him, confused, and then turned to her father.

“Love you, dad.”

Aaron sighed and a small part of him bemoaned losing his strongest ally in the tiny apartment.

“I love you, too, Theo. Be safe.”

----------

Though Theo was a rather quiet soul, the apartment somehow seemed much more silent after she left. Aaron mulled these thoughts over in his mind, straightening and rearranging pillows on his bed. Outside of the bedroom, Alexander surfed absentmindedly through the channels of the television, unable to settle on anything in particular. His own thoughts raced dramatically through his head. Eventually he would have to go back to work and face reality. That was the bottom line.

It’s mostly your fault Alexander, the little voice in his head taunted him cruelly.

“It most certainly is not,” Alexander responded, out loud. He wasn’t convincing himself. The television flickered brightly, a welcome distraction from the unique memories he’d kept to himself for longer than he should have.

Betsey would naturally keep the children. Where else would they stay?

A small thud from the bedroom, and a subsequent swear, brought Alexander from his deep thoughts. Moments later, Aaron emerged from the bedroom holding a small pile of books.

“No room for these,” he huffed, putting them just inside Theo’s room, on the floor. Alexander watched him, silent, as the other man walked to and from the bedroom, organizing and muttering to himself. He turned back to the chattering television and rubbed away an oncoming headache, trying to avoid thinking about the ensuing week.

“This is going to be awful,” Alexander murmured, face in his hands. The forbidden thoughts, ever present, awoke dangerously in the back of him mind.

It was a mistake—all of it. They weren’t themselves that night—they were two different men living a different life, for several hours, while the rest of the world turned on. It was selfish. It was weak. The welts on Alexander’s wrists, long since healed, disappeared and with them took the memory of those nights. And the actions Alexander had taken to get to those selfish nights–he closed off that train of thought as well.

And now Aaron had moved on to the next one, and that was how it would be. How it had always been. Hamilton's eyes glazed over as he stared at the flickering colors on the screen, not comprehending anything. He was a fool to think otherwise.

“I never thought otherwise.”

Yes. Yes you did.

“No.” Speaking out loud, Alexander shook his head. “Absolutely not.”

Aaron emerged from the bedroom again as a knock on the front door echoed through the living room. Alexander looked up, breaking his glazed stare from the television just in time to see the dark-haired man briskly walk past him.

“She’s here!” Aaron muttered happily, clasping his hands together. He turned to look one last time at the man on the couch, an undefined expression on his face. “Well?”

“Well what?” Alexander responded.

“Are you just going to sit there?” Aaron reached for the door knob. His guest took the hint and stood to leave, flushed.

“I’ll just hide out in my room , I suppose.” Alexander remarked under his breath, careful to remove himself from the situation before his bubbling temper got the best of him. As he walked down the hallway, he could here the door open and a female voice, peppered lightly with a musical German accent, greet Aaron. Long, drawn out kisses were exchanged, and Alexander slammed his door.

So this was it. He took inventory of his small room.

"Come on, Alexander. Stop thinking about it.”

Easier said than done, he thought to himself as he plopped down onto his wretched futon. He covered his eyes and pressed his lids so hard he saw stars.

In the living room, Albertina laughed. Another round of kissing, and the rustling of presents. Aaron’s unctuous thank you—dripping with ulterior motive. Alexander knew it well, heard it all before. His temper flared again and he reached for the nightstand where a small mp3 player sat. Putting his tiny headphones in his ears, he prepared to drown out the entire day and perhaps nap, if he was able. The screen lit up and then darkened again—a dead battery.

“Fantastic. Of course.” Alexander closed his eyes again and thought.

The children will be with Betsey, preparing for dinner. Where is dad? Where is Alexander? Everyone will wonder. The Nevisian wondered whether Betsey had spilled the news to everyone else, besides her father. Philip knew. Angelica knew. But did they know where he was? Alexander wasn’t sure—had stopped caring—had stopped trying. He forgot whether or not he told everyone what had happened in his moment of weakness.

Seven moments of weakness.

“Shut up. Just shut up.”

He couldn’t answer himself, the little voice in his head. He thought for a moment about conscience. About his conscious. Whose voice did he hear? Who was the one who chastised him late at night, when he knew he’d made a bad decision? Was it Washington, virtuous and strong, father-like, telling him to be a good man and own up to his responsibilities?

The woman in the living room tittered; Aaron responded in a deep, velvet chuckle.

Was it Jefferson, his arch-enemy, chastising him? Telling him what he’d known all along: that Alexander was no better than a modern-day Machiavelli, and deserved everything he got? It might have, at one point, been Adams. The old, querulous fool who damned him every chance he got, wrote about his sexual exploits with improper and embarrassing fervor; would be wholly unsurprised at Alexander’s present state of affairs should he ever find out.

This is what you get, Mr. Hamilton! This is what you get for being vain, indiscreet and lusty!

Alexander could almost feel the enraged spittle coming from that old mouth, and feel his wife’s piercing, judgmental gaze from behind her husband. He hated them, those voices that rang through his mind like bells.

Hamilton shivered and turned over on his side.

Was it Laurens? A part of his heart sank. Was that the voice in his head that he responded to—the one that told him to be brave and a good soldier?

“Honor, Alex! Honor is everything!” He heard faintly Laurens’ voice, saw his bright eyes and beautiful flushed skin, urging him to bring himself up to a higher cause.

“Honor is what did me in.” Alexander whispered to no one.

He closed his eyes again, tightly. The chatter from the living room was almost unbearable. The voices died down as the kissing commenced. He turned over again, laying on his back.

“You, my friend,” Alexander spoke aloud, “are entirely alone in this world.”

Maybe that is why Alexander spoke to himself—to hear words he knew but no one else could quite articulate. Aaron’s voice carried quickly from the living, down the hall, closer to his door.

“No. Please, don’t.” Alexander mumbled to himself, sitting straight up on his bed. 

“His room is here, dear Tina, he’s only just moved in—”

A knock.

“Come in, Colonel,” Hamilton responded as politely as he was able. Burr opened the door and smiled icily, a delicate woman on his arm. She was stunning, Alexander gave him that. He reached out a hand.

“I’m Alexander—”

Albertina’s brilliant smile cut him off and she gripped his hand in her soft one.

“Alexander Hamilton, yes. I know all about you,” she responded, her accent dancing over her words prettily. “They told me you were handsome, but not until I could see it for myself would I believe them.”

“‘They’? Who are ‘they’?”

Burr cut off his words. “General Hamilton will be staying here for the time being, until he can find a place of his own. Perhaps at the end of the month.”

Albertina nodded knowingly. “Divorce—it is so hard. So much harder, too, when you have young children.”

Sarcastically, the general spoke up. ”I see Colonel Burr has told you all about my situation. Wonderful.”

“I figured I should let the lady know that she and I were not alone.”

“Not that I would mind,” Albertina eyed him. Hamilton furrowed his eyebrows and ignored the comment, preferring to leave whatever intimation hid behind her words alone.

“Nevertheless, she wondered why there was an extra car here.” Aaron cut in, smiling back at the woman in his arms.

“Ah, but now that I know it is you…,” the woman reached out and ruffled Alexander’s hair playfully. Aaron cleared his throat and she immediately ceased.

“We will be going to an early dinner here in a few moments, General. I would invite you,” Burr added coldly, “but, well…”

He trailed off. Hamilton glared at him, humiliated.

“You understand.”

“Of course, Colonel.”

Albertina giggled nervously and flicked her hair from her eyes. “It was a pleasure meeting you, Mr. Hamilton,” she added, locking her stare with his own. Alexander offered a smile as best he could, nodded, and shut the door. Outside, he could here the couple resume their chatter, catching up on old times. Memories.

He flung himself into the chair at the small desk in the corner of the room, chin in his hand and flicked a speck of dirt from in front of him. He watched it hit the window and looked outside at the slate-grey sky. Sighing, he pulled out his cell phone and scrolled lazily through old messages. Some, old, good natured messages from Troup and Betsey, the lonely man even deeper into despair.

It was nearing four; Betsey would have prepared the dish by now. She liked an early dinner. Angelica would be arguing with Philip about who would set the table and who would clear it. James and Junior would be snickering to themselves, much too cool for family dinner, anyway. William, so small and energetic, was always in his element around his siblings, his own face reflecting everyone else's joy. And John—Alexander’s eyes grew moist as he remembered his most sensitive of children, who laughed and cried at the drop of a hat—John would be asking for his dad.

Alexander put his face down on the desk and finally let the tears fall.

“This is rock-bottom,” he repeated to himself. “This is it.”

A chorus of Adams, Jefferson, Laurens, Washington—even Betsey, Morris and Troup—cajoled him in his head. A woman’s voice laughed one last time from the living room and the front door slammed, leaving Alexander entirely alone with this team of consciences whirring around inside his skull.

He felt irredeemably guilty.

His cell phone vibrated suddenly and Alexander shot up with a start, face blotched and reddened with emotion. He picked up the device and held it to his ear.

“Hello?”

“…Hi…”

A small, faint child’s voice greeted him from the other line. The emotion in Alexander’ chest heaved and lurched and he swallowed again.

“Who is this?”

“…me…”

Alexander could not help but smile as he wiped a single tear from his cheek.

“Who is ‘me’?”

“…William…”

“William. Hello, my dear.”

A small child’s quick breaths, still rather unsure how to operate a telephone, filled the silence and Alexander smiled.

“William, are you having a good day?”

“…Uh huh.”

“Are you being good for mom and grandfather?”

“…Yes, daddy.”

Alexander’s emotions lurched again and he swallowed. The child, after several more silent breaths, spoke up again.

“Mommy says you are on vacation.”

Hamilton covered his face. “You could say that, my dear boy.”

“Why wasn’t I invited?”

The innocence of his son’s voice sent Alexander into an emotional wave again. he took a deep breath and tried to continue in even tones.

“I had to leave, William. You could say I am actually in a time-out.”

“…Oh…”

Another bout of silence.

“…When will your time-out be over?”

“I don’t know, William.”

Hamilton took a deep breath and peered outside. The bright green leaves of the trees illuminated against the bleak, stormy sky; he watched as another late summer storm rolled onward.

As the evening wore on, Alexander was left alone with his thoughts. He stared blankly at his computer screen, several windows open, showcasing different houses and apartments for rent. For the past few minutes he pretended to care, pretended to look at them with interest. Really, though, he needed a reason not to cry.

“Too expensive…too far…too expensive and too far…” he murmured tiredly to himself. There was only one way out of rock-bottom: up. Better to begin at the beginning. 

Another sigh, another scroll. Alexander prepared himself for when Aaron and his female friend came home, no doubt drunk. He had already mentally decided to stay as far away form them as possible. Outside, the sky darkened and the sounds of whipping flags and toppling umbrellas echoed off the sides of the buildings.

“If you sit here…” he mumbled, “…stewing in your own misery…you know what that will get you…”

He waited for his consciences, any one of them, really, to respond, and they didn’t. He figured this was as good a sign as any that he was on the right track.

It wasn’t the first time he’d been away from his family for long stretches of time. In his old life, he’d done it many times—more times than he should have—and always regretted it. Work came first, family second. And that is how it had been until Philip’s death.

“Why, Alexander? Why does it take a death for you to wake up and realize what is most important?”

He remembered the terrified look on Philip’s face when he suggested that instead of a four year university, Philip join the military service. Alexander wasn’t sure whether it was teenage rebellion or true fear that made his son work at such odds against his father. Today, Alexander knew, Philip would be content with his brothers and sisters and only when he was not distracted would he remember his father’s isolated state. Perhaps only for a minute, perhaps two.

Alexander sighed again. Took a deep breath. His stomach growled yet he dare not venture out into the kitchen for fear of coming in contact with the couple who should be home any minute.

The creaking of the front door told him he was right. Hamilton looked at the time—it was close to eight pm. Drunken whispers filled the living room air as a lamp was clicked on.

“Oh, lovely. They’re back,” he lifted himself from his seat at the small desk and onto the futon. From the bookshelf at the edge of his bed, Alexander grabbed a book at random and attempted to read it—to at least look busy. To at least look like he hadn’t spent the afternoon miserable. His stomach growled louder, but he refused to emerge.

The voices got closer. A hand reached for his doorknob and pushed it open unceremoniously.

“General,” Aaron’s velvet voice dragged from his lips drowsily, “Have you been hiding in here all day?”

“Indeed I have,” Alexander held up his book half-heartedly, “Reading.”

“No merry-making?”

“What on earth would I have to be merry about?” He scoffed back, resuming his reading. 

Drunkenly, Aaron laughed. “You could have invited someone over, you know…” his voice trailed off as he leaned against the door frame. In the bathroom, the shower began pouring and Aaron smiled broader.

“…Tina and I are going to have a shower.”

The other man clenched his jaw and flushed slightly. “Congratulations to both of you, Colonel.”

Aaron let out another titter. “We promise not to be too loud.”

A sick feeling churned in the pit of Alexander’s stomach and he hoped that if he ignored the commentary, the black-eyed man would go away. Annoyed, he flipped a page and read the words rapidly, not comprehending them. His heart began to race as Aaron stared him down, waiting for a reaction.

“There is a good chance we will…be in there for a while. Perhaps there…will be no…hot water left.”

Hamilton exhaled loudly an bit the inside of his cheek. Out of the corner of his eye, he caught the websites still open on his browser. New apartments, new homes. Another place to go. Just a few more weeks, Alexander. You can make it.

Burr approached him slowly. Though he didn’t raise his eyes to see, Hamilton knew there was a smug smile planted on his mouth.

“Tina says she will stay for a few days…Just…until Theo comes home…” Aaron slurred, walking closer. The scent of alcohol hit Alexander’s nostrils briefly and then fled, leaving the churning pit in his stomach even more nauseous. The black-eyed man kneeled down beside the futon. Steadying himself, he spoke again.

“You had better… behave yourself General Hamilton…”

Alexander turned his head slightly away from the scent of red wine lingering on Aaron’s breath.

“I am certain I have no idea what you’re talking about. I plan on being as unobtrusive as possible. And believe me, it will be easier and much more enjoyable for me than you think.” He sneered back, flipping another page and scanning the words rapidly. Another soft chuckle from Aaron sent Alexander’ nerves on edge.

“She talked…about you...” he hiccupped quietly, “…for almost forty minutes…at dinner, you know….”

“I don’t see what is so amusing about that, Colonel, for you too look so pleased with yourself.”

“You had better behave yourself, General, I know you…” Burr reached out and sloppily ruffled his guest’s hair, trailing his finger from Hamilton's temple to the crook of his neck. The general shuddered and scooted farther away, shooting him a look.

“Don’t touch me. I know what you’re implying and I don’t like it.” He spat, finally placing a finger in his book to mark it and giving Aaron his full attention. Aaron raised a finger and pointed at the other man playfully.

“…I’m watching you,” he mumbled, squinting his eyes.

“You have no need. Go screw your women. I’ll be sitting right here trying to find a way out of this mess.” The harshness of the words made the colonel close his eyes and descend into silent laughter. Hamilton sat upright and blushed a deeper red.

“This isn’t funny, Colonel. None of this is funny. We have been out of work for almost a month, now, unable to move forward for fear of being arrested and you cannot find it within yourself to change your ways. I am in the midst of a divorce and away from my children, and all you can do is get drunk and bring women home to sleep with,” with each reasoning, Burr laughed harder, causing his guest to get angrier and angrier, “…and you could care less.”

Aaron reached out to caress the other man’s head again, and Alexander slapped him away.

“Stop it.”

Burr's smile still lingered and the alcohol made his eyes soft. “You watch yourself, General…” he murmured.

From the shower, a female voice called for Aaron and his smile broadened. He watched, with some satisfaction, Alexander purse his lips with disdain.

Chapter Text

Aaron was still drowsy from sleep as he held the phone close to his mouth, his words coming out in hushed, strained whispers. It had been two weeks since Albertina had left, and Bur was used to sleeping comfortable through the night. He'd barely fallen asleep, with an open book on his lap and dress slacks still on, when his phone woke him up.

“I want my cut, Aaron,” the shrewish female voice on the other end said.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about. I never promised you anything. That wasn’t part of the deal,” Aaron reasoned, his heart rate increasing. He felt inside his pockets for his wallet. On the other end of the line, the female sighed impatiently.

“What did you think this was, you idiot? Just some game you could play by yourself?”

“I didn’t think it needed to involve you any more,” he spat back.

“I was the one who gave you the idea,” she retorted angrily, “and now I need payment.”

“You don’t need anything, Eliza. Now leave me alone.”

Aaron tried to sound definitive, authoritative, but couldn’t muster the courage. In the next room, he heard Alexander cough in his sleep.

“You know that is untrue. If it weren’t for me, you wouldn’t have half the clients you got and would be in debt even deeper than you are now. It’s only fair—”

“—Nothing about this is fair. This whole thing was a mistake,” Burr lowered his voice and leaned back against his headboard, “I’m done associating with you. I’m going back to work on Monday and putting this all behind me.”

Eliza’s laughter cut him short. “Yeah right. You’ll be in debt again and you’ll need easy money, and you’ll come crawling back—”

“—No. I won’t. I’m serious. This is it.”

“You owe me money, Aaron, and I intend to get it.”

Aaron laughed in spite of himself, in spite of his situation. “Oh? And what exactly are you going to do to get it? Get that dolt husband of yours to come hunt me down? Please, Eliza, you’re embarrassing yourself.”

“You have no idea the people I have at my disposal, you selfish—”

“—You’re bluffing.”

It was Eliza’s turn to laugh, high and shrill. Something in the way she conducted herself made Aaron think she wasn’t quite bluffing. He remembered the noble positions her husband held before his untimely, violent and mysterious death, in their old lives, and his heart rate sped its pace.

“I’m not bluffing. And how dare you,” her voice became dangerous, “you think I don’t know how to play this game? Think of who you’re talking to, Aaron. This was my life.”

Aaron swallowed and closed his eyes, remaining silent for a moment; he rubbed his head.

“I didn’t mean to insult you.”

“Do you know how much damage control I had to do after you and that self-righteous peacock got caught? Do you know how much hush money I had to pay to Callender?”

“…What.” Burr's eyes sprung open and his heart leaped.

“Yes. You heard me. Hush money. To keep him from selling his story to the highest bidder. I protected you, Aaron. And this is how you repay me?”

“I didn’t ask you to do that, Eliza. I could have handled everything.”

Eliza laughed patronizingly again, knowing things the Colonel didn’t. “Of course you could have. Of course. Which is why you haven’t been able to show your face at work for the past month. Of course.”

In the hallway, the grandfather clock struck one a.m., and Theo coughed in her sleep.

“In any case, I’m the reason Callender never spilled the details.”

“My daughter begs to differ. She showed me his blog—”

Another high-pitched chuckle made Aaron clench his fists in frustration.

“His blog? Oh, Aaron. Like that could do any damage,” Eliza sighed and continued, “I told him what he could post. And that if he overstepped his boundaries, he wouldn’t get the hush money. He knows how to play this game, too.”

“He is going to betray you, Eliza.”

“He won’t if I can pay him.”

Aaron let out a frustrated growl. “God dammit, Eliza. I don’t have the money to give you.”

A moment of silence passed between them while the female on the other end synthesized the information, “What are you talking about, ‘you don’t have the money’? What the hell have you been doing for the past six months?”

Aaron sat quietly, thinking of an answer. It would be a lie to say he hadn’t made any money but much of it had gone to practical expenses. And sometimes, the dark eyed man mulled over in his mind, there was no need for money to pass hands.

“Aaron, are you still there? What do you mean you don’t have any money? What have you been doing since February? Just whoring as usual with nothing to show for it except for some heinous rash?"

“Would you shut the hell up for one second and let me answer?” Aaron snapped back, biting his lip nervously.

“Where is the money?”

Aaron exhaled.

“You slimy son of a bitch,” the woman continued her tirade through clenched teeth, “I am not going to let you screw me out of any more money. You owe this much to me and I’m coming to get it whether you’re ready or not.”

“What are you talking about?” Aaron responded.

“I’m going to come over there and get what is rightfully mine,” she answered angrily. Aaron could hear her rustling around, preparing her things, heard car keys jingle.

“Are you insane?” he spat. “It’s one in the morning. Do not come over here.”

“I’m coming over there and taking you to meet some friends of mine.” He heard a car door slam.

“Eliza, no.”

“I hope your daughter is a heavy sleeper.”

Before Aaron could respond, he heard the definitive click of the phone, signifying the end of their conversation. He breathed rapidly, searching quickly around his room for his jacket in order to meet Eliza outside.

Grabbing it, he ran quickly and as quietly as possible down the hallway, pausing once before Theo’s room. He debated opening the door and making sure she really was asleep, and hadn’t heard the entire conversation. Aaron closed his eyes and decided against it. In the room behind him, Alexander stirred again and a deadened, heavy weight hit the dark-eyed man in the chest.

His roommate had no success finding another place to live—and it wasn’t as though Alexander wasn’t looking. Quite the contrary, in fact. Hamilton had thrown him self whole-heartedly, as was his style, into finding a way to escape his--as he referred to it--prison. Aaron had not worked out his feelings on the matter, for the most part regretting the loss of an extra income to help split the rent.

A sharp clicking of heels ten minutes later shook him from his thoughts.

“Already?” He mused. “Jesus Christ, did she take a jet?”

He grabbed the door and flung it open as quickly and quietly as possible without giving Eliza the chance to pound on it. She stood staring at him with a murderous and desperate glint in her eyes.

“Let’s go. Now.” She said viciously, the moonlight casting sharp shadows, the hollows of her cheeks more noticable.

“Eliza,” Aaron drawled sarcastically, “What a pleasant treat to have you stop by on such an occasion. What a last-minute surprise.”

She grabbed his tie and clenched her jaw. “Get in the car.”

Aaron wiped the smile from his face and, with no other option than to acquiesce, followed the petite blonde down the stairs and into the dead night air, “What do you plan on doing with me, Eliza? I have nothing to offer you.”

“You and I both know that is untrue,” she responded through gritted teeth. She tightened the scarf around her neck and sat down in the drivers seat, motioning angrily for Aaron to get in.

“Let’s go, Aaron,” she yelled, her voice muffled by the glass windows. He closed his eyes and got into the passenger’s seat, exhaling. Aaron refused to allow himself to be intimidated by his old wife, but there was a part of him that she held with an iron grasp and lorded over him continuously.

“I am getting my money. And you are going to find a way to give it to me.”

“I cannot physically do that, Eliza.” Aaron reasoned, more annoyed than frightened. She started the car and backed out of the parking spot.

“Where are we going? Where are you taking me?”

“To meet my friends.”

“I don’t want to meet your friends. I want to go back to bed and I want you to leave me alone and forget this whole mess. This is ridiculous, come on, Eliza, you know that—”

“It is not ridiculous!” Eliza screamed, causing her male companion to jump. She slammed a hand against the steering wheel and ran a red light. “You stole from me, Aaron! You made me look like an old fool! You are not going to steal from me again and so help me god if I have to hunt you down every single day for the rest of my life you will repay me.”

Aaron caught his breath, still shaken from the recklessness with which Eliza drove. He regained his senses and with them, renewed anger.

“How many times do I have to tell you, I don’t have any money to give you. You’re going to drive off the Goddamned road—”

She reached over and slapped his face, awkwardly, one hand still clutching the wheel. “Did you screw those people for free, then?”

Aaron dodged another hand. “Get off me, you crazy—”

“—Then where is it? Do you know how much money you owe me, Aaron? The thousands of dollars you pilfered away on brainless schemes to satiate you in your senile old age? To regain some sense of importance?” She reached out and tried to hit him again; Aaron deftly avoided it.

In another few minutes’ worth of terrifying driving, the pair arrived at another set of apartments, much smaller and dingier than Aaron’s. Eliza huffed, red faced and furious, and got out of the car.

“Get out.”

“This isn’t where you live, Eliza. Where is this?”

“Don’t ask questions. Just shut up and follow me.”

“I thought you re-purchased your mansion, Eliza,” Aaron continued, ignoring her request. The Morris-Jumel mansion he spoke of, having undergone considerable renovations since the infamous couple inhabited it, now belonged to the state of New York. Aaron almost felt sorry for her.

“I would have re-purchased it,” Eliza began in her dangerously unhinged tone, “if I had any Goddamned money.”

She stomped through the parking lot to the entrance of the dingy brick building and flung a rusted door open, revealing a dark hallway and a set of stairs. She beckoned impatiently for Aaron to follow. Walking towards her, he saw in the corner of his eye a small syringe lying innocuously in a puddle. Several other articles of garbage laying scattered near the entrance gave Aaron all the impressions he needed.

“Eliza, where the hell are we?”

She refused to answer, and instead marched through the door.

“Is this a drug-house?”

“Of sorts,” Eliza answered coyly.

She let the door slam behind them and turned on a flickering, sickly green fluorescent light. The couple descended the metal stairs in front of them, like the stairs to Hell, and were faced with another door—bright red and shining. A rat scurried behind Aaron’s feet and he swore.

“Jesus Christ.”

Eliza reached out a thin arm dangling with sparking bracelets and knocked three times. From within, a male voice sighed and Aaron heard something drop. He grew nervous and tried, with every fiber of his being, to hide it.

“Don? Don, are you in there? It’s Eliza.”

Un moment, mon cher,” A darkened, muffled voice thick with a French accent called from within.

“Who is ‘Don’? Where are we? Where did you take me?” Aaron hissed to his female companion, dodging another rat. In front of them, the door knob turned and clicked open. In a split second, the couple faced a rather unattractive man who, despite an air of aristocracy, looked as though he’d lost quite a bit of weight in a short amount of time. His nose, by far the most prominent feature of his face, jutted out between two hollow cheekbones, giving him an air of effortless cruelty.

“Don,” Eliza breathed, and hugged him. From behind, another figure appeared: female, tall and slim, with a handsome, if somewhat hardened and masculine, face.

Bonjour, Eliza. Vous allez bien?” Don asked politely in thick French. He took one look at Aaron and smiled pointedly. “Qui est-ce—?”

Eliza laughed emptily. “This is Aaron Burr, Marquis. The man I was once married to. Who stole from me.”

The Marquis’ features darkened considerably and he stared at the pair for a moment, analyzing them. The slim female figure in the background walked forward and Aaron noticed with some distress her claw-like fingers and slightly scarred bottom lip. Aaron felt himself grown numb with realization.

“Does he speak French?” The Marquis asked, accent heavy.

“Badly,” Eliza answered, the empty smile still on her mouth. Aaron’s gut churned.

“Does he speak at all?” He asked again, this time baring his alarming teeth, filed to a slight point. The slim figure in the background covered her mouth and laughed softly.

“Yes. Yes I do speak.” Aaron held out his hand and the Marquis shook it, his grip weak and wet. Confused, Aaron faltered over his next sentence, trying to find the right words.

“Interesting to finally meet you face to face, Marquis,” Aaron offered, taking his hand back and wishing immediately to wash it, “After having heard so much about you.”

The two men regarded each other for a moment, taking in the reputation of the other one. The Marquis de Sade was, undoubtedly, more notorious than the delicate little black-eyed Colonel who, in the face of this specter, resembled an imp more than Satan. The Marquis smiled a cold grin once again and moved out of the doorway, raising an outstretched palm towards his pristine living room, and silently indicating they step inside.

Chapter Text

 

Aaron stared at the outstretched hand for a moment until Eliza nudged him.

“Go in, you idiot,” she hissed.

The Marquis turned on his heel and followed the other woman into the living room.

Nothing about the room indicated that the man who inhabited it was the patron saint of sadism; in fact it was rather drab. Here and there sat empty plates and coffee mugs, a half finished book, a journal, a laptop. Much like a basement, the windows were small and perhaps a foot tall, high up near the ceiling. The walls were obviously concrete, but painted a warm, pale hue. The floor was cold, dark, and wooden, but carefully covered with a large, lush Persian rug. The Marquis had, as best he could, carefully camouflaged the hideousness in which he lived.  

Aaron took in his surroundings rapidly, and looked at his watch.

“I’m afraid I can’t stay long, Marquis,” he managed, putting his clammy hands in his pockets, “I have a daughter to look after.”

“I know,” responded the other man in a voice that made Aaron’s fists clench. “The lovely Madame Jumel has told me all about her. How smart she is. How clever. They say she can beat a man at his own game.”

“That was my intention. To make her smart enough to outwit false flattery and charms.”

The Marquis turned again and smiled at Burr, then disappeared into the kitchen, leaving behind the tall woman.

“I am his wife, Renée,” she began, bowing her head slightly. Aaron mimicked her and Eliza casually seated herself on the couch as if she’d done it a hundred times.

“Please don’t be afraid to sit, Mr. Burr,” Renée continued, a false smile pasted on her tight features. She raised her own thin hand to the couch, claw-like nails glistening in the dim light, and Aaron acquiesced. At that moment, the Marquis emerged from the kitchen with steaming drinks. Eliza yawned and took one off the tray, sipping it, eyes closed.

“It’s tea, Aaron. For Christ’s sake,” she nudged him again and he took a mug. Renée seated herself on a single chair across from them and crossed her legs.

“As if I would try and poison my best workers,” the Marquis grinned and sipped his own drink. Suddenly, Aaron became very aware of the infernal ticking of the clock on the wall behind him. His hand grasped the mug tightly.

“‘Workers’? I’m sorry, Marquis, I don’t understand.”

“You and Eliza, of course,” he responded. Eliza cleared her throat and cut in.

“Stephen and I met the Marquis and his wife last year, while vacationing in Paris,” she said, affecting an air of false aristocracy. “Well, naturally, he and Stephen hit it off right away, being men of the world—”

Aaron stopped himself from scoffing and sipped his hot drink.

“—When the Marquis expressed irritation at being shunned by those awful Jacobins who once offered him patronage, Stephen and I suggested he come to New York with us and spend some time here. In a much freer society.”

“Indeed, I think this the most marvelous and fascinating city mankind has yet created,” the Marquis cut in, rolling up his shirtsleeves to reveal another sleeve of blurry, black tattoos. Aaron eyed them nervously. “Though the very thought of cities makes me cringe. Human beings living atop one another, crammed together like lobsters in a fetid tank. Positively beastly.”

At this, Eliza’s smile faded slightly. “Oh, New York isn’t that bad.”

Renée nodded in agreement and tapped her fingernails against the arm of her chair. “You said yourself, my dear, that this would be a perfect opportunity to study the character of man under stressful circumstances.” Something in her voice inspired Aaron with immediate pity.

“And stressful they are,” Aaron found his voice once again, swallowing the hot tea. All eyes fell upon him and he continued. “It was a pleasure meeting you, Marquis, but considering it the middle of the night, I really must be getting home.”

Without speaking, the Marquis shook his head. Then, “You owe me money, Mr. Burr. I can abide a great many things,” he spoke with confidence, “but theft is not one of them.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Aaron responded. “I have no money to give.”

“You are a prostitute, Mr. Burr. Eliza has told me everything. Told me of your dire circumstances. You needn’t be shy with me.” The Marquis grinned darkly and cocked his head to the side.

“I never asked her to involve you,” the dark-eyed Colonel hissed, quickly losing his patience. “She did that of her own accord. I am done with that infernal profession, and done here.”

He stood up and nodded to Renée, who sat calmly with her drink, and the Marquis, whose infernally patient smile caused Aaron to pause.

“What is so funny?”

“Why be ashamed?”

“Ashamed of what?” Aaron stopped his movement and looked around the dank room. “You’re asking me why I should be ashamed of what I’ve gotten myself into? You mean whoring myself out, and placing myself in positions of danger, making myself answerable to the likes of you?”

Eliza lowered her eyes and stared nervously into her drink, while the Marquis and his wife exchanged looks.

“Did you enjoy yourself?” The Marquis asked simply, locking his stare with the Colonel’s. Aaron faltered.

“I…what do you mean, ‘did I enjoy myself’? What business is that to you?”

“I meant what I asked. Did you enjoy yourself?”

The Colonel paused again and broke his stare, looking down at the ground. He could not answer the question. As if answering for him, the Marquis stood up. Trailing his hand along the back of his sofa and walking towards his wife, he spoke.

“Because if you enjoyed yourself, if you gained even a small amount of pleasure from your experiences,” the Marquis locked eyes pointedly with the small, dark haired man, “then they were not a waste. And you shouldn’t be ashamed of them.”

“I don’t want to discuss this any further. We are through here.”

“You do owe Madame Jumel money, Mr. Burr,” the Marquis continued, his voice growing more stern, “and it would be an insult for you not to repay it. Theft is inexcusable.”

Eliza looked up at Aaron and nodded. A small memory nagged at him and he remembered Alexander, asleep on the uncomfortable futon. An even smaller memory forced to the forefront of his mind’s eye the tiny white envelope of money he altruistically—stupidly, Aaron’s brain corrected itself—refused. What had been the point of that?

“You are thinking something. Deciding something. What is it?” The Marquis’ harsh voice cut Aaron’s thought short. Renée’s tapping nails continued, keeping time. Aaron took inventory of his surroundings, finally sitting down once again, next to Eliza.

He exhaled while the others waited.

“I stopped accepting payment because I felt debased,” the Colonel started, in a voice so soft, the Marquis leaned in closer to listen, “I thought if I just stopped accepting payment, and stopped searching for clients, I could cease this ridiculous business and continue with my life and occupation through more traditional means. I told you both, I had no idea Eliza involved you.”

The tiny smile returned to the Marquis’ face, and once again Aaron felt the heavy hands of duplicity wrap themselves around his neck.

“There is no such thing as a free lunch, Mr. Burr. Or, in your case, a free screw.”

“You just stopped accepting payment?” Eliza asked, incredulous.

“Yes.”

She spoke in frustrated, high-pitched tones. “What is the matter with you? Why would you do that? My God, Aaron, I knew you were stupid—but this—this—is a whole new level of absurdity.”

Aaron sat mute, refusing to acknowledge the insult.

“Did you think that by not accepting payment it would make you any less pathetic?” Eliza raged further, slamming her empty mug on the glass table in front of her. “Please tell me you didn’t let that prick Hamilton screw you for free.”

At this, the Marquis let out a short laugh, like a quill tearing through parchment.

“There are some pleasures money can’t buy, right?” He smiled at Burr, who avoided every gaze. Eliza covered her mouth, her visage darkening into a nameless, loathsome emotion.

“Eliza—my dear Madame Jumel—Nature does not attach enough importance to the fluid in our loins to be enraged at the route we make our fluid take. Let Mr. Burr have his fun.” The Marquis paused just long enough to make Aaron raise his head in curiosity. “But for heaven’s sake, Mr. Burr, I would advise you get at least some compensation for your troubles.”

“But my money! What about my payment? He owes me—” Eliza spoke up.

“You know my views on prostitution, Madame Jumel,” the Marquis responded, then directed his words to Aaron. “Legalize it, I say. And bring it forward into the sunlight, so to speak, as a natural part of life. There is no shame in it, Mr. Burr, getting money for sexual favors. As I said before, theft is the real crime here.”

Finally, Aaron spoke in his defense. “What has she told you?”

“That you married her and stole her fortune. Like a common criminal.” The Marquis sat down again, leaned back in his chair and steepled his fingers, his rings glistening. He directed his next words to no one in particular.

“If this is Hell, and it surely is, then here and now is when you make your payments for all the wrongs you committed.”

Burr felt himself grow hot—wondered in what universe it was appropriate for him to be defending himself against a creature such as Sade.

“She married me for the spectacle,” he pointed to Eliza, whose eyes widened in anger, “She married me for my name. And for attention. And I still don’t see what any of this has to do with you, if you’ll pardon my confusion, other than the fact that my ex-wife has atrocious taste in friends.”

“That was unnecessary,” purred the Marquis. After a long bout of silence, Renée spoke up.

“She came to us because her husband and mine became friends with one another. And after learning about the Marquis’ stance on crime, punishment, and the so-called sin of prostitution, Madame Jumel could not help but employ him in an effort to regain what she’d lost.”

“This is unbelievable. This is entrapment.” Aaron sputtered, running a hand through his hair and catching the time on his watch—nearly two thirty.

At this, the Marquis exchanged glances with his wife and laughed.

“I’m sorry, is something funny?” Eliza spoke up before Aaron could, who was equally as confused.

“I once held a firm belief that it should not be the thief who is punished, but rather the one who was stolen from. Because how lazy does one have to be to allow thousands of dollars to be taken from them?”

Aaron furrowed his eyebrows. “What are you talking about—”

“—In a Republic that encourages equality, I mean,” the Marquis talked over him, “as your American experiment so professed. But living here, among such atrocious and blatant inequality, I cannot help but laugh at that particular notion. I don’t care for the incessant, puerile bickering between two pseudo-aristocrats. What’s it to me if this woman gets her money back?”

“Marquis,” Eliza began, laughing nervously, “You told me you would help me—”

“—I am helping you, you simpering idiot,” The Marquis’ tone changed in a mercurial second, from playful to scathing. Aaron burned with embarrassment and the Marquis pointedly locked his violent stare onto Eliza, whose smile had all but faded. “But let this be a lesson to you both.”

“I don’t understand!”

“You knew the sort of man Mr. Burr was when you married him, didn’t you?”

Eliza stammered an inarticulate response; Aaron felt himself flush with rage.

“Didn’t you?” He pressed on.

“Well, yes, I did, but—”

“—But nothing, Madame,” the Marquis leaned forward in his seat and bared his teeth dangerously while his wife watched him with mild interest, “if you lay down with dogs, you will attract fleas.”

“You lied to me!” Eliza stood, furious. “You lied to me!”

Renée blinked once and interrupted in a low voice, ”He never promised you anything, Madame. This should serve as a lesson to you. And this poor man.” She raised a pointed hand toward Aaron, who sat motionless and humiliated, with a grin on her face that could only be described as sadistic.

With a rustle of irritated movement, Eliza pulled her purse onto her shoulder and maneuvered around the couch, wanting to leave. Aaron stood and watched her, unsure what to say.

“As far as theft is concerned, Mr. Burr,” at the sound of his name, Aaron raised his eyes to meet the Marquis’, “I am not a patient man. Nor am I a forgiving one. If I suspect that I have been the dupe in this tedious, unsophisticated game between you and Madame Jumel—if I suspect that I have been the unfortunate victim of theft, and being deprived of funds which are owed me—I can assure you my views on thievery and the punishment thereof will change very, very rapidly.”

As if the power of his words were a thick blanket, the room deadened and silenced while Aaron breathed heavily.

“Is that a threat?” He hissed. “You are not my pimp.”

Eliza took a deep, worried breath, and tugged at Aaron’s sleeve. “Let’s just go. I will talk to him later. Let’s go.”

The Marquis raised his thin eyebrows and smiled enigmatically, shrugging. For the first time in quite a while, Aaron felt the cold stone of regret settle ominously in his chest.

It took a moment for his anger to set in. He didn’t know if it was from the brisk night air that slapped him in the face as soon as they stepped outside, or Eliza’s shrill voice, trying to justify the situation. But halfway to the car, Aaron made his concerns known.

“How could you have been so stupid, Eliza?” He shouted into the dark, breaths coming out short and labored. He lifted his hand and pointed towards the dingy brick building behind them. “How could you get mixed up with people like that? How could you be in debt to a man like him?”

Eliza opened and closed her mouth, trying to find an answer. Aaron stood with his arm outstretched, chest rising and falling in anger.

“Well?”

“I didn't know he would change his mind!” She looked around frantically.

Aaron swore and covered his face, pressing his features together, while Eliza hovered nervously near her car.

“What did you think would happen?”

“Aaron, I don’t know!”

“Did he mean what he said? Or what he implied?” Aaron asked, rushed, walking towards the car. Eliza still could not answer him, and threw herself into the car quickly, shivering. She remained silent, uncharacteristically pensive, for the entire ride, leaving Aaron alone in his thoughts.

Chapter Text

 

Aaron did not thank his driver as he stepped out of the car, checking his watch instead and bemoaning the fact that it was nearly four am. Eliza could not have cared less, with a soft swear under her breath she turned the key in the ignition and sped off to confront her husband and relay the news: that they had been duped, and unless Aaron found a way to repay the money he owed, they would have hell to deal with.

He watched her speed away, the darkness closing in on him again. He tried to retrace his steps, find out where he had gone wrong, and could not. He replayed over and over again, in his mind, the frigid winter afternoon when Eliza had come to him, berating him into submission—laying out before him the option for easy wealth—and like a fool he believed her. Aaron scratched his head and closed his eyes. And now, it was not just he who was involved. It was Alexander. And Theo.

His hand touched the cold metal doorknob in front of him and turned it a fraction of an inch to the right, before another presence flung it open from the inside. Immediately, Aaron could hear sounds of retching coming from the bathroom.

“Where the hell have you been?” Hamilton spat, hair askew and night-clothes rumpled. Aaron opened his mouth in shock.

“What is going on? Why are you awake?”

“It’s Theo,” he answered, turning his back to the dark eyed man and walking briskly towards the bathroom, “She has been vomiting continuously. For an hour. I’m taking her to the hospital.”

Burr was silent for a moment, taking the new information in.

“What?”

“I said she’s been sick for almost an hour, Colonel,” Alexander called from the bathroom irritated. Emerging a moment later, he held a pale, shivering Theo close to him, wrapping her in a blanket. Her face lit up at the entrance of her father.

“Dad,” she smiled, whispering hoarsely and shaking free from Alexander and the blanket. “Dad, I don’t know what happened. It started out as a little cough and then—”

“—Shh, it’s alright. You don’t have to explain, Theo,” Aaron hugged her, still dazed. He looked at Alexander, brows furrowed.

“Why didn’t you call me?” He said acidly, clutching his daughter.

“I did, Colonel,” he responded, losing his patience and pulling a cell phone from his pocket, “but you left your phone here. Wherever God-forsaken place you were headed, you must have been in a hurry.”

“Don’t speak to me like that in front of my daughter, General,” Burr snapped back, speaking over Theo’s coughing fit.

“Don’t disappear in the middle of the night without taking your cell phone with you, or at least leaving a note, when your daughter is sick and vomiting.”

Aaron clenched his teeth and squeezed the unfortunate teenager tighter, causing her coughs to increase.

“Mind your own business for once, General, and stop passing judgments—”

“—Stop giving me cause to judge you so harshly and maybe I will!” Hamilton raised his voice and threw the cell phone onto the couch nearby. Theo flinched and tried to pry herself free from her father’s grasp, her face turning a sickly shade of green.

“Stop trying to make me live my life by your impossibly saintly standards—” Burr shouted, pausing only when Theo finally shook herself free and fled to the bathroom. He watched her slam the door and flick the fan on, exhaling nervously. Before him stood Alexander, chewing his lip, in a rage.

“Are you going to tell me where you’ve been, then?” He asked, trying to hide his annoyance.

“It’s none of your business.”

Hamilton scoffed and grabbed the nearest coat, throwing it on absentmindedly.

“I don’t care, you know that? I really don’t,” he responded, grabbing his car keys. “Are you coming with us?”

Aaron nodded numbly, the levity of events quickly taking shape in his mind. Alexander softened his features and walked towards his roommate, regretting his vitriol.

“Colonel, she will be alright. Modern medicine will take good care of her.” Out of habit, Hamilton reached out and put a hand on his shoulder, concern still heavy in his eyes. “But we need to act quickly. I think she is dehydrated.”

Aaron nodded again, in a daze. “Dehydrated.”

“Yes. Come on, I’ll drive.”

In another minute, Theo emerged from the bathroom covering her face with a wet wash cloth. The two men looked at her as she walked past silently, towards the kitchen, where she placed the cloth in the sink and stood over it. She inhaled deeply to catch her breath and closed her eyes.

“Theo…?” Alexander started towards her, “Theo? Are you alright? Why don’t you head out to the car and I can take you to the emergency room.”

Reaching the sink, he wrapped an arm around the sick girl and handed her a jacket.  Without looking at Aaron, Alexander grabbed his bag and headed out the door.

----------

The bleak fluorescent lighting stung Aaron’s eyes. Everywhere he looked his senses were assaulted with the pristine, ghastly white found only in hospitals, that gave him a slight headache. He put his head down, into his hands, and exhaled. Next to him sat Alexander, who flicked through a book on his phone absentmindedly.

“She’ll be alright, Colonel, there is no need to worry,” he murmured sternly. He broke his gaze from his phone and looked over at Burr, who appeared to ignore him.

If Aaron were being truthful to himself, it wasn’t his daughter’s current situation that lay most heavily on his mind.

“Are you going to ignore me?” Alexander asked, shutting his phone down. “I told you, I don’t care where you’ve been. I know you well enough to make assumptions,” he added bitingly.

“Just stop talking,” Aaron whispered back, defeated. His mind raced with the events of the previous several hours and he was in no mood for a lecture.

“I’m not going to judge you, Colonel. I’m…” Alexander stared off into the space in front of him, at nothing in particular, “…I apologize for being so brusque. Considering the circumstances.”

He finished his thought with a sigh, and watched a little boy pound a vending machine in the corner of the waiting room. His father, face bright and smiling, talked excitedly on a cell phone, nodding his head up and down and loosening his tie. Faintly, Alexander made out the topic of conversation: a new birth. The little boy smacked his tiny, pudgy hand against the glass harder.

“I know it isn’t your temperament to discuss these things, but,” the Nevisian continued to watch the innocent child, thoughts plain and unmasked on his soft features, figure out how to get a candy bar for free, “I do know what it’s like to lose a child. Every November, Philip and I set aside his day—”

“—Now you're being theatrical.” Burr cut him off, raising his head and his gaze to the father and son in the waiting room, where the little boy had seated himself in front of the vending machine with a small toy truck. He took a deep breath and dreaded the explanation he knew he’d have to give.

Hamilton merely nodded. Burr bit his tongue, and swallowed his pride.

“I am in a lot of trouble, General,” he stared blankly ahead. A moment of silence passed between them, Alexander digesting the words.

“Does it have anything to do with where you were tonight?” He asked cautiously. He eyed the other man slowly, trying to figure him out.

“Yes,” Aaron covered his face, rubbed his eyes, “and the situation we’re in.”

Hamilton felt his stomach sink. In the distance, the father laughed on the phone and his son mimicked him.

“What do you mean?”

“It involves Eliza—Eliza Jumel, you remember her—and money. I owe her money.”

Alexander squinted his eyes and sat up straighter, using every ounce of strength he possessed to hide the feelings that arose in his gut. 

“The means by which she’s going to acquire it are,” Aaron responded, his own stomach churning. “You know the sorts of people she associates with. Her and Stephen. Some very unscrupulous characters.”

“Please get to the point, Colonel,” Hamilton pressed him further, worry spreading out over his features. The intercom called for another doctor and several nurses rushed past them, chatting happily.

Aaron took another deep breath. There was no way around the confession—and if there were, he would have found it.

“It would appear that, since Eliza takes credit for…getting me into the business I currently am in…she demands a cut of the money I made and has involved violent people in order to achieve her ends. Albeit unknowingly. She was duped, just as I have been.” Aaron put his head in his hands again and the rest of his words came out muffled. “Callender and the Virginians are the least of our troubles. At least for now.”

Alexander let out a deep breath, akin to a deflating balloon, shaking his head.

It was this sort of toneless, expressionless reaction Burr feared the most in Hamilton. When the latter man was manic, he was at least predictable in his mania. When he was low and depressed, predictable in his sorrow. Burr waited nervously for his companion to speak.

“She’s gotten you involved with a pimp and now he wants money,” Alexander said, anger seeping into his voice. The dark eyed man sat silently, until the only noise in the room was the man on the phone, the small boy banging his truck against the glass of the candy machine and the intermittent intercom. He cringed as one of the fluorescent lights in the corner began to flicker annoyingly.

“What are you not telling me, Colonel Burr?” Alexander sat up directly, an aura of authority overcoming him. This is it, the voice in his head warned him, this is where you must also come clean.

“She is involved with a Frenchman—”

“—What?”

“—She and Stephen met him while vacationing in Paris last year—”

“—Colonel Burr…” Alexander stammered weakly, cutting his companion’s explanation short, “…please, please tell me you haven’t involved yourself with anyone criminal.”

Somewhere, Hamilton did not recall where, he had read a dissertation on the changeability of the French republic. He remembered scoffing, highlighting key points. Five republics, Alexander remembered further, the French have had five. The thought made him almost nauseous. He had never trusted the French and was vindicated, or so he assumed, by this turn of history. Alexander stared at the man next to him and the memories of a bloody summer—fever in Philadelphia and feverish bloodshed in Paris—whirred around his mind in violent abstraction.

“Please don’t tell me…Colonel Burr…” he tried to collect his thoughts.

Aaron nodded silently, gaze still averted. He had not confessed the worst part.

“Who are the Jumels in debt to?”

“De Sade.”

The icy block of fear hit Hamilton in his chest fiercely, “What did you say?”

“I said the Jumels are working with the Marquis de Sade.”

Around him, the patrons of the hospital continued to move and talk, blurred, and Alexander could only half-way articulate what was happening. Slowly Aaron pieced together his story while his head hung in shame, details the general already knew, that corroborated their simultaneous downfall; that he’d have to repay the money, that Hamilton was directly involved in said payment, and that the Marquis de Sade was not exactly known for his gentle nature. The father laughed on the phone loudly, and the small boy shrieked in unison. From down the hall, an exhausted woman was rolled out on a wheelchair carrying triplets. The father hung up the phone and burst into tears.

“I should have never gotten involved with you,” Hamilton finally forced himself to speak, his voice strained with a self-inflicted sadness. “I should have known…I should have known…”

At this, Burr finally lifted his gaze to the haggard man next to him, “General, I swear to God…I swear on my honor…I won’t let anything happen to you or your family. Please believe me—”

“—She is asking too much. This is too much.” It was Alexander’s turn to cover his face.

“You have to understand, I thought I was acting alone. I had no idea—”

Alexander quickly turned his gaze to the other man and whispered, pointedly, “—This is too much.“

“I will get the money. I will pay the Marquis,” Burr's voice took on a desperate, begging inflection, “I won’t let anything happen to you or your family or Theo.”

Alexander closed his eyes once again and swallowed a block of emotion in his throat. He remembered, with random clarity, pithy sayings about extraordinary events happening not at all, or all at once. Hamilton grew tired of comparing events in his life to hurricanes.

Chapter Text

 

“Excuse me, are you Theodosia’s father?” A tall, smooth-faced doctor approached the two men who still sat in the lobby, unaware of whathad just taken shape between them. Aaron stood at the sound of his daughter’s name.

“I am. I’m Aaron,” through force of habit he reached out a hand and the doctor shook it, his expression kind. In an instant, Alexander stood next to him.

“I’m his legal associate. Here for moral support,” Hamilton managed, with a strained grin. The doctor nodded at him.

“How is Theo? Will she be ok? What was wrong with her?” Aaron’s words came out rushed, worried. The doctor’s face softened considerably.

“She will be perfectly fine, Aaron. It seems to be nothing more than some unfortunate food poisoning. Nothing a little sleep won’t fix. But she’ll have to stay here for the next couple hours. Make sure you call her school and let them know she’ll be out for the day. She was severely dehydrated and we’d like to keep her under observation.”

Aaron sighed and let his shoulders slump.

“But she’ll be alright?” Alexander cut in.

“Yes. Of course.”

“May we see her?” He added.

The doctor shook his head. “I’m afraid not. She’s sleeping at the moment, and will need to rest."

Alexander nodded slowly and chewed his lip, his mind racing frantically.

“Thank you, doctor. Thank you,” he muttered, nudging Aaron to keep walking. Alexander watched as the other man drifted towards the exit. The Nevisian took one last look at the small boy, now being ignored in favor of his three new siblings, and sighed longingly.

The next time the two men dared speak to each other was when they arrived at the apartment, silently mulling over the events of the past several hours. Hamilton, holding back a deluge of emotions, slammed the door in an effort to articulate his mood.

“So now what?”

Aaron kicked off his shoes and threw himself, fully dressed, onto the living room couch. He placed a hand over his eyes, wanting to drown. He felt Alexander’s presence pace the room heatedly; could, even with out looking at him, sense the tremble in his chest at the thought of being in debt to another nefarious couple. It was no use, thought Aaron, trying to explain that even most modern French politicians were no different—no more or less unscrupulous—than the Revolutionary ones he insisted on damning.

”You’re not just going to sleep now, are you? How can you even think of sleep at a time like this?” Hamilton walked briskly over to the couch and leaned down next to his roommate.

“I’m sleeping because I am physically, mentally… thoroughly…exhausted. I can’t think. I couldn’t find a way out of this even if I tried.” Burr felt his throat tighten and stopped himself from speaking further. Letting silence descend between them he felt the rapid, rhythmic pattern of Alexander’s breath lightly against his cheekbone, and turned away, ashamed. Alexander stood up and looked down on him.

“Colonel Burr.”

Aaron did not answer him. Hamilton closed his eyes and took a deep, shaking breath.

“Colonel Burr.”

“What.”

“You have to find a way out of this.” His tone was stern, almost fatherly. Burr chafed at the inflection, and finally turned his head to face the pleading eyes that never failed to shake him.

“Yes, thank you, General, for pointing that out. I never would have figured out how much trouble I’d gotten myself into if it weren’t for your dauntless determination in the face of terror. Thank you.”

“There is no need to be rude,” Alexander responded before Aaron could finish his tirade. “Laying there in misery will not bring you profit in any sense. You need to get back to work.”

At this, Aaron shot up.

“You don’t think I know that?” He raised his voice, disregarding the fact that it was quite early and neighbors would still be asleep. “The whole reason I got involved in this blasted business in the first place was to bring in more money.” He raised an arm, gesticulating, and Alexander stepped back.

“There are better ways to get money other than selling yourself, Colonel,” he shot back, furrowing his eyebrows, “You’ve always been lazy. Always. Always looking for the easy way out, the easy buck. And now it’s caught up with you.”

The black eyed man growled in frustration and threw himself back down on the couch, “She never told me she’d involved anyone else. She made it seem like I would be working for just her.”

“There is always someone waiting to get paid,” Hamilton reasoned loudly, “there is no such thing as a free lunch.”

At this, Aaron closed his eyes and laughed sardonically,“You’re one to talk, General, the john of the ages.”

Alexander spun around, “What did you just call me? If it weren’t for you and your self-righteous mind games—if you would have just taken the money from me when I offered it the first time instead of trying to make me feel like a guilty—”

Burr sat up in a flash, “—Would you please stop acting like you’re the only victim here?“

Alexander’s eyes widened, “I can’t believe you would try and blame this on me. That you would find a way to justify the situation you’ve gotten yourself into. I thought you had learned your lesson.”

Hamilton felt the words leave his mouth before he could stop them; felt their effect before he knew how to control it. The final sentence echoed through the darkened, pre-dawn living room like empty church bells, their weighty meaning reverberating in Aaron’s ears.

He felt a disbelieving smile creep onto his mouth, “What?”

“Colonel Burr, I didn’t mean—”

“—So what you’re saying is—” Aaron laughed darkly to himself, “—I deserve all this. All of this. What has happened to me and what could happen.”

“That’s not what I meant.” Alexander shot back, absentmindedly groping a persistent, if dull, pain on the lower right side of his abdomen. He fixed his rumpled shirt and continued. “I meant the money. The money you owe. To…him.”

Burr paced around the living room. “I don’t have the money because I never collected it in the first place.”

“I don’t know how you knew it, quite frankly, but that was the most manipulative thing you could have done,” Hamilton muttered.

Burr shut himself off completely, refused to articulate the thoughts brimming over in his mind. He walked into the kitchen and poured himself a glass of water, Alexander watching him with curiosity.

There had been no time to discuss the events that had transpired between them after the steam had faded from the cold glass windows and the hotel bill had been paid discreetly. Why should there be, reasoned Burr to himself. He tried desperately to cling to the thoughts that flew around his head like some rare island bird. It was a convoluted, ridiculous thing, his logic, but it made sense to him. He didn’t accept the money in the tiny flat envelope because he didn’t want to be just a whore.

“Are you listening to me?”

Alexander’s voice cut short Aaron’s train of thought. He looked up, slightly shaken.

“Yes. Yes, I’m listening.”

“I said the first step is getting back to work, and bringing in a paycheck again. I’ve already used up all of my vacation time and then some. So have you.”

“I know.”

“So we will have to take on extra cases, work longer hours, in order to meet the sums...he’s…requesting. I’m assuming it’s—”

“—If my calculations are correct it’s several thousand. Three. Four. I can work the math out later.” Aaron responded from the kitchen, broken.

For a moment Alexander watched him, trying to discern why, exactly, human beings persisted in trying to measure their own worth in dollars.

Hamilton sighed again and sat down on the couch where Burr had once been. He decided not to press the matter further for fear of losing his roommate’s interest—or his resolve—and picked up a magazine from the coffee table to flip through it idly. In the kitchen, he could hear Aaron beginning to make coffee and Alexander rubbed exhaustion from his eyes.

Several minutes of silence passed and the sounds of a strong, percolating French roast dripping into a hot glass pot drifted throughout the apartment.

“I have to call Theo’s school and tell them she won’t be in today.” Aaron sat at a bar stool in the kitchen, back to the other man.

“That is probably a good idea.”

“It’s only five-thirty, though. I should wait until at least eight.”

From the couch, Alexander grunted his approval, his own agenda heavy on his mind. He had ruled out starting back at work again until he’d had a chance to get a good night’s sleep, but that certainly didn’t mean his day would be a leisurely one. He waited a few moments more for Aaron to continue talking and when he was met with only silence, walked over to the empty stool and sat down beside him. For a full three minutes, the men watched the coffee drip loudly into the pot, never saying a word.

“I’m going to try and speak with Betsey again. Soon.”

Aaron turned his head to his right, where the other man sat.

“To what purpose?” He tried not to sound discouraging.

Alexander shrugged. “I miss my children terribly. I miss her.”

The black-eyed man turned back to face the pot and nodded indeterminately, watching as the last drips filled the glass container and the brewing process finished. At this, he stood up and walked over to it, pouring himself a cup.

“Did you want any…?” He faced his roommate, who nodded thankfully.

“Colonel—” He began, accepting his mug.  Burr walked back over to his stool, watching his roommate. Hamilton cleared his throat and took a sip, his confession failing him. “I’m sorry for all of your troubles. I truly am.”

“Thank you.”

“We will find a way out of this,” Alexander added solemnly.

Aaron did not answer him, but stared ahead aimlessly.

Gradually, light from the approaching dawn filled the kitchen from pale blue to a warmer peach as the men sipped their coffee in silence. The dark-eyed man wondered what happened to the peevish Alexander of one month ago, determined to teach Aaron a lesson at all costs—forcing himself into the apartment and refusing to compromise. He decided not to press the matter, preferring to consider it a momentary aberration on the Nevisian’s decent character. It would have been a lie, mused Aaron to himself, to say he would rather be alone.

Chapter Text

 

Aaron stared at the newspaper ad for eleven seconds before realizing it applied to him. At first he smiled at it, knowingly, and then laughed softly to himself. He sipped his coffee, took inventory of his drab, cold apartment, and listened to the autumn rain hit the window in the kitchen with driving force. All these things served as distractions, in a way, but the address and the purpose of the ad stuck with him all day.

Theo bounded out of her bedroom more energetic than usual, and Aaron shut the paper quickly.

“You’re awfully chipper this morning,” he smiled at her politely. His daughter made her way to the kitchen stool and leaned on it.

“I see you found the paper. Good. Good.”

“I always read the paper.”

“I specifically laid it out for you, and opened it to that page.” Theo looked at him knowingly with large black eyes and he felt himself grow warm with embarrassment.

“You…you put this here?” He asked, remembering the ad he’d been struck by several minutes earlier. His daughter was sharp, a wise old soul to whom nothing was shocking, but this particular ad was even more embarrassing than Aaron would care to admit.

“Yes! Do you see?” She tugged the paper out from underneath his elbow and pointed a finger to a completely different advertisement. Aaron exhaled.

“Do you see, dad? You can take classes at this hardware place. DIY classes, like masonry and stuff. I know you said you wanted to try repairing the fireplace.” Theo prattled happily, grinning at her find.

“Oh, yes. Of course,” Aaron responded softly, looking at the tiny print. His eyes, naturally, strayed to the first block of text he’d seen that morning. It wouldn’t leave him alone.

Theo stood up and kissed her father on the head.

“You’re not going to go there, are you.”

“Well, I might…I am very busy at the office, you know…” Aaron responded, voice muffled by the coffee mug. His daughter looked at him, slightly disappointed.

“You have to get out and meet people, Dad,” she began, “you can’t just lock yourself in that awful practice all day with no one to talk to and then go to some bar and—”

“—Shouldn’t you be running along to school?” Aaron folded the newspaper and tucked it under his arm.

“Promise me you’ll at least give it a shot.”

The older man sighed and stood up, stretching.

“Theo, I appreciate what you are trying to do, but I don’t want to socialize with these people. I will have nothing in common with them.”

The daughter looked crestfallen as she picked up her book bag from the table by the door. Aaron put a hang gently on her back.

“I will be fine, Theo,” he reassured her. She didn’t answer him, or look back for affirmation, as she closed the door. Aaron sighed again, and looked at the folded newspaper. He had thought about meeting people. But most of the people he met were modern, unacquaintedand unfamiliar with his habits and personality. He didn’t despise them, but he knew he could never truly fit in. But human needs hadn’t changed, and never would, and so with more and more frequency the company he kept became just that: a necessary part of biology. Not something he particularly enjoyed. Just warm bodies, again and again and again.

He looked at the advertisement.

——

Anyone who knew Burr for more than a day would notice that he was not a talker, but an observer. After drinking, or when the company was right, he knew he could get silly or frivolous. But he was a serious man at heart, and always had been. And had never been comfortable with gross displays of emotion. The woman next to him, a small gray haired, tan skinned female in her mid forties, wept openly into a tissue while Aaron squirmed.

He watched the rest of the group silently.

There were only two other women in the group of seven (seven including himself, he corrected mentally). The tan woman to his left (still weeping), a silent, hollow eyed, sunken-cheeked unattractive female of about thirty-five and a petite brunette who smiled warmly at him. The other three members were men: a man to his right (fat, ungainly, tiny blue eyes), a tall, athletic fellow of about forty-five who toyed with his wedding ring nervously and another man who eyed the petite brunette every so often with a look Aaron knew well.

The leader of the group was a women perhaps a few years younger. Aaron stared at her, studied her when he had a chance, but her dark, hawk-like eyes caught everything. Her hair was short, graying and mousy, but her overall countenance was intimidating and strong. Aaron liked her in a second.

“It’s like…it’s like I can’t help myself,” the tan-skinned woman whined, dabbing her nose. Aaron wanted desperately to roll his eyes. She continued, “I see someone—they don’t even have to be attractive—and I get this longing inside of me, this feeling of emptiness. And if I think about it for even a moment, I use again.”

The leader of the group, who preferred the professional moniker Dr. Blood, watched the tan woman with narrowed eyes.

“You realize, Patricia,” Dr. Blood began with a motherly curve to her voice, “that you have the power to overcome this. Coming to this meeting, in fact, is the first step in beating this way of life. It shows you have a desire deep within you.”

Dr. Blood was English, and Aaron liked hearing the lilt of a foreign accent. He tuned in and paid attention.

“But it’s so hard,” Patricia said through a tissue, “it’s so hard. And I am so lonely.”

The rest of the group stared either at their hands or the floor; none could bring themselves to look at any other members. Aaron, on the other hand, looked from member to member and made more mental notes. This did not go unnoticed.

“Aaron? You haven’t said anything and we’ve been here for forty minutes.” Dr. Blood locked her sharp stare on the dark eyed man.

“I haven’t got anything to say, really.”

The athletic man cleared his throat, cutting through the otherwise silent room.

“Perhaps Patricia would feel stronger if she could hear others’ testimonials. That is, after all, what this group is about.” Dr. Blood responded.

Aaron shook his head and tried not to smile.

“I am not…addicted to sexual relations. I like sex.”

At this, the athletic man let out a derisive laugh. “Yeah, me too.”

Aaron shot him a look.

“I came here because I was curious. Not to recount my follies. Which are nobody's business, really.”

“We’ve only got five minutes left of the meeting, Aaron. Are you sure you don’t want to express yourself, at least once?” Dr. Blood cocked her head to the side. Though her countenance wasn’t cruel, Aaron reasoned, it certainly wasn’t warm.

Patricia sniffed and put a knowing hand on his leg. Aaron looked at it in shock and raised an eyebrow.

“It’s ok, Aaron,” she murmured, “we’ve all been where you are. It’s hard to recount them, when there are so many. We understand.”

The rest of the group nodded, and Aaron felt his temper flare.

“I see now that it was a mistake coming here,” he said, a little too loudly. Dr. Blood furrowed her brows and watched him stand up. “If you all don’t mind, I should like to be going.”

“You can’t hide from addiction,” Patricia looked up at him, “you have to face it sooner or later, or it will ruin your life.”

Dr. Blood looked at her watch and stood up a moment later.

“Since Aaron seems to think it’s time to end this, why don’t we just call it a night?”

Aaron looked at her, slightly annoyed. She didn’t seem to notice.

“I hope to see you all next week—right here, at the same time,” she said, nodding to each member as they stood up. They gathered their things and filed out the door one by one, wearing looks of hopelessness. The petite brunette made it a point to walk by Aaron and give him a smile, brushing her hand against his. A tell-tale invitation.

“I’m disappointed we didn’t get to hear from you tonight,” Dr Blood walked over to him, interrupting the lurid thoughts that had started to form in his mind, “usually we make first-timers tell more about themselves. I don’t like when newcomers are quiet.”

“Sorry,” Aaron muttered, watching the brunette leave. Dr. Blood persisted.

“Are you new in town?”

“What? No…no. I’ve lived here most of my life.”

She nodded at Aaron’s response, “Many times when we’ve lived in the same place our entire lives, we don’t notice when things start to get out of control. We just think ‘it’s always been like this, I’ll be fine’, and we don’t’ recognize when we need help—”

“—Madame,” Aaron began, giving her his full attention, “I do appreciate what you’re trying to do, but I assure you, after seeing these people tonight, I don’t have a problem. I am nothing like them.”

“I’ve heard that before.”

“No, no…you don’t understand—”

Dr. Blood held up her hand to silence him and pulled a card out of her pocket.

“You intrigue me, Mr Edwards,” she began. “I have an office right down the block. I see now that you’re not one to open up to a group, and perhaps coming here was a mistake—for you.”

Aaron took the card and looked at it. “You’re a psychiatrist.”

“I am. Specializing in sexual trauma, mainly in women.” She straightened her jacket. “But I am of the opinion that deep down, we are all the same beast.”

For the first time, Aaron really studied her. He wasn’t sure if it was the familiarity of her features that made him keep the business card, or the fact that she seemed so professional, but he slipped the tiny piece of paper into his pocket for further inspection. Aaron let a tiny smile play on his lips.

“I don’t know if I should be offended or not at the fact that you seem to think I need a doctor.”

“You came here first, Aaron,” Dr. Blood responded, picking up her purse from the seat beneath her. “Just know that if you need someone to talk to, someone who is sworn to secrecy by the integrity of her profession, you’ve got a chance.”

“May I have your first name?” Aaron asked. Dr. Blood nodded.

“If that would make you more comfortable, I don’t see why not. It’s Mary.”

Aaron smiled at her for a moment, turned on his heel and walked out the door.

Chapter Text

The waiting room was comforting in a drab sort of way, concluded Aaron as he waited for his name to be called. He fidgeted in his seat, straightened a pant leg, and looked at the clock. Four P.M., and he was just realizing that he hadn’t eaten lunch. The dark eyed man grabbed his stomach absentmindedly and tried to remember why he’d missed lunch. It was the practice; it was always the practice.

“You’re not just going to sit there and stare off into space, are you?” Hamilton asked him, several months ago, when their unprofessional relationship was still a secret to everyone but themselves, and God, perhaps. The general straightened his back, “Excuse me, Colonel, I am talking to you.”

“I heard you the first time,” Burr responded, loudly, slamming a book down so hard it brought Troup in from the other room.

“Then why don’t you do something,” Alexander’s eyes narrowed, angrily, and the fat-faced friend in the doorway glanced around quickly at the scene before him.

“What do you want, Bobby?” The two men at their desks spoke in annoyed unison, their voices overlapping one another’s. Troup threw up his hands silently, sarcastically, and backed out of the room.

“This is ridiculous. You’re being ridiculous,” Burr responded after their friend left, “If you have something to say to me, just say it, and quit with this childish petulance.” He reached behind him and shoved the book haphazardly onto a shelf, “And stop ordering me around.”

Hamilton watched him for a moment and then spoke up. “What is that supposed to mean?”

“Figure it out for yourself,” Aaron replied, standing up and checking his watch.

“You’re not thinking of leaving now, are you?” Alexander asked, his voice raising an octave in irritation. He looked down at the papers on his desk and shook his head. “We are not even close to being finished.”

“I don’t care. I can’t stay in this office with you anymore. I’m going for a walk.” Burr grabbed his coat and threw it on. Unable to respond, Hamilton sat in angry silence as he watched his partner leave, scattering two papers in his wake.

That was only one example of how Aaron occasionally, through no fault of his own, he reassured himself, missed lunch. His grumbling stomach brought him back down to earth as he watched the other patrons in the waiting room attempt to ignore one another. Finally, his own name was called and he stood up to walk into the small office at the end of the hall.

——

“So begin with telling me why you decided to come here today,” Mary inquired, politely, her notebook poised on her knee and her pen bobbing slightly between her fingers. She was a serious woman, but, noticed Aaron, possessed an immense amount of nervous energy.

“Because you told me to come here,” Aaron tried not to smile.

“No, no,” the doctor responded, catching onto his game, “I didn’t ask ‘Why did you come here today?’. I asked ‘Why did you decide to come here today?’. The ball’s in your court, as they say.”

Aaron sat in amused silence and stared at the boring pattern on the carpet. Mary continued.

“No one made you come here. You wanted to. And I would like to know what changed your mind.”

The dark eyed man thought for a moment, inhaled deeply, and ran a single hand through his black hair. He knew the answer to the question, certainly, but whether or not to reveal himself to the woman in front of him, who seemed to know him inside out already—that was the dilemma. Noticing his stubborn silence, Mary pressed further.

“Why don’t you begin by telling me about yourself? That’s generally how I start things if my patient is uncomfortable.” She inclined her head to the right, her sharp, dark brown eyes taking him in. Only then did Aaron notice a small wedding band on her left hand.

“There’s not much to tell, really,” he lied, trying to keep his own situation private while attempting to discern hers, “My parents died when I was quiet young. They would have known more about me as a child. I don’t remember much.”

Mary nodded, looked down at her notebook and scribbled something. The black eyed man felt himself grow slightly agitated.

“What are you writing there? What did I say?”

“You decided to start out with your childhood. Some people, when asked about themselves, would start out with the present: interests, hobbies, relationships, careers. Some would start out with goals or dreams. You began with the past.”

Aaron furrowed his eyebrows. “So?”

“It must hold some significance for you. Especially with the death of your parents.”

Again, Aaron wanted to roll his eyes. He never liked the overly curious, particularly with regards to his own private thoughts and memories. The fact that there was an entire profession that dealt with the uncovering of sentiments that Aaron wished never to reveal made his gut churn.

“Well, yes. Naturally the death of one’s parents is a rather significant event.”

“Why be sardonic?”

The dark eyed man straightened himself up in his chair and leaned forward, “Please be direct with me, Doctor. You wanted me to come here today because you think I am addicted to sex. Or that my lifestyle is unhealthy. I fail to see what any of this has to do with my past or my secrets.”

A small, infuriating smile played on the doctor’s lips. Aaron chewed the inside of his cheek as she spoke.

“Secrets? I never asked you to reveal any secrets, I simply wanted to know more about you so that I could help you.”

“Fine. Fine.” Aaron raised a hand, conceding, and closed his eyes to think. “My parents died when I was young. Within months of each other. Then my maternal grandparents.”

Mary nodded; offered neither pity nor judgment. She spoke up, flat, “That is exceptionally tragic, Aaron. What caused their deaths?”

“Illness.”

The doctor nodded again and narrowed here eyes. “So you were abandoned.”

“It wasn’t their fault.”

“I didn’t say it was their fault, merely that it happened. There doesn’t need to be blame. Some things defy explanation.”

The clock on the wall ticked on as a certain heavy quietness descended on the room. Aaron avoided the all-knowing gaze of the doctor in front of him, and tried to recall a time when he remembered the sound of his grandmother’s voice. There comes a point, the dark eyed man realized, when tragedy becomes so absurdly all-encompassing it begins to take on a detached, humorous air.

“We can face the issue directly, if that would make you feel more at ease,” Mary continued softly, putting her pen down. “Since this is largely a sexuality issue you can begin with that.”

Aaron raised an eyebrow and toyed nervously with the edge of his tie. “There is no issue with my sexuality. It simply exists, as my own. I’m not a predator. I’m not harming anyone.”

“I will put it to you simply, then. Do you think you are too promiscuous?”

The black eyes closed, stayed shut for a moment too long, and then opened again. Aaron felt an oncoming headache and wished he’d never stepped foot into the office. Certainly he knew his lifestyle was an unhealthy one, but concluded that there were far worse way to spend a few hours’ time. Finally, he looked up and smiled.

“I like sex,” Aaron shrugged.

“When was the last time you had a relationship last more than a day?” Mary quipped back, a little too smugly. The sound of the ticking clock picked up again, as if to signify the definitiveness of the question and the way it made Aaron’s heart flutter uncomfortably. “Commitment, Aaron,” he heard her repeat, “that is my question here. You know what I am getting at.”

He sat mute for a moment more, tried to remember his relationships. Many of which, he realized with a sudden jolt of pain beginning in his fingertips, were significantly one-sided.

“My wife died five years ago. That was the last time.”

The doctor tilted her head again and a single strand of mousey, grey-brown hair loosed itself from the messy bun. “So the last time you felt a significant connection with another human being, of similar age and emotional, intellectual maturity, was with your wife, ten years ago. I take it you were devastated at her death.”

“I was.” Aaron tried to sound bored; failed.

“And casual sex was comforting.”

“It is.”

“You know it won’t last forever, Aaron. I am sure you’ve heard this before.”

Aaron nodded, numb. Yes, he’d heard it before. From none other than himself. In his own mind. No one was brave enough to tell him to his face. Or, rather, no one cared enough.

“I plan on enjoying it while it lasts, however,” he continued, saving face. “I see nothing wrong with exploring my options.”

“Are the people you sleep with worthless?”

The black eyed man sat up straighter. How does one measure the worth of another human being? Was it in numbers? In cash? And if that was the case, who was the worthless one? The prostitute or the John? Aaron grew sullen again. Noticing, Mary spoke out.

“You are trying to fulfill yourself with your promiscuity. This is not an uncommon thing, Aaron. But that doesn’t make it right.”

“I mean no disrespect, Doctor, but perhaps we could talk about other things.”

For a moment, Mary looked at him. Picking up her pen she jotted something down on her paper, and then nodded to herself.

Chapter Text

 

John’s hotel had been closer, and had the added benefit of being free of children, so it was the natural choice for this. The journey to said hotel room had been frantic, both of them wanting to get there and get to it before they could think again for, really, what the hell were they doing? They’d known each other for less than a week, and besides, there was Alexander.

Alexander, who was probably happily doing something similar with the man who had shot him, the man who had destroyed her family, destroyed her, who’d always been so much more important to him than she was, who had been worth dying for when she knew, deep down, that she was not. And the husband for whom she’d practically erased herself, for whom she’d kept vigil for fifty years, had once again so casually discarded her for him. And so there was no guilt to balance the thrill when John’s hands wandered over her breasts after the door had closed. She was finished denying herself for the sake of someone who didn’t care, who found her dull.

But John did not find her dull, boring, incapable, and she reveled in their earlier conversations as he busied himself about her neck: how he’d been so interested that he’d practically pried her ideas for her little projects out of her, gently chided her for calling them little and unimportant, listened with rapt attention while she’d gone on and on about the plight children with no families to take care of them in this city, encouraged her, even. No one had ever done that before. Certainly not her husband who had been so fond of telling her about his deep abiding affection for her. God, she could have taken him right there in the cafe yesterday if she hadn’t been so touched she could cry. But reserve had become such a habit… but no more. But when John began unbuttoning her blouse, something inside her hesitated.

Laurens felt her tense against him and backed off. Of course she was having second thoughts. What the hell were they doing, after all? “Eliza, if you don’t want…”

He called her Eliza, not the nickname that had been at once familiar and childish. She liked that. “No! It’s just that I’ve never been with anyone else before…” She trailed off, not quite sure how to explain the long-forgotten wedding-night nervousness that had welled up to accompany the already heady mixture of desire and anger.

But no explanation was needed. He smiled and stroked her cheek. “Then we’ll go slow.” Did she even remember what considerate felt like, or a lover who didn’t find her exasperating? “Just let me turn my phone off, I don’t want us to be interrupted.” An idea struck her as she looked at the glowing screen. He should know how it feels. Not just how it felt to be cheated on, but how it felt to have every lurid detail paraded before your eyes. She silenced the ringer, set it to record video, and set it so that the bed was in plain view before returning to Laurens.

They undressed each other almost reverently, Eliza taking in the sight and feel of a man who wasn’t as familiar to her as herself. She let her hands roam over him, noting everything about him that was new, different. And he’d remembered protection, something Alex had had the audacity to complain about. God it had been so humiliating having to get herself tested once she’d finally accepted that he was sleeping with whores.

Nerves converted to excitement as her new paramour lay over her on the bed. Yes, she thought, now, make me something other than just the good wife. But instead of consummating their revenge, John began placing a trail of full, open-mouthed kisses down her, starting at her collarbone, nudging her legs further apart as he lingered admiringly over her breasts. She could feel the excitement in his kisses, the way he marveled at her body, and she couldn’t remember the last time she’d been paid such attention.

A groan pushed at her throat and she bit her lip out of habit (wouldn’t want the children to hear them). “Please, my dear, be as loud as you like,” he murmured, pausing his activities briefly. There was a slight drawl in his voice that made such permission even more enchanting.

He wouldn’t find her cloying or routine, and God, what was he doing? Surely he would mind that she hadn’t bothered with shaving since the divorce, men expected it now, and she was far from young, she’d had eight children, she must look a mess down there, probably why Alex hadn’t bothered in years, he was going to change his mind completely in a moment about the whole thing, oh no, oh no, “OH!”

She almost screamed when she felt his tongue on her. The sheets simply didn’t provide enough handholds, but her new lover guided her flailing hands to his hair. She could feel him groan against her, feel how hungry he was for her, how much he wanted her, her, not just a release for himself, oh GOD… how was it possible that he didn’t view this as a chore, that he’d voluntarily delayed his own gratification to see to hers, that doing that had actually seemed to increase his fervor? When was even the last time she’d come that hard?

And his kisses had only grown more insistent as he moved back up her trembling body… why had she denied herself for so long, why hadn’t she left him years ago the first time he’d started sneaking around? John claimed her lips forcefully and she was not ashamed when she could taste herself on him.

Why should she apologize when he’d so clearly enjoyed it too? She reached down to stroke him lightly, glad for the moan it induced, happy to see only eagerness in his face, not impatience to just get it over with so he could sleep. Alexander had really thought she was stupid enough to miss all of that. Well. This time she would have the last laugh.

They cried out in unison when she guided him into her. The readily apparent conflict in John’s body between his passions and his desire to take his time and explore her was oh so flattering. He wanted her. He wanted her, he wanted her, and she hadn’t even realized she’d forgotten what that felt like. And the things he was telling her, or trying to tell her between gasps and moans that were all her doing and completely authentic… for she was no passive partner. Her hips moved to meet his, and she tried to see just how many different noises she could get him to make with her hands and lips. Until she once again lost the ability to focus on such things.

Nothing about her reaction was fake or exaggerated to please an ego that she was at the mercy of, that she’d been trained to believe she must please. And it felt so wonderful to really scream. Twice. A true gentleman.

Not long after he buried his face in her hair (It’s greying, she wanted to shout, it’s greying and he thinks it’s beautiful) and gave a low, shuddering moan. John didn’t roll over, didn’t pull away or stand up to go elsewhere or give a now-that-that’s-done sigh, he caressed her languidly, whispering to her in French.

She didn’t understand the words, but the sentiment was clear enough. Her phone glowed briefly as it lost battery. Perfect, was her last thought as she drifted to sleep in his arms.

Chapter Text

Alexander looked at the clock on the wall and bemoaned the fact that it was only noon. He pulled his suit jacket closer around him, also bemoaning the fact that the heater was broken, and an unseasonably cold autumn settled in early, and swore under his breath.

The office was the same as it had always been: small, but bright, with a tremendous view of Manhattan, but the chill in the air was almost unbearable. An involuntary jerk of his foot sent the heater under his desk skirting across the room, and he swore louder.

“Son of a bitch,” the general slammed his pen down and walked over to where the small appliance had landed, red faced and irritated. “Do you think, possibly, we could get the heater fixed any time soon? This is a law office, for Christ’s sake, not a barn.”

The black-eyed colonel at the opposite end of the room answered lazily, disinterested, “I put in a request for maintenance to take a look at it. In due time.” He never raised his gaze from the paper he was writing on.

Alexander glared at him and made his way back to his desk, not ready to give up the fight. “You’re probably used to being frigid.” He stopped short of sitting down and kept his eyes locked on the small man across from him.

Getting no reaction, the Nevisian heaved an impatient sigh and threw himself into his chair. For the past several weeks, Alexander noticed a drastic change in Aaron’s attitude toward it all—starting, he realized suddenly, with the night Theo was hospitalized—no longer was he the mildly bemused, sanguinary figure of incessant, almost annoying optimism. The general furrowed his brows and studied a hang nail.

It was becoming apparent that even the Colonel didn’t believe in himself anymore, and Alexander was quick enough to realize the implications. The tapping of the keys at the computer across the room set a pace for Alexander’s quick thoughts.

He knew several things, for certain: They were back at work, and had kept a moderately low profile, with the notable exception of Troup’s worried glances here and there, and Morris’ stubborn insistence on ignoring the elephant in the room. They had made some money off of a few well-paying cases, and at this next thought Alexander turned an even deeper shade of red, the Colonel’s unscrupulous practice of charging more than he knew they were worth had paid off, too.

“Lies begetting lies,” the general murmured under his breath, careful not to let the other occupant hear him. He woke his computer from its screen saver and stared at his notes on the screen, not actually reading them. His mind instead focused on the small room he nightly occupied, the uncomfortable futon and the cramped apartment thick with tension of all sorts.

He toyed with forgetting the case briefs and instead resuming his search for apartments in the area. Alexander realized woefully that even the most economical of flats in a city as cramped as New York would cost him a hefty sum—one that he was, alone, incapable of affording—and of course reminded himself that he had always been at the mercy of richer, more powerful people, and had gnawed his lower lip until it bled at this humiliating detail of his life. For weeks he searched, and to no avail. But at this moment, in front of the small, dark Colonel, whose aloofness seemed almost superhuman, Alexander kept himself together and scrolled through the listings of apartments.

The Nevisian could never lie to anyone, least of all himself, and tried to remember how he’d gotten mixed up in this business with a brothel Madame he’d hardly known, in an era he was entirely unfamiliar with, but whose temptations hadn’t changed over the centuries.

He pressed his thumb and forefinger into the bridge of his nose, his repetitive mind taunting him again and again with his most recent fall from grace.

----------

Before he could stop himself, Eliza Jumel witnessed his emotions play out on his face. “I know you’re considering it. And I know you will eventually see that this is the best option for both of us. Here is my offer.” She waited, for a reaction, and getting none, urged him further, “Think of the details, Mr. Hamilton.”

He stared, wide eyed, as she approached him further. 

"You meet him, privately, alone. You are sworn to secrecy. You can use him, and discard him, at your leisure, and he will be furious about it. We both know he is inexhaustible when money is involved.” She laughed darkly. 

For another minute—Alexander watched as the hand on the cheap clock circled around once—he sat quietly, mulling over the proposition. Finally, he spoke, standing up. Eliza backed away slowly as he turned around to face her, and she watched with interest as his features hardened into marble.

“You have to swear to me, Eliza, that you will keep up this charade, at least until he learns his lesson. And then, I will choose how to reveal it to him. Not you. You will take your money and you will leave us both alone.”

The Madame exhaled, her smile spreading. She held out her hand to shake.

“We both have a stake in this venture, my darling Mr. Hamilton,” she said softly. “If we are as talented at acting as people say we are,” she added with flourish, “then this will be a delight indeed. And quite simple.”

He grabbed her warm, dry hand, and sealed the bargain deftly.

“I’m sure there is some Bible verse that justifies revenge, Mr. Hamilton,” he heard her call after him, sardonically, as he walked out of her house and into the intrusive light of the afternoon.

The thoughts swam inside his mind as Hamilton came back to earth. He hadn’t banked on Aaron’s refusal of the payment, hadn’t predicted on enjoying himself, hadn’t prepared himself to lose his marriage, and hadn’t prepared himself for the rush of adrenaline he felt when he examined this secret that he’d managed to keep to himself for six months. Hadn’t prepared himself to be hit with such a strange rush of emotion every time he looked at the man sitting opposite him, typing up a letter to so-and-so, as if nothing had ever happened.

He’d kept up a good charade, he decided, almost too good, and it pained him. It hit him hardest when he saw the look in the Colonel’s eyes when the small, dark man confessed to being employed by Eliza.

And it hit him hardest when he opened the hotel room door, all those months ago, and realized there was no turning back from the decisions he’d made, and having to mask all this with a look of surprise.

That night, he made absolutely certain he was in control. Any second thoughts that greeted him at the door vanished when he recalled the desperate look on Burr's face.

It wasn’t too hard. He knew who’d answer the door. The mask of false bewilderment was only worn briefly, and was made genuine when he was taken against the clean white linen of the anonymous bed, realizing when he came that not all revenge was painful.

“You’re too quiet.”

Hamilton almost jumped out of his skin; knocked over mug half filled with cold coffee onto the carpet with a muted thud. Aaron watched him intently, blinking once, and then walked over to help clean the spill.

“I don’t like when you get quiet like this, General. It’s never a good thing,” he muttered, grabbing a handful of tissues and leaning down to soak up the liquid. “You disappeared for a moment, there.”

“I was thinking, that is all,” Alexander finished, toneless. He picked the mug up and placed it back on the desk.

“About?”

The general began to dab at the wetness, irritated. “Nothing important. Apartments, mostly. But that, of course, doesn’t concern you.”

Aaron grabbed the soaked tissues from his partner’s hand and tossed them into a trashcan nearby. Standing, he went on, “If you are thinking about the money, still, I believe I may have found a way to solve all of our problems. But I would need your help.” His voice dropped to a whisper. “Jumel and Sade are playing dirty, General, which means we need to play dirty.”

Much to Burr's surprise, Alexander let out a cynical laugh. Confession would be now, or it would be never.

“You have no idea, Colonel Burr,” he shook his head, “how right you are.”

For a moment, Aaron looked at him, one hand full of more soaked tissues and the room beginning to reek of old coffee. Alexander avoided his gaze as best he could, wiped all expression from his face, and landed in his chair with a slight thump. Intently, he began to type at his computer, hoping to steer the conversation in the direction it needed to go, and praying the Colonel was in a forgiving mood.

Chapter Text

For a few minutes Aaron mulled Alexander’s cryptic response around in his mind, and chalked it up to nerves.

“You don’t need to be cynical, General, everything will turn out alright,” he reasoned, walking back towards his own desk after trashing the coffee-soaked tissues. 

Alexander shook his head. “There are a few things I’ve been thinking about lately, trying to work through them, you know, and I’m in no mood to be lectured at,” he said, “I cannot process it.”

The general sat down and put his head in his hands as Aaron watched him, curious. It was all out in the open, the Colonel reasoned. Embarrassing, perhaps, but nothing to dwell on. He never understood self-pity, couldn’t justify its usefulness, and he frowned.

“Is the severity of the situation hitting you, yet, Colonel?” Alexander tried again from across the room. Outside, the early afternoon sky looked bleak.

“I simply disagree with you, General. Our situation is no worse than it was a few weeks ago. I told you, Ithink I’ve found a way to get our money, but I will need your cooperation.” The dark-eyed man clasped his hands atop his shining desk surface, as one would do in an interview or interrogation. The general talked over him.

“It’s not about the money, at least not anymore,” he responded, locking eyes with the other occupant. Alexander made his decision, and voiced the concern that had been brewing in his heart since he’d opened that hotel room door.

“How did you come to connect yourself with Eliza Jumel, Colonel? I have been thinking about this, lately, and I just cannot fathom why you would involve yourself with that woman again.” His mouth grew dry, and he prayed his face gave away no expression. Across from him, Aaron stared.

“You know why I involved myself in that infernal profession,” he replied slowly, “I needn’t go over the details again. You’re a smart man.”

Alexander chafed. “You’re being dodgy again.”

“I most certainly am not. I would think that you would know when not to pry. I told you. I needed the money, she offered to help me.” The Colonel shut his computer and fixed his undivided attention on the man in front of him, furrowing his brows only slightly. “What’s gotten into you?”

The general chewed his lip—a nervous habit he wondered when he'd developed—and placed his hands on the papers in front of him, scanning them.

“You are colluding with her.” He shot back, defensively.

Aaron looked at him and widened his eyes, “What?”

The Nevisian tapped his fingers rapidly as his breath quickened, drawing conclusions faster than was logically safe. He has ceased to care.

“You are colluding with her,” Alexander tried again, his voice louder, “You two have worked together before, and are working together again. This time, to humiliate me.”

“General Hamilton, be reasonable!”

It was reasonable, Alexander’s mind screamed, that he should be duped by two criminals. It had happened before, and he’d suddenly let it happen again, and was helpless to stop it. His thoughts buzzed inside his head, a hive of anger building inside of him, as he pieced together his own story. Dawning realization, coupled with embarrassment, and, noticed Alexander, hollow disappointment, almost sent him over the edge.

“I am being reasonable,” The general managed to stay seated, though he wanted to strangle something. “I should have known not to trust you—not to put myself in a position where you’d have the opportunity to trick me."

Aaron sat in silence, his own anger slowly building. Fervently, the other occupant went on.

“I knew, from the moment we were reintroduced, that you would want to gain the upper hand,” he raised a finger and blushed dangerously, “And now that I see what’s been going on—“ His words failed him, and he bit his lip again. Regaining his thoughts, he pressed further, “I see now that it is you and Jumel who had in collusion with one another to trick me again. She, to get money. You, to see me humiliated.”

Alexander would have laughed at the absurdity of it all if the situation didn’t make him want to tear his very hair out. He had, in the beginning, been in control of the situation—or so he thought. Aaron’s mouth fell open as he watched his associate’s tirade.

“What are you talking about? Have you lost your mind?” Aaron tilted his head to the side, utterly confused. “Why would I want to associate with her? What business is it of mine if—“

“—I should have known, when you didn’t take the money, right then and there—“

“—General for god’s sake, listen to me.” The dark-eyed man gained control of the conversation. “You have to believe me when I say I had no idea she would send you to me, as a client. You have to believe me. I would never willingly—“

Alexander’s scoff cut him off, “—You would never willingly want to screw me, of course.” He held up a hand, “No, don’t defend yourself. You needed cash incentive, like always, in order to attain your goals.”

“I meant to say I would never willingly put myself in this situation,” the Colonel shot back, “least of all with you.”

“There you go again.”

Aaron gritted his teeth and lost his temper. Across from him, Alexander jumped.

“It has nothing to do with money!” He rose up out of his seat, and the sky outside darkened. “If I had known Eliza would send you to me for this business I would have never begun it in the first place. You don’t understand how humiliating it was for me to admit to you that I was falling under, that I couldn’t take care of myself, and had resorted to that level in order to help myself.”

Alexander shook his head, a pleading look in his eyes. “The money,” he reiterated, remembering the envelope so casually neglected, filled with that medium of exchange which would exonerate both parties from their sins, “Why didn’t you take the money, Colonel?”

It didn’t make sense—none of it did—to the Nevisian who couldn’t fathom an Aaron Burr refusing easy cash. He mulled over the idea of pride, and Eliza’s unctuous laughter that afternoon when he came to her, searching for an easy distraction. He never asked if she had sold the same story to his rival—who was so much like himself Alexander felt nauseous—because he never thought he had to.

The guilt slammed into his chest and Alexander covered his face while his associate stood across from him, the conversation suspended in mid air.

“I can’t do it.”

Aaron walked out from behind his desk, cautiously, “What? Can’t do what?”

“Do you mean to tell me that you…” he kept his features hidden, face burning, “…do you mean to tell me that Eliza Jumel employed you in her escort services and that…she never told you who would be on the other end of the line to…meet you?”

In a few short steps the dark-eyed man was at his associate’s desk. He placed a hand on its surface and lowered his voice, “You have to believe me, General, I was in no way connected with that woman other more than a prostitute to a pimp,” the Colonel’s insides churned with embarrassment, “You are suggesting that she and I wanted to cheat you. As the Reynolds couple had done.”

The general didn’t answer; kept his head in his hands, elbows on the surface in front of him. After a minute, he spoke.

“When you didn’t take the money, and I told you how manipulative that was,” Alexander searched for his words carefully, “Right then and there I knew something wasn’t right. That this wasn’t as simple as I’d been lead to believe.”

From his position above the Nevisian, Aaron responded. “What do you mean, ‘what you’d been lead to believe’?”

Alexander inhaled deeply and pinched the bridge of his nose. “Several months ago—shortly after she’d been in contact with you, I suppose—Jumel accosted me several blocks from our practice,” he nervously cleared his throat, “and she suggested…”

He paused, sighed again, as Aaron waited patiently. Lifting his head from his hands, Alexander looked down at the floor.

“She suggested that I present myself as a client to you, desperate as you were. That way, she would get her money, through the relatively innocuous and indirect channel of myself, and I, in turn, could watch you be humiliated.” Alexander began to sweat, even in the cold office, and removed his suit jacket, unable to look at the man standing above him. He continued, nervously, “When you refused the money from me, I thought you knew. I thought you knew about her scheme. And I thought you’d been conspiring with her, too.”

Aaron felt himself deflate and could not bring himself to speak.

“I never counted on losing everything—Betsey, losing my marriage—and when I found out the Sades were involved I knew I was in deeper than I could handle.” He shook his head, a lump of emotion welling up in his throat, regret washing over him. “And now everything has changed and I can’t even look at you, I have ruined myself and my reputation, again, my family—“

Hamilton's thoughts jumbled again, and his emotions took over. He broke his stare with the floor and covered his eyes, inhaling shakily.

Nearby, Burr watched him with concern. He processed the story, and then, “I have not been entirely truthful with you.”

The general sniffed, and looked up, “You haven’t?”

Aaron shook his head slowly, and pushed several papers aside to sit on the desk. He looked nervous as the general watched him. When he spoke, his voice was almost inaudible.

“This will be a delicate confession, General, so do hear it through. Do me the justice of getting it off my conscience before you respond.” His manner was professional, but taciturn. Alexander nodded.

“When I refused the money, I knew it would destroy you. I know how you justify these things to yourself, and I had some idea of how Betsey would justify it. I didn’t expect for her to take the route she did,” he placed a hand on the general’s shoulder for comfort, and then continued, “I am not taking blame for your divorce, mind you, but I will confess that I didn’t accept the money…”

His eyes scanned the room around him as his mind scanned for the appropriate wording. There was no easy exit.

“…Because I did not want to be disposable.”

Alexander’s eyes made patterns with the muted colors on the floor and he felt his head spin. For a moment, neither occupant in the tiny, cold office spoke. Outside, rain began to fall and a church clock in the distance chimed two pm.

Burr felt his mouth go dry, but pressed forward softly, “I did not want to be in that profession anymore, and I confess I grew nervous, suspicious, about Jumel’s motives. I grew tired of it all.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?” Hamilton finally looked up. “I would have ceased the business immediately.”

Aaron locked eyes with his associate—that nameless emotion brewing steadily behind the cold exterior—and swallowed.

“It’s rather simple, really,” he offered, he faintest of grins hidden on his mouth, words so quiet Alexander was not sure he heard them correctly. In an instant it hit him.

“I thought this was how it was going to be,” Aaron continued, breaking his stare and looking out the window, unable to contain his embarrassment any longer, “I don’t know what I thought it was. Fate, chance, some stupid cosmic turn of events. If this is the alternative to killing you, then I am prepared to accept it.”

He spoke with ease about a subject that plagued him for a lifetime, and Hamilton grabbed the edge of his desk to keep from from falling off the face of the earth. His breath caught in his throat and the familiar ball of sadness crept into his chest.

“You…you’re telling me…you wanted to be with me?”

Aaron did not look at him. His black eyes keeping pace with the falling leaves in the wind, he answered, “I wanted you to be my responsibility. You are my responsibility.” He paused again. “And when these events transpired…it all seemed logical. It all seemed to be leading to this point.”

He removed himself from the desk, careful not to look at the general behind him, whose face, he was sure, would send him into a fit of emotions the Colonel couldn’t deal with. He walked over to the window and leaned against it, head pressed against the freezing glass, hands dug into his pockets for warmth, and prepared his case. Burr waited until he heard his associate’s steady breaths, and then spoke in an equally subdued manner.

“We can’t be meaningless to each other, General.” Steam hit the window and disappeared rapidly. “We can’t simply…inhabit the same sphere and ignore all of this…” he stood up straight and raised his hands, gesticulating, “…all of this …commotion… around us. Within us.”

Burr brought his hands down, “I can’t look at you and feel nothing.”

Hamilton felt his face burn. He nodded in agreement, yes, and he heaved a sigh so heavy he thought the dam of emotions would burst. It all made sense, and the general rubbed both of his eyes with the ball of his palm until he saw stars.

“Are you suggesting that we are destined to be either extreme?” Hamilton managed to respond, his throat hoarse. His hand shook as he watched the other man, a silhouette of darkness against the light of the window.

“There was a time when I didn’t believe in that sort of thing.”

“And now?”

“And now I am reevaluating.” Aaron desperately wished for a cigarette. “And here we are again, thrown together, and I can’t let us fall into the trap that destroyed us all those years ago. I won’t let it happen. It’s not destiny. Call it what you like.”

It hit Hamilton, between the moment he saw the Colonel face the window and the moment the tears formed in his eyes, that he was, above anyone else, Burr's responsibility.

Chapter Text

 

“So basically what you’re saying is that our dads screwed everything up, again.” Angelica Hamilton flicked a leaf from in front of her, off the picnic table she sat at with her brother and Theo, and sighed dramatically. “I could have told you both this. All of it. Probably word for word.”

Theo watched her, interested, and Philip scoffed.

“No you couldn’t. And they’re going to be fine. Stop being so dramatic all the time.” He sipped a bright yellow sports drink and stared, unfocused, in front of him. Angelica shot him a scathing look.

“You don’t think this is just like last time? Dad abandons us? Leaves mom to clean up the mess?”

“You wouldn’t know, Angelica,” her brother shot back, losing patience with his younger sibling, “you weren’t lucid. Stop acting like you know everything and stop sticking your nose into everyone’s business.”

“There’s no use in arguing about this, you guys,” Theo finally chimed in, pulling her hair back, “the least we can do is try and be supportive in any way we can.”

“Sorry, but not everyone holds their parents in such high regard,” Angelica answered bitterly, “I can’t tell who’s worse. My dad for ruining everything, again, or mom for sticking it out as long as she did. And I don’t plan on supporting either of them.”

“You know why she stayed, you idiot. Stop talking about dad like he’s some gigantic asshole. Just stop already.” Philip slammed his drink down and his handsome features darkened. “And I think you screaming at mom last week was entirely uncalled for. You don’t have to be so harsh, Angelica.”

The sharp-featured fifteen year old with thick unruly hair, much like her fathers, scowled and stared at the ground, chewing a hangnail. At the moment, she hated them both—Betsey and Alexander—for putting her through another cycle of madness.

“I don’t care what either of you say. I think they’re both idiots.” The thick-haired teenager crossed her arms and looked at both Theo and Philip, in turn. “They keep trying to blame each other for this stupid mess they’re in and they can’t see that they’re both at fault. They’re acting more like children than we are.”

“So what are you going to do, Angelica? Lock yourself in your room and ignore everyone?” Theo spoke up, trying to be reasonable, but her temper somewhat piqued. A breeze kicked up and she shifted in her seat at the picnic table, pulling her coat tighter around her against the chill. “You’re going to have to eventually pick a side. Sorry, but it’s true.”

“Now wait a minute—“ Philip widened his eyes.

“—I don’t mean pick what parent you love more. That’s absurd. I mean when it comes down to living arrangements. Holidays. Be practical, here, Angelica. You’re too young to move out, but old enough to make these kinds of decisions.”

Philip frowned and thought about the logic; Angelica looked up from the blade of grass she held in her hands.

“If my dad ends up getting some apartment somewhere in the city, there won’t be room for me. And I know I can’t stay with my mother for much longer.” Something in her voice gave way, and Theo saw the sadness creep into her eyes. The auburn-haired girl pressed on, “she’s beginning to get suffocating. She watches my every move, spies on me, wants to know what I’m doing at all times. I can’t take it much longer.”

“She’s only doing it out of love, Angelica,” Philip reasoned, his voice low.

“But I’m fine.”

Theo shifted again, rubbed her eyes. There was the ever-present fear: making the same mistakes twice. “I’m sure if you talk to your dad, he can work something out. Maybe he’ll find something that can accommodate you.” She added hopefully, but was met with a reproachful look.

“I doubt it. I doubt anyone really cares about me or Philip. I bet they think we’re going to lose it again, and die,” she nodded toward her brother, who shot her an expression of disdain.

“Angelica, come on. Why do you need to say things like that?”

“Because it’s true. You and I both know it. Theo knows it. That’s really what they’re worried about. They don’t really love us. They just want things to be moderately normal.”

Theo sighed loudly, growing agitated. “Stop feeling sorry for yourself. You parents love you very much. Both of you. They’re not sitting around waiting for you to die, for god’s sake,” she cut to the point. “The divorce has nothing to do with either of you, and I wish you’d stop taking it personally. I certainly am not.”

“Can we just stop talking about all this already?” Philip cut in, “No offense, Theo, but you’re not there on the days we catch our mom crying, or when John asks where his dad has gone, or when Junior and James disappear for hours on end and don’t tell anybody.”

The black-eyed girl bit the inside of her mouth, knowing he was right, and chastising herself for being so callous.

“I’m sorry,” she began again quietly. To her left, Angelica had busied herself with picking the paint off the table, and pretended not to hear the conversation, “you’re right. But I still think you two should come talk to your dad. At least for a little while. Maybe even if only for a few hours. Just to let him know you haven’t forgotten about him.”

“I’m all for it.” Philip sat up straighter and looked at his companions in turn, slowly. “I want to see dad again and I want to tell him that we haven’t abandoned him, no matter what Angelica seems to think. And even if she thinks he’s the one leaving us, again, we should at least have the maturity to turn the other cheek.”

At the Biblical allusion, Theo smiled. “That was really well said, Philip.”

“Fine. I’ll go. But don’t expect me to be happy about it,” Angelica added, with a somewhat distasteful look on her face.

 

Chapter Text

 

The walk back to her apartment was rather brisk, wind whipping around her head, dark curls hitting her face; Theo ran a hand through the loose strands of her hair and tried to keep it out of her eyes. Beside her, her two companions trudged on dutifully, each with their own myriad of thoughts swirling around inside their heads.

Philip was determined to make the best of the situation. He almost had no choice, he felt, other than to stand by his father who was in so many ways similar to him—right down to their untimely deaths. He felt a special connection with the man who taught him about honor, treated him like a favorite child, talked to him like a king to a prince, and the handsome seventeen year old appreciated that. He also knew, deep down, the worry that plagued his father about his eldest son and tried to soothe the man’s fears, to no avail.

His sister wore a look of grim determination, and knew it would be no easy task reconciling herself to her father’s decision again. The younger children would look to her, as they always did, for an explanation, and she would need to provide it, whether or not she understood it herself. Angelica looked to the side at her brother, and then quickly away, wondering how he could be so blithe.

The city blocks wore on and the day darkened. The late afternoon sunlight cast odd shadows around them, alleyways once innocuous in the sunlight suddenly turned more sinister and the trio of children picked up their pace.

“Almost there,” Theo breathed, turning a corner and facing the high-rise she called home. 

“Your dad really spares no expense, huh?” He muttered, referring to the expensive price tag an apartment such as the one before him would come with. Angelica nodded her assent and looked up, craned her neck, at the sheer breathless height of the building. In an instant, Theo tapped her on the shoulder.

“Don’t do that.”

“Don’t do what?” She responded, shooting the other girl a look.

“Don’t look up like that. People will think you’re a tourist and you’re more likely to get robbed or something.”

Behind them, Philip snorted. “Who told you that?” He laughed, reaching for the door handle and stepping inside.

“My dad, actually. Learned it while living abroad. The hard way.” Theo nodded at the doorman and walked ahead of them, the siblings exchanging looks.

She reached the elevator and pressed several buttons—the twentieth floor—and ushered the group inside.

“You two have to behave yourselves, I’m serious,” Theo spoke up solemnly on the ride to the correct floor, watching the lights flash and the bells ding as they passed story after story. Angelica leaned casually against the shining steel of the elevator wall.

“We’re just going to see our dad, tell him to buck up, and leave.” She ran a hand through her hair.

“Well I’m excited,” Philip responded. “I’m excited to see him again. I miss him.”

His sister grumbled something under her breath and the doors slid open. Down the hallway, Theo indicated, was the right apartment.

“Here goes nothing,” Angelica sighed, the last one out of the lift.

As the dark-haired, solemn, slightly nervous teenage girl opened the door to her apartment, she was first hit by the sheer normalcy of it all. Like a block freezing air—present, but invisible—the picture of the clean apartment and the two gentlemen seated at opposite ends of the couch greeted her eyes and for a moment she was stunned silent. She didn’t know what she was expected, really, a war zone perhaps.

“Dad!” Philip pushed himself in front of the two girls and ran towards his father who stood and hugged him. Behind the men, the daughters waited. Theo looked at her father who smiled serenely.

“What a lovely surprise, Theo,” He stood up and motioned for the girls to have a seat on the adjacent chairs. “A good idea, inviting the eldest Hamiltons to see their father. Kind of you.”

Alexander looked at the dark-eyed girl and nodded, slightly flushed. “Yes, thank you, Theo.”

Philip loosed himself from his father’s hug and stared at his sister, who raised a hand awkwardly in a brief wave.

“Hi dad,” she said scanning the apartment awkwardly.

“Aren’t you going to hug your father, dear girl?” Aaron called from the couch, missing the reproachful look Theo gave him.

Alexander took the initiative and walked over to his daughter, pulling her in for a quick hug.

“I’m very glad to see you too, Angelica. I’m glad you came.”

“Me too.” Her response was more laconic than sincere. The Hamilton daughter looked at her father briefly and smiled, small, and then placed herself on the couch next to Theo.

“Would any of you like something to drink? Water, perhaps?” The Colonel grinned and rose from his seat, his associate eyeing him. “I’m afraid I haven’t got anything more exciting. Unless you like grapefruit juice.”

Angelica made a face and Philip asked for water.

The commonplace attitude in the room still hung over Theo’s thoughts as the siblings accepted their glasses of water and the television blinked quietly. She couldn’t place the feeling, and couldn’t figure out why, but something didn’t feel right.

“I’m very glad you brought my children to me,” Alexander reiterated, face slightly red from grinning. He put his arm around Philip. “You knew how much I needed to speak with them.”

Imperceptible to everyone but the black-eyed teenager, Angelica rolled her eyes.

“We miss you so much, Dad. We just wanted to make sure you were alright. That you were being taken care of.” The Hamilton son put a solemn hand on his father’s shoulder. “We came here to tell you that…that we’re going to help you, and be mature about this, anyway we can.”

Across the room, Aaron raised an eyebrow and quietly sipped his drink. Angelica coughed once, and cleared her throat. Philip continued.

“We love you. And we know you’re going to do what’s best for the family.” He finished, his own bright features eager with faith. Angelica inhaled sharply and bit her tongue, instinctively feeling Theo’s silent pleading to her left. Don’t say anything.

Alexander looked at his son for a moment, eyes slightly glazed with wet emotion, and then, “You don’t know how much that means to me, Philip. That is exactly what I needed to hear.”

Philip smiled, mollified, and hugged his father once again.

“How is your mother?” Alexander asked his next question carefully, avoiding any bitter inflection. At this, Angelica could not keep her silence.

“She’s fine, given the circumstances.”

The general locked eyes with his daughter and subsequently every gaze fell upon her. Strengthening her resolve, she went on:

“She fine. She’s cried quite a bit. Said some angry things about you. But overall, I think she’ll be fine without you.” Angelica’s pink cheeks told Theo that she hadn’t meant to sound so callous, but couldn’t help letting her feelings show. The dark-haired girl heard Alexander inhale, trying to calm himself.

“Thank you for the report, Angelica,” he managed, his own face reddened. “I’m glad to hear she’s handling herself well.”

The conversation, noticed Aaron, looked more like one between frigid colleagues than between a father and daughter. Philip, meanwhile, rubbed his eyes.

“Just say it, Angelica,” he shot, “just say why you’re mad and come out with it.”

The room grew silent again as Angelica sighed dramatically, “I’m mad because I think you’re all being complete idiots. I think whatever happened between you and mom, and whatever you two have gotten yourselves into, is stupid,” she looked pointedly at Aaron who sipped his drink, “and I think mom is being ridiculous too, about me. I can’t stay there anymore. She’s suffocating me. And I can’t stay with you two because you’re acting like lunatics. And I’m pissed off.”

The thick-haired girl finished with a wave of her hand, and brought her gaze back to her father. Her jaw set in determination, she waited for a response.

Alexander was the first. He raised a finger, “Don’t talk to me that way. I am your father and you will respect me.”

Angelica furrowed her eyebrows and chaffed at the scolding, “You’re not acting like my father. You’ve been gone for the past six weeks. You abandoned us again. I shouldn’t have to listen to someone who doesn’t even care about me.”

Nearby, Philip felt his skin flush with cold and Theo tried to calm her friend by placing a hand on her shoulder.

“Angelica, maybe now isn’t the best time—“

“—What I do with myself is no concern of yours, young lady,” the general tried again, “you are still young. I don’t expect you to understand this yet. But I will ask you to respect my—our—decision.”

The two Burrs in the room could tell when Alexander’s temper was at its limit. At the last syllable, Philip chimed in, assisting his father.

“Yeah, Angelica. Just stop acting like a know it all. Everything will work out fine.”

The daughter scoffed again and crossed her arms, refusing to look at anyone else in the room. In a few minutes, she reached up and covered her eyes. Theo shifted uncomfortably and Aaron silently prayed there would not be two emotional Hamiltons in one small room.  

“I can’t stay there, dad. She’s getting worse,” Angelica finally voiced her deepest concern, her voice cracking slightly, “with you gone, it’s almost unbearable. She watches over me like a hawk. And Philip, too. There’s no peace.”

Angelica inclined her head towards her brother, who lowered his, as if in silent assent.

“There are days when she won’t even let us leave the house, for fear something is going to happen again. And it’s gotten worse since you left.”

Alexander felt his heart sink, and knew why wife acted the way she did.

“Angelica,” he began softly, “you can’t begrudge her those feelings. She’s doing it because she loves you. Both of you.” He moved his weight slightly, preparing to stand up and hug her, and then thought again. “We both love you, all of you children, more than life. Do you understand me?”

Angelica nodded and Theo’s hand resumed its place on her shoulder.

From his detached perspective, Aaron watched the drama unfold as if seeing a film for the first time. His eyes fell upon his associate and an immediate wave of pity washed over him. Eight children, eight little lives. He adjusted his tie, uneasy with the swelling of emotion inside his chest.

As if by habit, Alexander turned to look at the Colonel. You see how much more is at stake now.

“Angelica,” Burr began softly, convinced the other four occupants of the room had forgotten he was even there, “if it would make things easier on you, and possibly your mother, I am sure Theo would raise no objections, letting you stay here with her, if only for a few days.”

Hamilton stared out the window at his side, feeling helpless.

For the first time, Angelica looked at the man who killed her father; brought her full, colorful gaze upon him and took him in. She didn’t understand him, and couldn’t understand, all those years ago, why his name rang out from her mother’s lips with such loathing, but there were so many unexplainable things all around her all the time that the Hamilton girl had given up trying to figure such things out. She had never been told the full story for the simple fact that she could not possibly have comprehended it.

As if sharing a thought with his daughter, Alexander sighed and loosened his own tie.

“Thank you…uhm…” the Hamilton daughter faltered, “…how do I address you?”

“Aaron is fine.” The colonel nodded politely.

“Mom will flip out.” Philip brought the conversation up from its dregs, purpose spreading across his face. “Mom will never let you stay here. If she knew we were here now, she’d come over right away. Probably with Granddad, and you’d never see Theo again.”

At the sound of her name the black-eyed teenager looked up, “It’s to be expected. I don’t expect your mother to like this situation. But what’s done is done.”

The general looked at the young girl and nodded slowly, liking the definitiveness with which she spoke, even for someone so young. Inside his mind, and, he hoped, inside the Colonel’s, too, spun the events of the past few months and possible scenarios in which he could explain them to his eldest children. Jumel, the money, the misunderstanding, the transparently fateful episodes that had brought them in combination with each other, once again.

Not getting the reaction he wanted, Philip looked at both his father and the other man in the room, who had since finished his own glass of water.

“I’m not telling her about Angelica,” he looked at his sister, “Angelica has to explain herself. If she thinks mom’s gotten so bad, she’ll have to say that to her.”

“I can take care of myself,” she responded, perturbed.

“I only wanted to tell dad I loved him, not to split the family apart even more,” Philip reasoned loudly. Next to him, he felt his father shrink. The Hamilton son put a hand to his mouth and shook his head, “Sorry, dad. You know what I mean.”

Alexander nodded, and for the sake of harmony, responded, “Your mother and I have made our wishes plain to each other.”

Chapter Text

 

Angelica lay back on her friend’s bed and clasped her hands together deftly, “Well. That went well.”

From her desk, Theo spun around and faced the other girl.

“I thought Philip was going to lose his mind when you said you’d rather stay here,” the dark eyed girl replied. She closed the book in her lap, marking it with a small slip of paper, and faced her friend.

“I don’t hate my parents, mind you,” Angelica pressed on, “I just hate that they’re putting all of us through this again. It’s like…” she faltered, laughed, “…Well, it’s literally like madness.”

Theo offered a small smile and waited. The other girl lifted her hands, speaking like an orator, like her father, “It’s like…all these people around me know all these things that I don’t. Philip, too. We feel so out of the loop. You should see the way Junior and James are acting. They’re being atrocious little shits about this whole thing. Lording their memories over me. Mom doesn’t see it, but I can’t take it anymore.” She lifter her gaze to the girl at the desk, wide eyed. “Philip is way more patient than me. I think there’s a small part of him that believes everything will go back to the way it was.”

The black eyed girl raised her eyebrows and leaned back in her chair.

“I don’t know if I would like that.”

“To be honest, me neither.” Angelica lay back again, stared at the glow in the dark stars on the ceiling. “I’m willing to try new opportunities. I can’t wait until I’m old enough to live on my own.”

Theo hadn’t entertained her life that far into the future, but nodded, allowing a small jolt of excitement to hit her, then quickly quelling it. Angelica prattled on, in her plain-spoken way, and the dark eyed girl watched her pleasantly.

“Now that everything is different, I wonder what will happen next?” Angelica asked of no one in particular.

At this, Theo straightened up.

“I think the first step is making it through your parents’ divorce, Angelica,” she muttered. “And trying not to get too emotional.”

Angelica sat up again, looking offended, “You’re referring to me, aren’t you?”

“Well, yes. Mostly. And your dad.” She swallowed, becoming nervous. “He’s been on edge lately.”

“I bet he’s been a real pain in the ass.”

Theo hid a small smile behind an even smaller cough. “You could say that. But it’s understandable.”

“You should hear some of the things my mom says about him, when she’s on the phone with her sister, or a friend,” the Hamilton girl raised a hand again, gesticulating, “she goes from relief, to pity, to anger, to sadness, then back to relief again. She keeps herself busy. Mostly with the charities and the orphanages, and the younger kids. Oh, and making sure I don’t go off the deep end again.”

Theo tilted her head inquisitively.

“She took me to the doctor and got me these pills. You know, for…people like me, I guess. I don’t take them. They make me feel so…I don’t know. Muddy. I can’t think or write or draw or anything. The doctor said I might have something called ‘attention deficit disorder.’”

“I’ve read about that. I think you’re just very creative,” the black-eyed girl added helpfully.

“I hope that’s the case. The doctor also told me to focus my energies on something worthwhile, and to keep myself occupied. So I’ve taken up piano lessons.”

“Well I think that’s lovely, Angelica.”

“But now with whole stupid separation,” the Hamilton girl resumed her scowl, “I don’t know. Everything’s thrown off again. I can’t stay with her because she’ll be at me 24/7, wanting to know my every move, and if I stay here I’ll have to deal with my dad and his gigantic problems. Sometimes I feel like my dad’s problems just…”

She let her words trail off and breathed in deeply, trying to collect her thoughts. Theo waited patiently and straightened a stack of papers.

“…Sometimes I feel like my dad’s problems just overwhelm everyone else’s. And we’re all just along for the ride. Kind of helpless.”

“You don’t have to explain it any further,” Theo murmured, “I know the feeling well.”

Angelica smiled at her dark-haired friend, “Yeah, I guess you more than anyone would understand me,” she responded, “in a weird sort of way.”

From the living room, the two girls heard their male relatives speaking in stern but polite voices—Philip’s slightly higher and more nervous than his father’s. Angelica put a finger to her lips and widened her eyes, creeping towards the door.

“We’ve been here for three hours. Mom’s going to know something’s up. Angelica has to come home with me. Why does she get to make decisions for herself and I don’t?” The two girls heard the Hamilton son inquire, could almost see him stamp his foot.

“You know exactly why Angelica is treated differently, Philip. This isn’t about favoritism. This is between her and your Mother.”

In the living room, Aaron sat quietly and watched the father and son discuss the daughter as if she weren’t eavesdropping.

“But it isn’t fair. How come she can choose where she lives? And I have to stay behind? I’m older than her!” Philip didn’t necessarily want to move out of his mother’s mansion, but it was the principle of the matter. Across from him on the same couch, he watched his aging father rub his tired eyes.

“Because, Philip, I know your mother. I know why she is being overprotective of Angelica. She is scared.”

It hit Aaron, in between the wide-eyed pleas on Philip’s face and the general's weary reticence, that the son might not know, fully, the fate of his beloved sister. He chewed on this thought and concluded—more than a little bitterly—that Hamilton had his reasons for keeping it a secret.

“Angelica will be fine. I don’t know why everyone is making such a big deal out of it. Wouldn’t it be better if we were kept together, instead of separated, if that’s what Mom’s so worried about?”

“It would be better if your mother did not have the extra burden of Angelica looming over her,” Alexander responded impatiently.

In the bedroom, Theo heard her female companion sigh angrily and throw herself back on the bed. She watched as the thick-haired girl turned bright red.

“See? That’s what I get to deal with. ‘I don’t want her, you take her. Well I don’t want her, let her stay with you.’ Back and forth.”

“But…” Theo scratched her head, “It sounds like your dad is trying to help you.”

Angelica turned over onto her stomach, “I don’t have a choice in anything. He called me a burden.”

Theo waited.

“If I can make it past my seventeenth birthday, scot-free, I’m going to rub in their faces like you wouldn’t believe. I’m going to rent a plane, one of those planes that write stuff in the sky, and get him to write, ‘I told you so’ in big giant fucking letters. And then I’m going to travel to Spain. For the hell of it.”

“Sounds ambitious.”

The Hamilton daughter pulled at a pillow to her left, “I don’t care what Philip says. I don’t care what Mom says. I’ll demand that the judge emancipate me from the both of them and I’ll go live in a flat somewhere and live off of canned beanies and weenies.”

At this, Theo laughed. “That would be absolutely awful.”

“Don’t you ever think about it?” Angelica turned her bright gaze on her friend.

“Think about what?” Another shout from the living room, and the slamming of the front door, told the two daughters that Philip had given up. Theo winced at the noise.

“The future. Like whether we’re destined for things, or whether we have control over them.”

At the exact moment Angelica voiced her question, Theo’s bedroom door burst open, and the general stood in front of them, agitated.

“You’re supposed to knock, General,” called Aaron’s lazy reply from the living room.

Alexander closed his eyes and collected his thoughts for a moment, and then, “Angelica, I don’t know if you heard the conversation myself and your brother just had—“

Angelica held up a hand. “—Save it. I heard everything. You want to spare mom from the burden of keeping me and so I get to stay here. Thanks.”

“That’s not…that’s not how it was intended to sound—“ the general faltered, gazing at his daughter with a mixture of pity and embarrassment. “What I meant was that I think it would be best if—because I’m no longer around as much to help with the children—“

“—So it’s not just me, it’s the kids in general who are burdens. Gotcha.”

“No. Angelica. Please listen to me and let me explain myself.” Hamilton raised his hands and tried again. “Resources are tight and your mother has a lot to worry about right now and since I am your father and legal guardian it is perfectly acceptable for you to stay here on weekends and give your mother a break from—“

“—You know, any way you toss it, this isn’t exactly nice to hear—“

“—Angelica, I am trying to give you what you want.”

From her desk, Theo watched the two Hamiltons verbally spar, her gaze darting back and forth. Finally, she found a break in the conversation.

“If it’s all the same to you, General, I think what you’re doing is very kind.” Angelica shot her friend a scathing look, who ignored it. “Taking responsibility for your children and trying to do right by your wife. Trying to make things work as best you can.”

Angelica laughed loudly and threw herself onto her back, muttering under her breath.

“Unbelievable. If that was anymore sycophantic the room would disappear up his ass.”

Hamilton made a face and looked at Theo, who tried to smile.

“I appreciate the sentiment, Theo. Thank you,” Alexander craned his neck and called to his daughter, “You see, Angelica? Theo understands what I am trying to say. I am trying to do the right thing.”

“Yeah totally.”

At this, the general turned red again and lost his patience, “There is no need for sarcasm, Angelica Hamilton.”

From the living room, Burr let out a short bark of laughter. Alexander exasperatedly closed his eyes and pressed on.

“There is no need for sarcasm. You wanted to stay here, we will let you stay here, and the reasons are unimportant right now.” He leaned against the doorframe awkwardly, “You can stay here with me, and give your mother some well-needed rest, as well as get what you want. Everyone gets something they want in this situation. This is called compromise, and this is part of growing up, and becoming an adult.”

A louder hoot of glee from down the hallway. The general stuck his head out of the room angrily.

“Do you have something to add, Colonel?”

“No, no. You’re doing quite well, Papa.”

On the bed, Angelica finally sat up and faced her father. She sighed and collected her thoughts.

“Thank you. I guess. For letting me stay here. Even if only for a little bit.”

Alexander looked at his daughter and nodded, unsure. Hesitatingly, he turned himself around and prepared to walk back to the living room. Giving one last glance at his daughter and her dark-eyed friend, he nodded smartly and closed the door.

Chapter Text

 

In a moment, he was greeted by a slow slap from the black-eyed man on the couch.

“That went wonderfully,” Aaron cooed, “you are a beacon of tact.”

“Oh shut up.” The general threw himself back down onto his seat, face covered. “She’s going to wonder why Angelica wants to stay here. She’s going to wonder why you keep getting involved.”

“Who?”

“Betsey, Colonel, dear God,” Alexander pulled his hand from his face and gave his companion a pointed stare, “She’s going to think the worst.”

“Which is?”

“There is no easy solution.” Alexander ignored the question. On the love seat beside him, Aaron grew agitated.

“How is it that you—one of the most stupidly candid men I’ve ever known—has gotten yourself mixed up in such a mire of lies that you can’t keep one from the other?”

Hamilton was not sure whether to react to the compliment or the insult, “What are you talking about?”

Burr continued in low tones, “You’re not telling Betsey the whole truth. Just like you didn’t tell me the whole truth. I think you’ve got an entire play in that brain, sixteen volume ocatavo, and you’re the only one who knows how it ends.”

“I am not calculating anything, Colonel, I had no idea how this would end up,” Alexander matched the other man’s hurried whispers.

“Yes you are. You can’t help yourself."

Hamilton's inflection turned dark, “—So I am at once both calculating and reckless?”

“They made it fit for me.” Burr hissed back, defensively.

“Dad?” Theo appeared at the edge of the room, Angelica behind her. “I was thinking about maybe showing Angelica around downstairs. Like the amenities and stuff. She wants to see the pool table.”

Aaron processed his daughter’s request and then nodded.

“Be careful,” Alexander called from behind him.

As the front door slammed behind the two girls, the colonel turned his dark gaze back onto his roommate.

“You had the chance to speak to your children about what is happening and you chose not to.”

“What are you talking about? They were just here, I told them all they needed to know.”

“What else are you hiding from me?” Burr continued, “What else have you and that Jumel woman cooked up to humiliate me? What else does Betsey not know? And your children? Are you ever going to plan on telling them what’s going on between you and I? Or will they just have to find out one day when the Marquis de Sade shows up unannounced at the Schuyler mansion and gives your father in law a heart attack.”

“Shut up,” Hamilton hit his palm against the arm of the couch, “You have no right to take the moral high ground here.”

Aaron exhaled and backed down, sinking into the cushions of the couch.  “I just want everything to be solved and over with, General, and I grow weary of these surprises.”

“As do I,” Alexander added emphatically, “But please. I ask you to stop blaming me for everything.”

“I could just as easily ask the same of you.”

“We are getting absolutely no where. This conversation is finished,” the general rose from his seat as Aaron’s gaze followed him, “I am going to get ready for bed.”

“We are going to have to face this problem, General,” he called after him, getting up out of his own seat and following his roommate down the hallway. “If you will humor me, I think I may have found a way to bring us quick money.”

Alexander rummaged around for a night shirt while his companion stood in the doorway. Truly, he was too exhausted to argue and knew it would get him nowhere, and prepared for a long night of fitful sleep in between dreams of excuses.

“You keep saying that, ‘I found a solution’, and you’ve yet to elaborate on it. Leading me to believe it’s something even more unscrupulous than the blasted situation we’ve gotten ourselves into.” The general picked up a shirt, sniffed it, and then threw it down. “I don’t want to get into any more trouble. I’m entertaining the idea of just coming clean to General Schuyler and throwing myself on his mercy.”

“You have a better chance of becoming president.”

The general pulled open a drawer and dug through it, “I would rather be poor and honest than well-off and shady.”

“Right, of course, principle,” the colonel waved his hand dismissively, “but it’s a dangerous chance you’re taking, being honest and hoping Jesus comes down from heaven to pay your sex bills.”

Hamilton slammed the drawer shut, knocking a picture frame over that sat on top of the bureau, and glared at Aaron.

“I don’t have any clean shirts.”

“Listen to my idea. If you don’t like it, then we can do things your way. I’ll even pray with you.”

Setting his jaw, the general walked past his roommate and into the other bedroom, where several folded piles of clothes sat on an unmade bed, and picked up a tee shirt. Aaron followed quickly.

“May I borrow this?” He held it up and the colonel nodded solemnly. Without thinking, Alexander discarded his business shirt onto the floor. He talked on, stilted, “I do apologize for taking your clothing but I haven’t gotten a chance to get to the laundromat yet this week.”

Aaron watched as he changed into the plain black tee shirt, “Understandable.”

In another minute, Alexander marched back into his own room, slid his belt off, and tossed it onto the desk chair. Heaving a sigh, he fell back onto the unfolded futon.

“I’m ready to hear your plan. Please hurry before my daughter gets back.”

The colonel sat down cautiously next to the other man.

“Well,” he began slowly, “why don’t we…use our knowledge of banking and finances…our strengths…to possibly…help us out of this situation?”

“What.” Alexander looked at him.

“We both have…you know…by virtue of our professions…inside knowledge of certain things…”

“Colonel Burr.”

“I’m not saying we necessarily exploit ourselves—“

“—That is exactly what you are saying!”

Aaron straightened up and spoke louder, “It most certainly is not. What I mean is, we can ask around for tips—what sorts of stock to sell, look for clues—and benefit from our unique position.”

“Oh my holy Savior,” the general covered his face again, muffling an exaggerated prayer, “Here it is. He’s asking me to…it’s the well company all over again—“

“I know you have more intimate knowledge then you’re leading me to believe.” Burr leaned in closer, “I promise I won’t ask you to do anything illegal. Just—“

“—unethical.”

“You are a lawyer on Wall Street, for God’s sake. I am only asking you to use your God-given talent and get yourself, and myself, out of this mess. Just give my idea a shot and if you decide, at any time, to back out, I will not begrudge you.”

“I have laid with a dog and now I have fleas.” Another muffled cry.

“General, I will take all the blame should things go awry. Which I highly doubt.” The black-eyed colonel shifted his position, and moved himself to the floor beside the bed so he was at eye-level, “Do you remember when you made me watch CNBC all day?”

Hamilton grunted.

“And they mentioned something about repayment on treasury bonds going into default—“

“—It was an educated guess—“

Aaron flattened a palm against the lumpy mattress, “What if I were to tell you  said bonds were not going into default, and that they would actually be worth more, now, because everyone will be selling them under false pretenses, and those of us who still own them can buy up the unwanted ones for pennies on the dollar—“

“—Do you hear yourself?” Hamilton shot up, making his roommate start. “Do you remember what happened with the war bonds? Do you remember anything?”

“But I’m the one with insider information this time. I will take the fall.”

“Wait,” Alexander held up a hand, a thought crossing his features,“Selling.”

Burr waited from his position on the floor.

“Of course. Of course.”

“Of course what?”

“There might be a way.” Hamilton fixed his tee shirt and paced the room, heart beating rapidly at lie spreading through his chest. Frantically his mind told him it was the only way. He ran through the scenario in his mind like flipping through a rolodex.

“Do you want to elaborate on that or am I just going to sit here and play guessing games?” The colonel stood up.

“I am representing a company,” Alexander responded, waking up his laptop from its black screensaver, “and they are going to have to settle in court. They will have to pay a lot of money.” He typed something quickly, and then grabbed a stack of papers from beside the PC.

“It doesn’t look good. Our case, I mean. Libel. Hacking and wiretapping.”

“General, for the love of God.”  Aaron tried to keep pace, “Clarify yourself.”

The general walked back to his futon and sat down again pouring over his paper, “It’s not looking good for the defense. There’s nothing I can do about it.”

“And? What has that got to do with—“

“—The term is called ‘short selling’.” He breathed in, collected himself, and continued. “Before the announcement is made, you will sell your stock in said company. When the ruling finally goes public, the stock will go down in price.”

He read over a page quickly, then nodded to himself, “Yes. If the stock is worth twenty dollars this week, next week it could be worth, for instance, nineteen dollars and forty one cents.”

A glow of realization rose in Aaron’s eyes, “And I stand to make fifty-nine cents for every share.”

“Precisely.” Alexander did not look up from his legal pad. “The money can be placed in a bank account and then wired to the Sades. Or cashed out, put in an envelope, and you can crawl there to give it to him yourself.”

Aaron did not hear the last part; he strode over to his roommate and pulled him up off the futon by the shoulders.

“I could kiss you, you genius!”

“That’s…that’s not necessary at all,” Hamilton responded, wriggling free of the grip and blushing tremendously. “What is necessary is for you to sell that stock as soon as possible. Without making a big deal out of it. Do not mention my name. Subtlety is key.”

“General Hamilton, please, remember who you’re talking to,” the colonel grinned broadly.  Alexander gave him a reproachful look.

“I don’t condone this type of thing, you know,” he folded the stack of papers and shoved it into a small leather briefcase.

“What is the name of the company?”

“A news magazine, ostensibly. I will give you the details later. They are being sued for libel and I thought I was doing a good thing, agreeing to represent them…and then all this happened…” he motioned to nothing in particular, around him. “As it turns out, they’re no more credible than one of those sad rags you see in the supermarket checkout line—the National Inquirer—you know the ones.”

Aaron nodded, gaze still fixed on his companion in wonder.

“I don’t want to think about this anymore. The fact that I’m being unethical or the fact that you own stock in scurrilous magazine companies.” He shot his roommate a look and resumed his place on the futon.

“Angelica and Theo will be back any moment, I think.” Aaron craned his neck and looked out the window at the darkened sky. “Theo does not like to stay out past 10pm. Will you be calling it a night, then, General?”

“I think I’ve done enough damage for one day,” Alexander replied helplessly. He turned over the lies again and again—relieved that one was all but solved but woefully realizing the monster was not yet dead. Aaron, meanwhile, felt himself swell with hope at the craftiness of his companion.

“I am very much in debt to you now, you know,” the colonel tried again, walking closer to the man lying on his side, embarrassed and facing the wall. He leaned down and placed a small kiss on the general’s cheek; Alexander lay still, alarmed. “You genius.”

In another moment he heard the closing of a door as Aaron walked out, humming to himself.

Chapter Text

 

Alexander woke up with his neck bent in an awkward position, pain shooting through his shoulders and down his back, and he swore as he slowly rose from the futon into a sitting position. He looked outside at the never-ending dreariness of the late autumn sky and wondered what fresh surprises today would bring. A sudden rapping at his bedroom door brought him out of his thoughts.

“General? Are you in there?”

“Where else would I be?” He called back, rolling his eyes and reaching for his pants on the floor.

“May I come in?”

Hamilton pulled his trousers on quickly, ran a hand through his hair, and opened the door. Yawning, he stood face-to-face with the already dressed colonel.

“How long have you been up?” The general checked his watch, noticing it was only six-fifteen.

“Since five,” Aaron answered, walking into the bedroom, “I couldn’t sleep last night. Too excited.”

Alexander eyed him, “…About?”

“I was thinking,” Burr closed the door, “About the plan you told me about, last night. About short selling—“

“—Don’t talk about it so openly. I told you, I don’t want my daughter to hear.”

“They’re still asleep. Now listen,” Aaron sat himself at the desk and looked up at his roommate, “I stand to make a great deal of money from this. More than the money that I owe the Sades. Considerably more.”

Alexander eyed him, sleep still thick in his eyes, “And?”

Aaron breathed in, a smile forming, “And I think I know how I can use the excess funds.”

“Oh, Colonel…” the general trailed off, covering his face and thinking the worst, “Don’t tell me you’ve got another scheme you’re cooking up. I can’t handle any more schemes. Just…just put the money in a college fund or something. Please.”

Alexander walked over to his window and adjusted the blinds. Next to it, he fiddled with the thermostat, turning it up just a hair, and then leaning against the wall as his companion looked on expectantly.

“It’s nothing like that, General. I swear.”

“Well?”

“I should like to use the funds as first and last month’s rent on and apartment for you.” Aaron’s smile faded only slightly, but he kept his stare.

“I…really?”

“Well we will have to come to some sort of agreement regarding price, but I think that’s negotiable,” the black-eyed man sat awkwardly against the desk chair, arm draped over the back of it, and tapped his free hand against the smooth wood. He watched the thoughts play across his roommate’s face with anticipation.

When it came right down to it, Alexander’s mind revealed, he had grown rather complacent in his cramped quarters. Far from comfortable, even uneasy at times, but used to the routine. Alexander shook his head and told himself this was the right thing.

“I feel…I don’t know what to say, Colonel. That’s very generous of you.”

Aaron nodded smartly; waited.

“I have been looking for apartments for some time, now—“

“—I shouldn’t keep the money to myself, anyway,” Aaron cut in. Something about the eagerness with which he offered the deal sat restlessly in Alexander’s chest. “Since this would have been impossible without you, I believe it’s only fair to offer you some of the benefits.”

“I didn’t want to be a part of it in the first place,” Alexander regretted, walking over to his closet and peeking inside of a change of clothes.

“Well I figure this way, the money is going to something legitimate. Something helpful. That should sit well with you, now shouldn’t it?” Aaron shifted in his seat and straightened his vest while the general chafed under his patronizing tone.

“What would ‘sit well’ with me would be a scenario in which we never got ourselves into this situation. A scenario where I am still—“ Alexander stopped his thought. He couldn’t think of a fair way to end it. Aaron cut through his internal dialogue with a wave of his hand.

“We will pay off Sade and be free of this obligation. We will never have to speak to Jumel again. You will have your own apartment, perhaps even with room for Angelica, and we can go about our lives as planned.” Still, the rehearsed way in which the colonel spoke made Alexander feel ill at ease. The general imagined, for a moment, that the reason why Aaron hadn’t slept was because he was studying his speech all night.

“I suppose that is the best way,” he replied, finding a slightly wrinkled button-down shirt and wrapping it around his shoulders. Behind him, he heard Aaron clear his throat.

“I will sell the stocks on Monday.”

Alexander nodded at him, “Very well.”

Hamilton tried not to wade too deeply into the undercurrent of the situation—the memories of his conversation at the office several days ago. It was almost as if Aaron had forgotten the whole thing, save for the fact that Eliza Jumel was involved, and he wondered if the confession the colonel had made was sincere.

“I think this is probably the right thing to do,” Aaron voiced, echoing the sentiment his roommate made earlier, “This case you’re going to have to settle, the money involved, it all fits, you see.”

Alexander shut the closet door and faced him, “You think it’s Providence telling us something.”

“The solution is too easy for that not to be the case.” There was a hint of sadness in the black eyes, and then it evaporated.

“I never knew you to be one that believes in signs and omens, Colonel Burr,” Alexander responded with a small smile. He reached for the doorknob and corrected himself, “Well, I never knew you to be one that believes in signs and omens when they don’t suit you, I suppose I should clarify.”

Aaron followed him down the hallway into the kitchen, where the coffee had already been brewed. The general poured himself a cup and sat at the counter, jumping slightly at the coldness of the bar stool.

“But this benefits both of us. That’s how I know it’s the proper course of action.” Aaron leaned over the counter. He lowered his voice so as not to wake the sleeping girls in the other bedroom. “You seem to be hesitant.”

The general sipped his coffee in thought.

“I’m…” he faltered, “Well, I’m a bit confused, Colonel. That’s all.”

“About?”

Alexander exhaled loudly, “Do you not remember the conversation at the office, several weeks  ago?”

“Of course I do.”

“You told me…you made it seem like…” the general raised a hand, motioned around him. Burr waited expectantly, and Hamilton knew he was playing dumb.

“You made it seem like you were content.”

“Content?”

“You know to what I am referring!”

“General, please do not raise your voice this early in the morning,” the colonel murmured, standing up straight. Embarrassed, he stepped back and put his hands in his pockets. “I don’t want to talk about it. What I said was a mistake.”

Alexander sputtered, “A mistake?”

The other man nodded quickly and turned around, rummaging through the refrigerator.

“You mean a lie.”

“No, I mean a mistake. A misinterpretation of the facts at hand.” The colonel found a small container of yogurt and opened it, then grabbed a spoon.

“Fine. Yes, fine. I will find a new apartment and we can put this whole thing behind us,” Alexander waved a hand, irritated, “I am sorry I got you mixed up with Jumel. I am sorry I lied to you. We can properly sever ties now.”

“That was rather disingenuous, but I suppose it’s my turn. I am sorry for being manipulative and dishonest.”

“All that talk about me being your responsibility,” the general murmured under his breath and cut to the point, “it was all a lie?”

Shaken, Aaron finished the last of his yogurt and tossed the empty container in the trash. He blushed, tiny blotches of red on his cheeks, and then, “I told you, I misinterpreted the facts. I did not blatantly lie to you. At least not about…that.”

“Be clear.”

“About you being my responsibility and feeling something other than mild annoyance for you,” Burr snapped, talking over his roommate and losing his cool. “But since you have presented us with an alternative to cohabitation, a convenient alternative, I should add, I think it the proper way to solve this little…aberration.”

“Aberration. You think feelings are aberrations?”

“Feelings for you, yes.” Aaron quickly turned around and faced the sink, splashing cold water on his face. Behind him, he heard the general scoff loudly.

“So you did feel something.”

“What would you like me to say?” The colonel faced his roommate again, and spoke louder. A chill ran through Alexander as he watched his sanguine companion’s demeanor change dramatically. “I told you my reasons for not accepting the money in the first place, General Hamilton. I told you how I felt responsible for you, for what transpired between us, now and back then. I told you that I could not merely let you orbit me in my daily life and pretend as if nothing happened—that I couldn’t look at you blankly—Truthfully, I am not sure what else you are looking for from me. Unless you mean to torture me further for your own amusement.”

The general recoiled at the sudden burst of emotion, “So you think I am torturing you.”

“Just like you always did,” Aaron managed a fake, pained smile. “I have revealed myself to you to no avail. And so, yes, I would like to forget everything and send you on your way.”

Alexander looked down at the counter, absorbing the new information. He chewed his lip, hurting himself, and became short of breath. “Tell me, right now,” he placed a finger on the granite, unable to make eye contact, “how you feel about me. Everything. Cruel or not.”

Aaron waited and his stomach flipped. He frowned and thought for a moment, and then, “I’m not revealing anything to you. I have already said too much. Do you think I would willingly expose myself to you, just for you to throw it back in my face?”

The Nevisian looked up at the man in front of him, “But what you said at the office wasn’t entirely untrue—“

“—General Hamilton, let it go.”

“You can’t erase me from your life and I can’t erase you from mine—“

“—You are looking for a definition that I cannot give.”

“And so you would rather pretend. You would rather gloss over the truth instead of searching for it, you would rather pretend—“

“There are things that lack definition, General Hamilton,” Aaron repeated, louder. The sun peaked over the horizon, filling the small kitchen with orange light. “And you would do well to leave mysteries alone.”

“Not when they involve me!”

“It appears that the right thing to do is to get you out of my apartment—“

“—You are afraid of making decisions,” Alexander cut him off, his pride stinging, “You look around you for clues and hints as to what is to be done instead of taking responsibility for yourself. That is lazy and cowardly.”

Aaron shot him a burning look, his own gut churning with embarrassment, and stormed out of the room.

Chapter Text

Betsey made her way down the brightly lit aisles, not stopping to look at any of the products, or stopping to hear that her favorite modern song was being piped in through the tinny speakers in the ceiling. Several store clerks nodded and smiled in her direction, a random act of faith stopping them from asking her if she needed help.

Which she did, technically, but not the kind they could provide.

She reached her destination, blessedly at the back of the store and away from prying eyes. And here was where the hard part began, the small, dark-haired woman despaired internally.

She’d never gone condom shopping before; had never even heard of or seen some of the toys and lubricants being offered on the shelf next to the prophylactics. Next to that, pregnancy tests. And still further down, Betsey almost smiled, expensive and over-priced diapers. The whole aisle was like a warning, like a cause and effect, that people so easily looked over.

She turned her gaze back to the myriad of multi-colored boxes before her, trying to sense out a place to start. For a moment she almost wanted someone to share this with, to ask questions of, someone she trusted. Angelica Church immediately came to mind, but then the questions would start:

“Why are you buying condoms? I thought Alexander hated them. I thought he was insulted the one time you asked. Didn’t you say he was insulted?  John won’t wear any, either, It’s a pride thing. So I buy by own, you know, for females. It takes some getting used to, but they’re not that bad.”

Betsey would smile quietly and let her sister continue.

“Have you looked into birth control? Never mind, Alexander would know about the finances, wouldn’t he.” That part wouldn’t be a question. “Why are you buying condoms, anyway?”

Betsey concluded that she’d be better off doing this herself rather than taking along someone who would blow everything out of the water.

She was getting a divorce. This was ok. All of it.

She ran her hands across a light blue box that seemed to be a basic choice, six dollars, and pulled it off the shelf. Furtively she looked over her shoulder as if she were being watched. In another split second she dropped the small cardboard box into her basket and walked on.

The small, dark-haired woman meandered around the store for ten minutes longer, grabbing innocuous things such as milk and eggs, and hated herself for being so nervous. There was no reason to be, she chastised silently. She was a grown woman buying grown woman things and she was well within her rights.

That thought made her almost chuckle, well within her rights. Alexander would want to know what right she had to go buying intimate things behind his back without telling him. Betsey would chafe under his words, and either keep silent, or subtly remind him that times had changed. She felt her neck grow hot with anger. To distract herself, she walked brusquely down the candy aisle and picked out three peppermint patties for her three youngest—three youngest with teeth.

At the checkout counter she faltered a hello, grabbed the milk, eggs, and candy bars and placed them on the counter. Quickly she put the box of condoms behind the large gallon, hoping to hide them from prying eyes. Another customer showed up behind her and smiled a hello.

“You ready for this big storm coming this weekend?” She asked innocently.

Betsey nodded quickly.

“I see you’re buying milk and eggs, good thing, too. I predict that by tomorrow night they’ll be sold out.” The customer chewed loudly on a piece of gum. “I always wondered why people bought stuff like milk when there was a chance that they could lose power, you know, the refrigerator dying and all."

A pause, and the beeping of the register filled the silence. The customer flipped through a magazine lazily.

“Amazing how much we forget about little things like that. You figure, at least for snow storms, if it's fifteen degrees outside, can’t be that much colder in your fridge, regularly, why not keep the perishables outside? But hurricanes are different, I guess.”

The cashier finished scanned and muttered the total. Betsey looked up from her stare at the floor and then fumbled in her purse for the cash. She pretended not to hear the blithe customer prattle away stories of winters past. Her heart skipped a beat when she realized she’d left her other wallet at home, the one with her debit card and check book.

Or was it back in the hotel room? Or…Betsey stopped thinking and began to panic. She prayed she hadn’t left it in the hotel room.

“I’m so sorry,” she began softly, cutting the customer behind her off, “I can’t find my debit card. What’s the total?”

“$12. 90.”

“You need a couple dollars?” She heard the voice behind her offer, smacking on gum. “I can spot you, I don’t mind.”

“No, really that will be alright. I have cash in here somewhere,” the dark, petit woman grew warm again, briefly recalling an instance where Alexander once offered to give her an allowance. And remembering the insulted resentment she responded with. And his look of pure shock.

Her hands scraped something thin and papery, and she breathed a sigh of relief. Without looking, she placed it on the counter.

“This is only a ten,” the cashier responded, and Betsey glanced down just long enough to see the triumphant face of her ex-husband smiling back at her.

“Would you like me to take some things off the ticket?”

Betsey felt the tears well up in her throat at the unfairness of it.

“The eggs. The eggs will be fine.” She wiped her eye, glancing around at everything else besides the transaction before her.

Chapter Text

 

Alexander left before his roommate woke up—quietly stole a muffin from the box on top of the fridge, slurped down one cup of black coffee—and was out the door before five am.

He made sure he called Betsey the day before, warning her he was stopping by to collect more of his things.

“Was that even the right word to use? Warning her?” Alexander muttered to himself, walking from his car to the front steps of the large mansion, a solid block of ice forming in his stomach at the thought of his ex-father in law perhaps answering the door. “Warning her? I don’t need to warn her.”

But he did; a small text message on a tiny phone whose memory card was almost full with a ninety second video. Betsey got the message, glanced at it twice, forgot about it in less than five hours, and then shut her phone off for the rest of the evening.

“What kind of things do I even need to get?” The general wondered out loud. He clenched his jacked tighter around him. He stood on the doorway and pulled out his phone, dialed his ex-wife, and put the cold plastic up to his face.

“Hello?”

“Betsey, it’s me. I’m outside.” A loud gust of wind cut his sentence in half. “Can you please let me in?”

“It’s not even eight in the morning, Alexander. What are you doing here?”

The general looked up to see a curtain on the second floor move, dark eyes peer out, and then disappear again.

“I texted you yesterday that I’d be here early, before the children wake up. I need to gather the rest of my things.” He closed his eyes and turned his back to the wind and the beginnings of a pale pink sunrise peeked over the horizon.

“Fine. I’ll let you in. But please be quiet.”

He touched his phone to turn it off and several seconds later heard the latch of a door unlock. Betsey greeted him with tired eyes and a sleeping baby in her arms.

“Come in,” she nodded curtly, and moved out of the way.

Alexander was hit with the familiarity of it all and was surprised at how immediately out of place he felt.

“The baby’s been up half the night with a little cough,” Betsey continued, walking away from him and into the kitchen at the back of the house. Out of habit, the general followed her. “Phil, Junior and James are still asleep, they may not be up until well after ten, it being Saturday. John Church and William are at a sleepover with a school friend.”

“Elizabeth?”

“She may wake very soon. So be quick. I don’t want any questions.”

The petite brunette set the baby down in his high chair and began spoon-feeding him. Baby Phil turned and gave his father a large, toothless grin, to which Alexander waved pleasantly.

“He doesn’t look sick,” the general added, walking closer to his son, concern on his face.

“I’m taking him to the doctor later this afternoon. I told you, he’s been coughing all night.” She lifted the spoon and pushed it into the baby’s mouth. “Anyway, I went ahead and placed some of your things on my bed, if you’d like to go sort through them and take what you need.”

Betsey continued feeding the youngest Hamilton while Alexander made his way, slowly, through the house and toward the stairs. He ran a hand against the walls, feeling the thick, expensive wall paper, and listened to the soft click of his heels against the wood floor. None of it was his, anymore, none of it was really ever his.

He wondered where his money had gone and if it had just melted into his father-in-law’s; did he provide anything for his family, or was it just a charade to make him feel good?

Ascending the stairs, the general muttered under his breath, “She’d tell me if her father was helping us out. She wouldn’t let me believe I was doing it all on my own.”

He opened the door to their bedroom and immediately set about eyeing the clothes with tunnel-vision. To stop and reminisce about the innumerable memories around him would be torture. The Nevisian smiled bitterly at the familiar suitcase on the bed, already half-filled with his clothes, and began rearranging them to fit more in.

Downstairs, he heard his baby giggle, and he swore under his breath as he struggled with the zipper on the bag.

“Toiletries,” he mumbled, giving up on the suitcase and heading towards the bathroom. Grabbing his razor, shaving cream, toothbrush and comb he then fumbled around for a smaller bag to put the new items in.

Blindly he groped underneath the sink, already crammed with a mess of women’s hair accessories and shampoos, “I didn’t think Betsey was ever into this sort of thing,” and he pushed aside a twenty dollar bottle of conditioner to find a small pile of cosmetics bags of various sizes.

“Finally, my goodness,” the general smiled, as best he could, and sat back on the floor, figuring out a way to cram the items into the soft fabric case.

In another second, his hand brushed against the small, soft cardboard of the condom packet.

“What the hell?” He held it up and examined it—new, unopened. Read the back, furrowed his eyebrows, and wanted to laugh. “How did this get here? I never bought these.”

A brief moment of ice cold terror hit him as the general imaged maybe he’d left them here, by accident, and Betsey had seen them, and concluded the worst. Another grab inside the cosmetics bag revealed the receipt, dated only two days previous.

The general sat back and stared at the small package, thinking over various scenarios in his mind as to why she’d have it. He found himself heading down the stairs and into the kitchen, questions and answers rearranging themselves inside his mind. He smiled as he was greeted with the two occupants in the kitchen.

“Betsey…do you know anything about these?”

The petite, dark-haired woman cleared her throat and smiled nervously, “I was going to tell you about those.”

Alexander lowered his voice, and looked at the floor, “Don’t tell me Phil’s been—“

“—Why were you sneaking around under the sink anyway?”

“I needed a toiletries bag. Where are the boys? Will they be awake soon? Because I would like to speak to them about this.” He leaned back against a counter. “I can’t believe they wouldn’t tell me if they were having sex. Or at least come talk to me if they had questions.”

“Alexander—“

“I know you don’t want me here when they wake up, but Betsey, this is rather important. And frankly I’m a little insulted that you didn’t let me know you’d found these,” he held up the light blue box again, and Betsey bit her tongue, unsure how to feel. The baby garbled a response and spat orange mush out.

Cleaning up the mess, Betsey pressed on, “I would rather you just let it go. Please, Alexander, just this once, let something you have no control over just go.”

“I absolutely have control over this, they are my sons,” the general tried not to raise his voice. Upstairs, he heard a toilet flush. Betsey raised her gaze to the ceiling, looked at the clock on the oven, and then back to her husband.

“It’s eight-forty. That will be Junior.”

“I’ll speak with him first, then.”

“Alexander, do not do this right now. I am asking you politely to please gather your things and leave,” the black-eyed woman crossed her arms and stared at the other occupant in the room defiantly.

Alexander shook his head, “You should have said something to me. They’re in high school. Too young for this kind of thing,” he waved the box again, “Have you spoken to them, yet?”

“I was waiting for the right moment. And it’s not right now.”

Light footsteps trudged down the stairs; a hand glided along the wooden banister, and the Hamilton son made his way toward the kitchen. Betsey closed her eyes and whispered:

“Alexander, if you head out the back door, he won’t see—“

“I am not sneaking out of my own house!” The general’s whisper was harsh.

“Dad?” Junior appeared at the doorway, and his father turned around to greet him pleasantly

Junior stared at his father for a moment while Alexander smiled, unsure.

“Dad? What are you doing here?”

The general faltered, shook his head as his grin faded, “Am I not allowed to come see my children whenever I want?”

“At nine in the morning on a Sunday?” The Hamilton son was suspicious. He glanced once at his mother, who stared at the floor, and back to his father. “This is weird.”

“It’s not that weird,” Alexander responded, sticking a hand in his pocket, feeling the small box of condoms, reminding himself of his mission. “I came here to get a few clothes, and I…thought I could say hello to you and your brothers before I left.”

“How did you know we’d be awake?”

Next to the general, Baby Phil gurgled and laughed, in on a joke no one else got.

“Your father was just leaving, Junior.” Betsey finally found her voice and walked over to her son, and rubbed his head. Junior frowned.

“He should at least stay for breakfast.”

“I’m not making breakfast this morning, Junior,” his mother reasoned, walking over to the window, baby in tow, to fix the blinds. She turned to face her husband pointedly, “He just leaving. Right now. Aren’t you, Alexander?”

The general frowned, then looked at his son, “Where are your brothers, Junior? Where are James and Philip?”

“They’re still asleep—“

“—Will you wake them for me? There is something I need to talk to you all about, just you boys.”

“Alexander,” Betsey felt herself swell with anger,  and turned her back to her son, “I told you to please do this another time. You are not prepared to talk to them and neither am I.”

He watched the petite brunette jiggle the baby in her arms, up and down, while he cooed happily.

“Why are you so adamant about me not talking about this? It is very important. They are growing up, and if I am finding grown up things like this,” he finally pulled the packet from his pocket, and placed his free hand on his hip. “Then I think it’s perfectly acceptable to want to talk about grown up things with my sons.”

In the background, Junior’s eyes widened and he snickered, softly registering a “holy shit”. His mother turned her dark gaze on him in a flash.

“You watch your mouth, Junior,” she inclined her head towards the baby, while the general shook his head. In another second, the general faced his son.

“Are these yours, Junior?”

“What? No, those aren’t mine!”

“Are they Phil’s?” Alexander pressed on, adamant. Beside the window, Betsey sighed loudly.

“Alexander, I said drop it,” she hissed through gritted teeth, trying not to disturb the baby. He cooed loudly, grabbed a strand of her hair, and shook his fist. The petite brunette yanked her head away and walked closer to her husband. “I am serious, you need to just let it go.”

“I don’t know, maybe,” Junior offered, “Maybe they belong to Challz.”

“Challz? Who the hell is Challz?” Alexander asked, exasperated.

“He means the Adams boy, Charles.” Betsey cut in, jiggling the young child on her hip.

“Why in God’s name would he have anything to do with the Adamses?” The general grew frantic.

“What about the Adamses?” A different voice called from the hallway; James appeared and propped himself up against the doorframe.

“Dad found Challz’s condoms in mom’s bathroom.” Junior offered.

“What? Gross!” James’ countenance darkened.

“Alright, that’s it. Everybody out,” Betsey reached her limit, and motioned towards the door.

“I am not leaving until I discuss the seriousness of these items with my sons!” Alexander gestured with the hand holding the condoms, and the petit brunette briskly snatched them away.

“I said not now!”

“This is so awkward, holy shit,” James muttered, mimicking his brother’s favorite swear. His father glanced at him angrily.

“James, watch your mouth.”

“Obviously they’re Phil’s. Can we all just go now?” Junior whined, running a hand through his thick, messy hair. “This is so weird.”

Beside Alexander, the baby in his wife’s arms began to gurgle a soft cry, hungry for more breakfast. Betsey tried to comfort him, and in the next moment fixed her gaze on the general, as if to blame him.

“I told you I didn’t want to discuss this right now. You’ve upset the baby.”

“Why is everyone yelling? It’s like nine-thirty!” A third voice came drifting down the hallway—the elder Phil’s. Betsey covered her face and muttered something incoherent under her breath.

“Philip!” Alexander greeted him sternly in the doorway, his younger sons grinning uncomfortably behind him, craning their necks. “What is this?”

Phil blinked once, “Those are condoms, dad.”

“Yes, I know they are condoms. I want to know why you have them in this house. If you are having sex—“

“—Jesus Christ,” Junior mumbled to himself, avoiding his mother’s reproachful gaze.

“Did you ask Challz yet?” Phil stifled a yawn and adjusted his shirt lazily.

“We already told him they’re probably Challz’s, he didn’t listen.” Junior offered.

“Why are you all fraternizing with the Adamses?” Alexander yelled.

“it’s not all of us,” James replied defensively, “Just Phil. He and Challz are like, best friends now.”

“We’re not ‘best friends’, you idiot, you make it sound like I’m betraying the family or something—“

“—I never said that! Who cares what kind of idiot friends you have!” James chimed in, raising his voice and disturbing the baby further. Betsey opened her mouth to say something, but what cut off by her bickering sons.

“Just because you two doofuses can’t get any friends doesn’t mean I’m going to walk around lonely and pissed off all the time,” Phil shot back, turning red. “He’s not that bad. Challz is an ok guy, you have to give him a chance!”

Alexander forgot about the condoms for a moment and tried to reason with his eldest son, “Phil, it’s not about chances, with the Adamses—“

Junior laughed unpleasantly, “—Whatever, dad, you’re allowed to go live with that psychopath—“

“—I said enough!” Betsey finally got the attention of the arguing males as they all turned to look at her, slightly alarmed. “I said that’s enough, and we will discuss this another time, do you all hear me?” The baby in her arms began to wail, and the flustered general heaved a dramatic sigh.

“We are not done here, do you understand me?” He looked at each of his sons in turn, pointedly. “I am going to get to the bottom of this.”

Betsey felt her insides churn with embarrassment and, she noticed, indignation. Part of her wanted to scream at her husband, admitting that the condoms were hers, and that yes, she was having sex—not with him, but with a man who was more inclined to treat her like a female with needs—and another small part of her thought better.

“Alexander, I think it is time for you to leave.”

“I’m taking these with me. No sons of mine will go around whoring—“

“—Alexander, I said drop it!”

“Why are you defending this behavior, Betsey? This is completely unacceptable!” The general almost stomped his foot; then thought better. “They are too young for this, and there are diseases, and—“

Reaching her limit, the petite brunette stormed past her husband, screaming baby in tow. Her eldest sons watched as their normally calm mother lost her placidity, and ascended the stairs with a furious quickness.

“Great job, Dad,” Junior offered sarcastically.

“They’re probably Angelica’s,” Phil laughed to himself, “Watch all of this be for nothing. Watch Angelica come looking for them tomorrow or something.”

Alexander covered his eyes, his gut sinking, “Don’t talk like that, Phil. I can’t bear it. Not my daughter.”

“They’re not Angelica’s,” James couldn’t stop giggling, “She couldn’t get a boyfriend if she paid for one.”

His brothers laughed harder, and their father shot all three boys a disciplined stare.

“I am going to get to the bottom of this, do you all understand me?” He lowered his voice, hoping to sound threatening. “If I don’t have a confession from one of you by tomorrow night, there will be hell to pay. Do I make myself clear?”

“Yeah,” Junior jumped in first, rolling his eyes. James looked at his brother first, then nodded in assent.

“Phil? Did you hear me?” Hamilton looked at his eldest child, who shrugged.

“Yeah. I mean, I guess? But I swear they’re not mine. I'm telling you, this is probably Challz's idea of a joke.”

The two younger Hamilton sons nodded in agreement while Alexander grew cold again.

“Stop saying they’re Charles Adams’s. They’re not Charles Adams’s! How would Charles Adams’ condoms get into your mother’s bedroom in the first place?” The general’s patience thinned. His sons began to giggle.

“Who knows? He likes to play tricks on people. He probably thought it would be funny to plant them here and see how riled up he could get you.” Phil covered his mouth to stifle another laugh, while behind him he could hear his brothers walking back down the hallway.

Chapter Text

 

“I was beginning to think you’d never come back,” Mary spoke up wryly, peering over her legal pad. “You missed the last two sessions.”

“I was busy,” Aaron responded flatly. He picked up a pen and turned it over in his fingers.

“I understand. It’s not easy to find time for these meetings.”

The Colonel smirked to himself. No, it wasn’t easy, between the stifling awkwardness of his apartment, the frigid daily interactions in the office and the ever-present feeling of something ominous looming over his shoulders—no, it wasn’t easy at all. The silent man didn’t express any of this, but rather let the doctor continue her thinly veiled criticisms of his laziness.

“You know, these meetings won’t work unless you are truly dedicated to them, Aaron.” She paused, and then, “If you want to cease your therapy, just say the word. I won’t be offended.”

Aaron bit the inside of his mouth, “I don’t want them to cease.”

“You must promise to try harder to make it, every week. For at least thirty minutes.” She sounded stern.

“I apologize for not showing up. It won’t happen again,” finally, he looked up, “I have had a lot to deal with in the past few weeks, you see”

“What sorts of things?” Mary poised her pen, ready to write. The Colonel closed his eyes.

“My coworker’s daughter has moved in to my apartment. She and my daughter are good friends.” Aaron sat back in his chair. “Things are hectic.”

Not looking up from her notes, Dr. Blood continued, “This is the coworker that is going through a divorce?”

“The same.”

“I’m assuming the question of custody hasn’t been settled between your coworker and his wife?”

“She’ll get the kids,” Aaron responded, matter-of-fact. “But his daughter is…wayward. She feels stifled by her mother and missed her father and so now she’s—“

Mary held up her hand, “I must have missed something.” She furrowed her eyebrows. “How many people are living with you, Aaron?”

“Three. My daughter, his daughter, and him.”

“Your coworker?”

“I thought I told you this already.” The black-eyed man frowned, slightly annoyed. Mary shot him a reproachful look.

“I am simply trying to understand why you would allow this sort of disruption in your daily habits, if you have also expressed a desire to change your life. You need stability, Aaron. How are you handling yourself?”

“Alright, I suppose. Not that much different than from our last meeting, no offense,” he added weakly.

“Your sexual habits?”

“Dry as a desert for the past month. I feel like death. Worthless and cold. Is that progress, do you think?”

Finally, Mary placed her writing pad on the table beside her, and sighed.

“Aaron, these sessions are not intended as punishment. I am not your enemy, I am trying to help you get your life back from this obsession. My goal is not to bar you from sex indefinitely, but rather to introduce you to a healthier type of relationship. You know what we discussed.”

“Meaning. Depth. Ahh, yes. But, you see, I’m only half of the problem. I can only stretch myself so far,” the Colonel gritted his teeth, hated himself for admitting failure, “if the other party wants nothing to do with me. There is no depth unless both parties agree.”

He balled a fist in his lap, watched the skin on him knuckles turn white, and exhaled. To his left, the sun outside the window hung low in the sky and he knew his daughter would be walking home from school, Angelica on a bus, and Alexander wondering angrily why his coworker decided to skip an entire day of work, out doing God knows what.

“Well yes, that is true, but oftentimes affection comes with painful side effects.”

The black-eyed man got the point: “I did things your way. And you were wrong, Madame. I got nothing for my troubles but scorn and rejection. It is a recurring pattern in my life, one that isn’t easily broken.”

The doctor inclined her head to the left, “You did things ‘my way’? What do you mean?”

“Forging meaningful relationships.” Aaron raised a finger at her, “You told me in order to beat this addiction of mine, so-called, I needed to find meaning in a relationship. I tried. I was sabotaged. And I am humiliated. And the more I admit this, the more humiliated I become. You see now why I conduct my affairs the way I do,” he added, his temper flaring.

“I didn’t know you were interested in someone, Aaron.”

“—It’s like buying a car,” the Colonel cut in, louder, glancing at nothing in particular, “the older it gets, the more it sits on the lot, people ignoring it, the more suspicious potential buyers become. It is a vicious cycle.”

“So, just to clarify, you are comparing yourself to a used car.” Mary matched her patient’s tone, locked eyes with him. “You are saying you’re too old to find real love.”

“I hate the word.”

The doctor waved her hand, gesturing, “And so you think you can have all the physical trappings of love without the messy emotions.”

Aaron’s heart beat faster with increased irritation, “Your ways do not work for me.”

“You keep hinting that you’ve tried to begin a relationship with someone. Elaborate on that.”

The black-eyed colonel stopped his thoughts for a moment, and covered his eyes with one hand. He breathed in deeply, letting his shoulders rise and fall, and thought about the past six months. He let his anger settle, and then began slowly.

“There is someone.” Cautiously, Aaron sifted through the thoughts in his mind. “Not a lover, precisely.”

“Lover implies sex, possibly even strictly sex. Have you been sleeping with this person?”

Aaron shook his head, no, “Not for several months.”

“Tell me about them,” her tone was formal, but pleasant.

“I find this person in my daily thoughts, but not in a romantic way, at least not all the time. We—We have known each other for a long, long time.”

“You’re saying your relationship with this person is probably complicated.”

“Exhaustingly so.”

Mary nodded, “Complicated isn’t always healthy, Aaron, be careful.”

He closed his eyes, predicting her response.

“I know, I know. But it’s not that simple. It’s not…simply complicated.” He moved a hand, then ran it through his hair. “I thought I worked out my feelings towards this person but I was incorrect.”

“What are your feelings towards this person?”

“Not love.”

“I didn’t ask what they weren’t,” the doctor responded, raising an eyebrow, “I asked what they were.”

“Perhaps I can go through the process of elimination.”

“Aaron—“

“—Frustration,” the Colonel thought out loud, speaking the first word that came to him. “A bit of fascination. Anger. Resentment. There is jealousy, I will admit. A sort of…lurid curiosity. Lust, at least in the beginning. Did I already say frustration?”

Mary exhaled and collected her own thoughts, “Perhaps love isn’t an emotion at all, but rather an amalgamation of many emotions, to make a new, unique one.”

“Perhaps. But as I stated before, there is no use in attempting to further my curiosity, as the other party has made it all to plain that he—“

“—He?” Mary straightened her posture, interested. “Aaron, why did you not feel it necessary to specify the sex of this person?”

“Is it necessary?” He replied, defensively. The thick, almost impenetrable dam of emotion burst, the stoic black-eyed man could not hold back. “What does it matter? I’ve already exhausted myself with the female sex, according to anyone and everyone with a half-coherent opinion. I am predatory, cold, heartless. If I am romantic with some woman, it is for one reason and one reason only. I am incapable of loving her, thinking only of myself. She protects herself and in the process I must also protect myself and therefore we do this…this dance, two people only half-certain of what they want, and in the end decide, for the sake of sanity, to go their separate ways. This continues sixteen more times, give or take, until I am so fed up with the whole blasted process I can’t bear to start it all over again. The heartache isn’t worth it, Madame. I am, I always was a singular figure, I am comfortable with it. Until now. Until this man inserted himself into my life and refused to leave.”

Aaron settled himself, his cheeks burning. He stared directly into the startled face of the female across from him, who tried to make sense of the tirade.

“I am just trying to understand,” she began calmly, “You have a reputation with women, and you say they can sense it, and so they shy away.”

Aaron nodded, disinterested and embarrassed.

“But this man you’re talking about, he has..” she searched for the right word, carefully, “…he has stuck around you through all of this?”

“Not out of friendship, at least not lately.”

“Forgive me, Aaron, but I am still confused.”

The colonel closed his eyes again, and sighed heavily. The explanation was not an easy one. He took one last glance into the sharp, earthy features of the doctor across from him and pressed on.

“This man I’m talking about. We…a long, long time ago,” Aaron toyed with a button on his vest, “We hurt each other. Badly.”

He waited for Mary to chime in. When she didn’t, he continued solemnly.

“We hurt each other, in such a…in a way that was so precise…” The heaviness descended on his chest once again, as it always did when he thought about his new roommate, and Aaron found it hard to continue. He began an admission he swore, on principal, never to voice. “I didn’t intend to hurt him, and yet he proactively protected himself by intentionally harming me.”

Mary waited, Aaron continued softly.

“And it was so accurate, Doctor. So specifically catered to me, and me alone, that I found myself wondering, incessantly, how he managed to do such a thing…and why…”

The ticking of the clock on the wall grew louder, suddenly, and everything within arm’s reach of Burr came into sharp focus. A speck of dust floated down from the ceiling, hung briefly in the ray of  sunlight the cut a path across the floor, and then fell.

“I wondered how he’d managed to do such a thing and then I thought…maybe…This is stupid. This is pure conjecture.”

“Finish your thought, Aaron.”

His hands began to shake in his lap with nerves, “I thought maybe if he knows how to hurt me in such a particular way, perhaps he also knows how… to do the opposite.” The colonel finished his thought quietly, unburdened and exposed.

Mary closed her notepad and blinked once, unsurprised.

Chapter Text

 

After another moment of silence, Mary cocked her head to the side, face hiding her emotions, “What brings you to such a conclusion, Aaron?”

The colonel wished he’d hadn’t said anything, and wished he’d been able to come up with a lie on the spot. He sat sullenly for a few seconds, and finally offered his response, “I don’t know. Please forget I said anything. The nature of this conversation is making me uncomfortable, you must understand.”

“You know that isn’t my intention, Aaron.” Dr. Blood re-situated herself in a new position, placing her notepad onto the table next to her. “It isn’t unusual for us to be drawn to people who hurt us. Not healthy, but nothing to be ashamed of. And nothing that can’t be worked on with communication.”

“It’s not what you think, Doctor, I can assure you.” Aaron stared dolefully out of the window.

“You clearly have more on your mind, more that you’re not telling me,” the doctor added wisely. Her patient turned his gaze towards her, and she added, “It might help, and this is only a suggestion, if you start at the beginning, and fill me in on your history with this man.”

The colonel closed his eyes once again, the moment he feared, when he started therapy, finally upon him. Start at the beginning, he rehearsed in his mind. What constituted the beginning, if there even was one? And who’s beginning?

“Aaron? You have come so far, don’t let your fear get the best of you,” the doctor tried further, her eyes alight with interest. “Start with his name. Surely there is no harm in that.”

The black-eyed man panicked for a moment, and sized his female companion up. Names were always a roll of the dice—"Alexander Hamilton" wasn’t necessarily a unheard of. He thought better, and too quickly.

“Felix.”

Mary cocked an eyebrow, “Felix? This man’s name is Felix?”

“Yes.” Aaron fiddled with a button on his shirt. “And as I stated before, we have known each other for a long while.”

“What is his last name?”

Black eyes looked up, “I’m sorry?”

“Felix what?”

“That is immaterial.”

Mary straightened herself and exhaled, slowly losing patience, “Mr. Edwards, you are lying to me.”

“What do you mean?”

“Because your demeanor has changed. A few minutes ago you were forthright, admitting to feeling something other than lust for another person, and now your are cagey. This sudden change in manner can only be attributed to your sudden change in candor.”

“If I speak his name—” Aaron couldn’t finish his thought. If he spoke the general’s name, then what? The world would collapse? Mary would discover their ruse?  "I’ve already said enough. I know you are a professional, and I respect you, but you must let me just use this alias for now. At least until I know you better.”

“And what would help you get to know me better?” The doctor pressed on, features coming alive slowly. “Shall I share my story with you first?”

The black-eyed man scanned the room, gaze landing on a clock, realizing it was half-past noon and he hadn’t eaten lunch. Alexander would be awake, fretting about this and that, and the familiarity of it all hit Aaron suddenly until his chest felt warm.

“I would like to know your story, yes.” He finished, looking back at Mary.

It was the doctor’s turn to nod. She lowered her gaze, rubbed her eyes, and placed both hands in her lap.

“I shouldn’t’ be here, you know,” She began softly, locking eyes with the male occupant, “Had it not been for the quick thinking of some brilliant doctors, I would have been dead years ago.”

“I am pleased at your good fortitude,” Aaron responded slowly.

“My partner and I, his name is William, tried for years to have a child, and we were told I was infertile. That my chances were nearly one in fifty, or however they measure those types of things,” she waved her hand absentmindedly; Aaron watched the wedding ring glisten in the afternoon light and wondered why he’d never seen it before.

“When my daughter was born I lost so much blood I went into a coma, for almost a week. My husband panicked, and named her after me, as an honor to my memory, if I didn’t pull through.”

The room around him drifted in and out of focus, and Aaron had trouble finding words, “You are a lucky woman, Dr. Blood.” The name felt strange on his tongue.

“Indeed I am lucky, as are you, Colonel.”

Aaron nodded, and a split second later, “What did you call me?”

The sharp, earthy features spread into a pleased grin, “I addressed you as ‘Colonel’. I hope you don’t think I am being too forward.”

For a moment, the black-eyed man felt suspended in time; a brief, uninhibited moment of realization on his face made the female occupant laugh.

“I take it you don’t recognize me, then? A good thing,” the lilt of her accent was tinted with mirth, “I would grow weary of it. A blessing, too, that photography was not invented in 1790, do you agree?”

Her persona changed, and no longer was Mary the slightly dour therapist, but rather, noticed Aaron interestedly, friendly and spirited company. “Oh, Colonel Burr, don’t play stupid, it doesn’t become you,” she teased.

Suddenly, the dark-featured man found himself gaping. “Madame—?”

She stood up, walked over to him, and placed a hand on his shoulder, “I should think one of my most avid champions would be quicker to recognize me. I am humbled, Colonel Burr.”

At the sound of his name, he stood up,“Madame Wollstonecraft,” he muttered, reverently.

“Please don’t act any different, Aaron,” she resumed using his given name, “I would hate to lose this confidence we have. You mustn’t let my history come between this therapy, I do take it seriously.”

Aaron stood in shocked silence for another few seconds, eventually letting the dust cloud in his mind settle. As he let the new knowledge sink in, a slow grin spread across his mouth.

“I am star-struck, Madame,” instinctively, he reached for her hand, and kissed it.

“Oh, there is no need for that,” Mary responded prudently, “I told you not to treat me any differently—”

“—I’ve read everything you’ve ever written. Anything I could get my hands on, I read. And showed it to people, to see if they’d listen, and—”

Mary walked back to her seat, “—And they didn’t. I am familiar with your correspondence, yes.” She finished, sadly.

Breathlessly, Aaron took his own seat, “I’m sorry, Madame, I don’t mean to embarrass you, but you must understand the high esteem I hold you in, your opinions on female intellect—”

Mary’s smile faded slightly, and she held up her hand, “—Forgive me for interrupting you, but there will be time to discuss all that later.”

Aaron nodded, “Yes, yes of course.”

“We are here because of you, Colonel, not me. Remember I merely explained myself to make you more comfortable,” her professional voice was back, and Aaron leaned back in his chair. “This is a safe place, Aaron, I can assure you.”

“Your honestly is greatly appreciated,” the black-eyed man finished breathlessly, still awestruck. For a second, the two occupants regarded each other. The colonel was the first to speak up, quietly, “But I am still very wary of revealing too much.”

“I will respect your use of an alias for this man you’re talking about, but I would ask that in exchange, you be brutally honest with me.”

“I suppose that is fair,” Aaron responded, eyeing her, “But my confessions will be that much more painful, knowing who you are, and how much I admire you.”

“I will treat you no differently than any of my other patients, regardless of your histories.”

“And you say you are familiar with mine?”

“I am,” she blinked, the emotions gone from her face.

“Do you have any opinions?” He muttered.

“Aaron…” Mary sighed, “…That is not for me to judge. You know that. I will say that when I found out about your promiscuity, I was intrigued. And set about trying to place myself in a position to help you.”

“You…came to New York…for me?”

Another brief smile and the hawk-like eyes flashed, “Not simply for you. I went to school here. And decided to stay for a while longer while my partner and daughter live in England.” She waved her hand again, dismissing her thoughts, “But enough about me! You are good at getting off topic, Colonel.”

“Thank you, Madame,” Aaron held his gaze on the female across from him, a swell of emotion in his chest. “For this. For your expertise. For everything.”

“Colonel Burr, there is no need—”

“—No, I won’t hear it.” He cut her off with finality, and she looked up, accepting the praise.

Chapter Text

 

Alexander paced back and forth in his tiny room, holding the box of condoms in his hand and intermittently looking at them, frowning. He was alone in the apartment, and didn’t have the time or the energy to figure out where the colonel had gone—without his briefcase and work papers, the general noticed—and he used the opportunity to think, alone.

He sat down on the edge of the lumpy futon and eyed his surroundings, as he often did when he needed to assess the situation he was in, and realized with some stinging clarity that there would be people who would move on. Without him. He tried to remember being forty-seven, and closed his eyes.

A brief scuffle as hands fumbled for the door to the apartment, and his daughter swore as she dropped a bag off directly inside the foyer. Alexander stood up and walked out of his tiny bedroom.

“Angelica? What are you doing? I thought you were going with Theo to the library to study all day?” Quickly, he hid the small cardboard packed in his pockets while his startled daughter looked up.

“What? Wait, why are you home?”

“I asked you a question first, young lady.” The general walked toward her, and noticed a few shopping bags she was trying to hide behind her feet. “Angelica Hamilton, I said I asked you a question,” he tried again, more stern.

“I was…we finished early…these are just from mom’s house, and—”

“—You’re telling me you’ve been to Albany and back in…” he looked at the kitchen clock pointedly, “…Less than three hours?”

“Well, I mean—”

“—Did you go shopping instead of the library?” He put a hand on his hip.

Finally, the teenager sighed, angry and exasperated, “I don’t have any clothes here, dad! All my stuff is at mom’s, still, and everything I own is so weird and ugly—”

"—There will be plenty of time to go shopping on another day!” He cut her off. The teenager rolled her eyes and pushed past him with her several bags, and made her way to Theo’s room.

“Are you listening to me, Angelica Hamilton?” Alexander tried again, louder, “You have several tests coming up, you know I keep track of these things—”

“—I’ll be fine!”

“You just started at this school, Angelica,” her father reasoned, “You have to make a good impression, so you can get into a good college—”

The slamming of a bedroom door cut him off, and Alexander felt his face flush with anger. He pounded a fist against the thick wood., “Open this door!”

“Leave me alone, for God’s sake! It’s Sunday! Sorry I didn’t want to spend all morning at the goddamned library!”

The Nevisian clenched hit teeth, “I will not reason with you on this, Angelica! You do not lie to me about where you’re going, do you understand? Especially when it involves school!”

In a flash, the door swung open, “Oh yeah? And why are you home? I thought you spent Sunday mornings at the office?”

Alexander pointed a finger, “Do not turn this back on me, I am not answerable to you, I am your father.”

"I came here to get away from suffocating parents,” the teenager muttered under her breath.

“Excuse me? Caring about my daughter’s education and well-being is not ‘suffocating’.”

“I hate school and I’m not going back,” Angelica turned her back on her father and flung herself down onto Theo’s bed dramatically. Muffled, she spoke up again, “I hate my new school.”

“You wanted to live here, you have to go to the school in the area. This was your decision.” Alexander crossed his arms.

“Everyone thinks I’m weird.”

“Perhaps they would think better of you if you didn’t act like you hated being there, and put effort into your schoolwork.”

“Or if I skipped class and got high.”

“What?”

The daughter raised herself up onto her elbows, “Relax, dad.”

“Are you taking drugs?” The general walked over to his daughter briskly, worried. “Have you been…experimenting with marijuana?”

Angelica covered her face, “Jesus Christ.”

"Angelica Hamilton! They say that is the gateway narcotic! You will want to be trying all sorts of opiates, and you will—”

“—Dad for the love of God, I’m not experimenting with drugs!” She stood up, picked the bags up off the floor, and shoved them in the closet nearby, “You think I’d want to get mixed up in that stuff? I’ve seen Challz too many times—”

Another thought hit Hamilton “—Why are all of you hanging out with the Adams boy?”

"Wait, what?” His daughter stopped what she was doing and looked at him inquisitively. “What do you mean, ‘all of you’? How do you know we’ve been hanging out with Challz?”

“So you have been fraternizing with the Adamses!” Hamilton forgot his tirade on education and drug use, and found a new monster to slay. He watched his daughter as a sardonic smile crept across her face.

"Dad, please stop using words like ‘fraternizing’. This isn’t the war. No one actually talks like that.” She plopped down on the bed with a loud exhale. “And you never answered my question.”

“Which is?”

“Have you been talking to Phil?”

“What about Phil?”

“Stop answering my question with more questions!” The teenager shouted back, exasperated. “Who have you been talking to? Where were you this morning?”

"That is none of your concern, young lady,” he responded, warningly.

“Oh my God, you were at mom’s.” A triumphant smile spread across the daughter’s face. "I don’t even want to know what’s happening anymore.”

“What is that supposed to mean?” Alexander replied, sticking his hand back into his pocket and remembering the condoms. “Is there something I should know about?”

“Well…I mean, since you know that Challz has been hanging around, I figured Phil did something stupid and you had to go talk to him about it.”

“No, this isn’t about Challz,” the general rolled his eyes, “But we’ll discuss that later. I was at your mother’s house to pick up clothes—”

“—You should have come shopping with me—”

“—and I found these.” He revealed the small cardboard package. Angelica scoffed, and blushed.

“Ew, dad, come on. Are you saying you think those are mine?” She looked away, and crossed her arms, “You are unbelievably embarrassing sometimes, holy shit.”

"First of all, watch your mouth. Why are all of my children such potty-mouths?” He crossed his arms and furrowed his brows again. “Why do you all have such foul language?”

“Those aren’t mine, I swear,” his daughter looked at him again.

“Well they’re not Phil’s, and they’re not James’ or Junior’s. They didn’t just appear out of thin air, in your mother’s bathroom cabinet—”

“—Wait,” Angelica held up a hand, “Did you say mom’s bathroom cabinet?”

“Yes.”

“Then…I mean…Dad, come on.”

Alexander cocked his head to the side, irritated, “What?”

“Isn’t it obvious? They’re probably…you know…I can’t believe I have to explain this to you, for Christ’s sake, Dad—”

“—Angelica Hamilton, language!”

“They’re probably mom’s!” She finished, red faced. She watched as her father’s expression change from anger to something more undefined, and spoke up quickly to hide the awkward silence. “Did you even ask to see if they were hers, before blaming us?”

“I didn’t…that’s not—” Hamilton let the thought settle in his brain, and then shook it away, afraid of the implications. “Do not put this on your mother!”

“Wow, dad.” The daughter frowned, offended, “Look, I know I’m young, but I know what sex is, I know what goes on, mom has male friends, maybe, you know—”

“—That’s enough! Do not speak about your mother that way!” Hamilton could tell by his daughter’s wide-eyed reaction that he’d let his temper get the best of him. For a moment, the two occupants in Theo’s pristine room filled up the empty space with emotion.

"You crossed the line, Angelica, do you understand me?”

His daughter held her colorful gaze for a second longer, defiantly.

“You do not talk about your mother like that. That is disrespectful, do I make myself clear?” Alexander silently prayed his shaking hands didn’t give him away.

“Fine.”

“‘Fine’ what.”

Another heavy sigh, “Fine, I won’t talk about mom that way, even though it’s pretty obvious—”

“—No qualifiers!”

Angelica stopped her thought, and flung her feet from the bed. Walking past her red-faced father, she made her way into the kitchen for a drink. Close behind her, the general followed, unable to articulate a thought about his soon-to-be ex wife.

The daughter took a sip of water, and thought for a moment; sorry she’d spoken without thinking.

“Maybe they are Challz’,” she shrugged, looking into her glass. “What do I know?”

The general sat himself on a stool at the counter, the small package tucked away in his pocket once again. He thought in silence for what seemed like, to him, an eternity.

“I don’t even want to get into that,” Alexander muttered, covering his eyes and feeling an oncoming headache. “When—or why, for that matter—Challz keeps coming up.”

“He wants to go to law school and he wants to use you as a reference.”

Alexander looked out from the spaces between his fingers, “What.”

Angelica finished her water, placed the glass loudly in the sink, and shrugged.

“That’s what he says. Says it’s ‘his duty’, or some shit.”

The general couldn’t find the energy to correct his daughter’s foul language, and felt his stomach plunge.

“He still thinks he’s getting into Harvard, it’s really funny.”

“Nothing about that family is funny.”

Another few seconds of silence while tempers cooled, and then, “That’s why he’s been hanging around Phil. At first it was just so he could have a chance to talk to you, without being too forward. But they seem to really be hitting it off.”

Alexander put his head down onto the cold marble counter, and heard the clock in the dining room chime eleven.

“Now is not a good time to even begin to discuss that kind of thing.”

Angelica shrugged, and reached for an apple. Tiny pieces of skin flew out of her mouth as she spoke up again, “You can tell him yourself, If you want. He and Phil are like, always together.”

The general began to roll his head back and forth against the cold counter, “How is this happening…”

“It’s not that big a deal—”

The daughter was cut off as her father stood up, forehead turning red from where it had been pressed against the granite. He spoke up, strangely formal, “I am going to have a nap, Angelica. Be a good girl and go finish your homework, quietly, if you don’t mind. When Theo gets home, have her help you.”

“Ok.”

Alexander looked down at the floor as he made his way to the uncomfortable futon in the guest bedroom, hoping to rest his mind as well as his body.

Chapter Text

 

Aaron waited for another moment, staring at his hands, folded in his lap, vaguely embarrassed.

“Are you prepared to let me know the story behind this man you’ve been seeing?” Mary’s accented voice drifted in and out of Aaron’s mind.

“I’ve known him since we were merely teenagers. My family helped him come to America.” The Colonel began slowly, unsure how to spill the messy details of their remergence into the modern era. “He was very bright, they gave him opportunities for scholarships, which got him into King’s—I’m sorry, Columbia.”

Black eyes shot up; the doctor raised an eyebrow.

“The details are fuzzy,” Aaron confessed, covering his slip of the tongue.

“I understand,” Mary responded.

“I ended up at Princeton, so although we were near each other, our academic careers kept us busy and we didn’t see much of each other. We graduated from law school at the same time, and began practicing in Manhattan at the same time, and that’s when we began seeing a lot of each other,” the colonel wracked his brain to remember specific details, “In and out of court.”

“You saw each other socially?”

“Yes. Frequently.” Aaron stared out the window, recalling the day he woke up in a new world, “He had a family. A wife and children.”

“Were you sleeping with him?”

“No,” the colonel looked down into his lap again, feeling his cheeks burn, “But…there were times when I harbored thoughts…about it.”

Mary was silent and waited for her patient to continue.

“Not seriously considering actually going through with it. But he was flirtatious. And he made things difficult.” Aaron finished, taking a deep breath. “Every time the thought would present itself, at a party or social setting, for instance, I put it out of my mind, considering it to be inappropriate. I was quite certain he despised me. And yet—”

Aaron couldn’t complete the thought. He tried to remember the gossip at the time; the things people said regarding Hamilton as well as himself.

“Can you recall a particular instance when your feelings for him were most strong?”

“I was never in love with him.” Aaron responded with out thinking.

“It doesn’t have to be a positive feeling, Colonel. Any feeling at all.”

Aaron raised a finger in thought, tiny smile playing on his mouth, “There was one instance…that I remember vividly. Involving a woman who was enamoured with both of us, if you can imagine. She claimed to desire me more, but I am quite certain she told…Felix…the same thing.”

The doctor sighed, and waited.

“We slept together, me and this woman, and one time, afterwards, she asked me quite bluntly if I…knew certain things. About Felix—sexually—that I could share with her so that she might entrap him as well,” Aaron stopped his story, and only then noticed how hot his cheeks felt. He looked up and was somewhat relieved at the expressionless face of his doctor, gazing in mild interest across from him. “It was a bizarre moment, to put it simply.”

“I can imagine,” Mary responded, “And how did you feel afterwards?”

Aaron thought again, “…Odd.”

“In a good way? Or a bad way?”

“It isn’t that simple, Madame.”

“I can imagine you might have felt used, perhaps,” Mary pressed on, ignoring her patient’s noncomittal adjective. “How were your interactions with Felix after this episode?”

“The same. Tinged with a bit of awkwardness, admittedly, which is why I feel she asked him the same question.”

“And what did this instance with the woman signify, for you, do you think?” The doctor leaned back in her chair. Briefly, she looked at the clock on the wall, and then back at her patient.

“That others saw things he and I could not.”

“And you cite this as the first time you saw him as someone other than a social peer?”

Again, Aaron was quiet. And then, “We were always linked with the same women, in the circles we ran in. This was a long, long time ago, mind you.”

Finally, Dr. Blood closed her eyes and nodded, understanding.

“You aren’t talking about this modern era, are you.” It wasn’t a question.

“Correct.”

“Someone who was in your past, who has come back to haunt you, so to speak,” the doctor continued.

“I saw you check the time, Madame, I believe my session is over?”

“Aaron, don’t think that we are done discussing this, you will come back next week—”

“I will call you, Doctor, don’t worry,” he looked at the floor and stood to leave, “Please send my regards to Godwin, would you?”

“Aaron—”

The black-eyed man nodded at his doctor solemnly, who watched him wearing a look of vague pity.

“Aaron, you can’t just shove these things into the back of your mind and forget about them. They will not go away if you ignore them—”

“—I will be perfectly fine, Madame,” he gazed at her briefly, and then averted his eyes to the floor. “Thank you for the conversation. I will be in touch with you.”

The doctor followed her patient to the door of her office, and placed her hand on the frame, preventing him from leaving until she made her point, “Do not give up on this therapy, Aaron, please.”

The Colonel waited, “I will not, Madame. Thank you.”

Chapter Text

 

The teenage girl ran a hand through her black hair as she stood in the doorway of her bedroom, “Why is your father locked in the guestroom listening to 80’s music really loudly?”

“He’s been like that for about two hours,” Angelica responded, never taking her eyes off the small doodle in front of her. “You should have been here when Pet Shop Boys started playing.”

“I’m kind of glad I wasn’t,” Theo walked over to her bed and plopped down, letting her bookbag fall to the floor. “Why didn’t you meet me to study? Where were you all morning?”

“I had to go pick up some clothes.”

“You didn’t have to do that. You could have borrowed some of mine.”

Angelica locked eyes with the other girl, “I hate studying, you know that.”

“You do realize that we have to start applying for colleges soon, right? I had to go to an open house at the beginning of the year. If you don’t get your grades up—”

“—Let’s talk about how my dad came barging in here with a  box of condoms and started blaming my brothers for it.”

Theo stopped herself, “—Uh, what?”

The Hamilton teenager sat up straight, and closed her book, “He was at my mom’s this morning, to pick up more of his things, and apparently he got sidetracked because he found this box of condoms in my mom’s bathroom.”

“So…he came back here with them?”

“Well, according to him, he drilled Phil, James and Junior about whether or not they were theirs,” Angelica rubbed her eyes.

“Yikes…” Theo muttered, “…What if they’re your mom’s. Do you think she’s seeing anyone?”

“Uhg, I don’t know. And I don’t care. Honestly, the whole thing grosses me out.”

“Is that why your dad locked himself away?”

“Probably. It’s better than him coming out and yelling at everything with a pulse.”

“Kind of funny how he just assumed it belonged to one of the boys.” Theo replied with a tiny smile. She scooted back on her bed and leaned against the wall. “Typical.”

“I’m glad someone else was thinking it,” Angelica responded back with a pointed grin.

“So any news about my dad?”

“Should there be?”

Theo shrugged, “Well, he’s not at the office. I called to ask him if he could transfer a little more money onto my bus pass and Troup picked up.”

“Jesus, I feel bad for that guy.”

“He said he hadn’t seen my dad since yesterday. Said he planned on coming into the office this weekend, but never showed up. Then Morris yelled something in the background and Troup hung up.” Theo fixed her hair and stared at the space in front of her nose. Then, quietly, she added, “I’ve learned to stop asking questions.”

“Speaking of not wanting to ask questions, did you know Challz started hanging out with Phil?”

The black-haired teenager covered her face and made a noise of exasperation, “Why?”

“Remember he clerked under my dad?” Angelica straightened up.

“That is the last thing anyone around here needs,” Theo said, “Challz Adams running around naked, or something.”

"Well, he decided to come down to New York and visit some other friends around here, and ran into Phil, of course, and decided he wanted to become a lawyer.”

“Jesus Christ.”

“So I don’t know. Phil might bring him over here. Personally I don’t think he’s got the nerve to tell Challz it’s not going to work out. My dad still calls it ‘fraternizing’. They’re ‘fraternizing’.”

The dark-featured daughter shook her head, a sad smile on her mouth. “I would like to visit the Adamses, when I get a car.”

“I’d like to come with you, but I’m almost positive Mrs Adams despises me.”

“Nah, that’s just her face.”

“Do you remember, back then, that one time all three of our families had dinner together? We were like, ten years old. My dad started singing old war ballads to entertain everyone, and Mr Adams practically had a coronary incident because he was convinced my dad had this big military coup planned—”

Theo cut her off, laughing, “—And my dad tried to explain to him how impossible that would be without a proper army—”

“—And then Challz burst through the door with their stupid bulldog, screaming about it being sick, because it pooped all over the floor in the kitchen—”

“—I can’t believe I forgot about that until now,” The black-eyed girl giggled. “I hope something similar happens the next time we visit.”

A soft rustling of clothes down the hallway told the girls that the Nevisian had emerged from the guest bedroom. They quieted down briefly, listening with small grins as he talked to himself animatedly.

“I guess the 80’s music sob-fest is over,” Angelica whispered wryly.

----------

The colonel returned home to his apartment, shielding his face from the wind with a thick scarf. As he stepped into the elevator, his thoughts swam around in his head—meeting his idol, mostly. The thrill of his pseudo-confession took a back seat to the realization that he’d been face to face with a woman who’s words changed his life.

He opened the door and was greeted by Theo, sitting curled up on the couch with a small book.

“Hello. How was studying?” Aaron asked, making his way to the kitchen. He began making a pot of coffee.

“Lonely.” She replied, never taking her eyes off the book. “Angelica didn’t show up. I told her to study in my bedroom while I finished this chapter out here but I think she’s probably distracted. Also, General Hamilton is in the guest room doing god knows what.”

Aaron stopped what he was doing, placing a ceramic mug heavily down on the counter, “What? Why isn’t he at the office?”

A delicate black eyebrow arched up, “And how would you know he wasn’t at the office? Were you there this morning? Because he says you weren’t.”

“Wait, did he skip out on work too?”

Finally, Theo met her father’s gaze, “Did you really lie to each other about going to work today? I mean, was anyone where they said they’d be?” Her voice grew louder with frustration.

The colonel didn’t answer, and instead made his way down the hall to convene with his coworker. He passed Theo’s room, door shut, loud music playing from within while a girl’s voice thinly sung out over the lyrics. Reaching his destination, he knocked twice.

“General? Are you in there?”

A muffled groan, and then, “I’m working. Please.”

“May I come in?”

A few mumbles of incoherence and one thump later, the general opened the door, eyes bleary with sleep.

“I thought you were spending the day at the office.”

Aaron smiled and shook his head, waiting for the other man to say more. When he didn’t, the colonel let himself in.

“I need to talk to you, just for a bit.”

Alexander groaned again, and rubbed his features, “Can it wait? I’ve had a terrible morning.”

The dark-eyed man reached behind him and shut the door, “I’m sorry, it can’t. I promise I won’t be long. Then you can get back to napping.”

“This doesn’t have anything to do with the money, does it?” Alexander thought with a start, remembering Jumel and the Sades. “You told me you would take care of that after work on Monday. Colonel, I can’t handle any more surprises from their quarters.”

Aaron waved his hand, and then remembered to remove his gloves, “No. Nothing like that. I have a confession.”

Hamilton made another noise and sat down on the futon.

“I wasn’t exactly at work this morning,” Aaron began, absentmindedly wringing his hands. “I…I had to go to a meeting of sorts.”

Slowly, Alexander laid back down on his back, eyes closed, exhaling.

“It’s nothing bad, mind you, I know what you’re thinking—”

“—No, you really don’t.”

“It was…it was with a doctor.”

At this, the general shot back up, “If you have some god-awful venereal disease, Colonel Burr, I swear on the Holy Bible—”

“Would you please let me finish?” Burr held up his hand again and stopped the oncoming tirade, “It’s nothing bad, I already told you. It wasn’t a medical doctor, it was a mental doctor.”

Alexander covered his eyes as his head hit the pillow and let out a short, unpleasant laugh. Aaron spoke over him with a glare.

“And she illuminated some thing for me. About myself.”

“A therapist, that’s what they’re called. You’ve been to a therapist,” the general lay sprawled against the lumpy futon, one arm covering his eyes.

“For several weeks now, yes,” Aaron finished quietly. “For my…for what they call a ‘sexual compulsion.’ One gets addicted to it. Same with alcohol and narcotics.”

Another incoherent noise from the mattress.

“And she is trying to help me forge more…meaningful relationships with members of my social circle, so that I don’t feel the need to—”

“—Screw everything that moves.”

“Yes, thank you, General.” Aaron kept his temper in check as he strode over to the small window by the desk, and peered through the blinds. “Anyway, I…your name came up—”

Hamilton removed his arm from his eyes, “What? Why?” He sat up slowly, beginning to panic, “You didn’t tell her what happened between us last year, did you?”

Black eyes locked in on him, “Of course not. And even if I had, there is a thing called ‘doctor and patient confidentiality’. What I tell her, by virtue of her profession, is never allowed to leave her office. She would lose her license.”

“Well?”

“Well,” he turned his face back towards the window, “Well, I told her I’d been having a sexual relationship with someone that I shouldn’t have.”

Alexander ran both sets of fingers through his messy hair, making it stand wildly on end, “And I assume she told you to stop.”

“I told her I had stopped, weeks ago, and that it was all a mistake and I knew it was a mistake.”

Alexander shifted uncomfortably, “So why exactly are you telling me all this?”

Another moment of silence passed between them while the dark-eyed man figured out his next move. He reached down to crack the window open as the general watched, interestedly, and then pulled a cigar out of the bottom drawer on the desk.

Holding it in his mouth, he lit it with a small lighter from his pocket, “Because…I just felt the need to let you know.” He puffed several times, nervously, then blew the smoke out the window.

“Well I’m…glad that you realize you have a problem. And that you’re trying to fix it.” Alexander finished, looking around him. “Should make things easier around here, I suppose.”

“You mustn’t let Theo know. Or Angelica, for that matter,” Aaron turned around.

“Of course not, don’t be ridiculous.”

“A simple yes or no would have sufficed, General.”

The general looked up and nodded, “Is this all part of the recovery process? You coming to me and explaining yourself?”

“I don’t know.”

“Because…” Alexander inhaled deeply, and stood up, crossing his arms, “…Because I’m not certain the relationship between you and I is anything other than…well…”

“Sexual.”

“Right. Yes.” Hamilton uncrossed his arms and put his hands in his pockets, staring at the floor.

“It would be too messy, between us, I suppose.” Burr continued, clinically. He kept his eyes on the window, watching the weak sun travel slowly across the sky. Behind him, he felt the presence of his guest move, then stiffen awkwardly, then move again.

“You must understand, Colonel, it was all a ruse from the beginning,” Alexander let out a nervous laugh. “Just…just not right. A detriment to both of us.”

“I plan on explaining all this to the doctor next week.” Another long drag on the cigar, and a few seconds of silence passed.

“Perhaps we should change subjects,” the General cut in, with a forced cheerfulness. He clasped his hands together loudly while the black-eyed man kept his gaze on the sky. “I assume by now you know that I wasn’t at the office either, today.”

At this, Aaron turned around, “Yes, I was aware.”

“I was…I went up to Albany to pick up a few more things. Clothes and toiletries, mostly. A few books.” He raised a hand. “But that is immaterial. My point is, I found these.”

He reached into his pocket and pulled out the condoms. Aaron raised an eyebrow.

“Were you looking for them?”

The general flushed, “No. Of course not. I was in Betsey’s bathroom, under the sink, trying to find anything I might have missed and I came across these. Phil and Junior and James all deny them, of course—”

“—Oh, for god’s sake, General,” Aaron cut in, trying to hide a desperate smile, “You mean you confronted them?”

“Yes! I did! I will not have my sons running around, sleeping around—”

Finally, the colonel laughed, “You lost your virginity when you were fifteen, Hamilton, don’t play the saint.”

“—This is…those were different times,” the general faltered, “These are my sons we’re talking about.”

"Do you believe them? That the condoms don’t belong to them?”

“I did when they presented an alternative.”

“What do you mean, ‘an alternative’.”

Alexander scratched the bridge of his nose, “That they belong to Charles. 'Challz', as he's now apparently styling himself. The Adams boy.”

Aaron took another drag on the cigar, and let out a bigger laugh, “The Adams boy? What on earth makes you think that’s any more likely than the condoms belonging to one of your sons?”

“Because Phil and Challz have become friends, apparently,” Hamilton responded helplessly, “So perhaps he left them behind and Betsey took them, to hide them from the children.”

He walked back to the futon and sat down, looking at the small cardboard package in his lap. After a few seconds of silence, peppered only by the soft thud of music coming from Theo’s bedroom, Aaron sat down beside him.

“Not that big a deal, you know. Even if they did belong to Phil, or even young James. Worse things have happened.” He looked at the small snub of his cigar, and put it out on the bottom of his shoe. Alexander watched, mildly disgusted, and the colonel spoke again, “I will tell them the story of the monk with the venereal disease whose genitals fell off.”

Alexander coughed a laugh, “Christ.”

“If that doesn’t work, I don’t know what will.”

The general sighed heavily, “It’s…I suppose it’s not the chance that they belong to one of my sons that bothers me so much. It’s something that Angelica said.”

“That they’re hers?” The Colonel looked up, mildly shocked.

"Heavens no,” Alexander responded, “It’s that…well she said that perhaps they are Betsey’s.”

Hamilton chewed his lip at this confession, feeling emotions swell in his chest. A moment later, he felt Aaron’s hand on his leg, comforting. He looked at it, and then up at the colonel.

“If they are hers, it means she is seeing someone,” the General concluded quietly. “Someone who is not me.”

“I would think she’d tell you about it, don’t you agree?” Aaron tried to reason, but couldn’t even convince himself. The other man shook his head sadly.

“There is so much that I don’t recognize in her, anymore, that I’ve begun to believe anything is possible.”

“Don’t think about it. Put the thought from your mind.”

“It’s not that easy, Colonel.”

“Then perhaps we will find you a distraction—” the black-eyed man stood up and looked down into the alarmed face of his guest.

“No more prostitutes, please—”

"No, no,” Aaron cut in, throwing the butt of his cigar into a nearby trashcan. He held out his hand, and Alexander took it, standing up. “I mean we should go to dinner. Some place nice. Wear nice clothes and forget about this mess, if only for a few hours. We will invite the girls, too.”

Alexander rubbed his eyes once again, “I haven’t the funds this week—”

“—Nonsense. I will pay.”

The general looked around him, his clothes lying in disarray on the floor, and then back at the other man, “Are you sure?”

Aaron nodded, trying to look hopeful, “Did you bring a suit and tie with you?”

“Yes, I think so.”

“Then it’s settled. I will make reservations for this evening.” He put his arm around the blue-eyed man, pulling him into a familiar hug. He raised his hand and gestured to the mess in the room, as if using it metaphorically, “All of this will work itself out, you’ll see.”

Chapter Text

 

“Let’s definitely take two taxis home, what do you think?” Angelica asked, sarcastically, her face pressed against a window, as the car sped down the road to the restaurant. Her father inched away from her, trying to give the teenager more room.

“It’s not that bad,” Theo called from her own squished spot in the car. The back seat was wide, and though it only technically had room for three people, the slim Angelica could have fit easily.

Alexander nodded his assent, “We’re almost there, Angelica, just try to get comfortable.”

“Why are we even going to dinner, anyway?”

Aaron thought quickly, “I got a promotion.”

Theo sat uncomfortably between the two older men, pulling out her phone.

Aaron gave her a look, “We are celebrating today.”

“So…why do me and my dad have to come?”

“I’m rather excited,” the general cut in, a little too enthusiastic, “It’s a very nice restaurant. See, you even dressed up.”

Angelica made a face, “I look like a tool.”

“Angelica Hamilton!”

“Well I do. I hate dresses,” the Hamilton daughter whined.

“I don’t think you look like a tool, Angelica, I think you look nice. Mostly because that’s my dress you’re borrowing,” Theo responded dryly, never looking up from her phone. From window opposite Angelica’s, Aaron looked outside.

“I think we’re here.”

“Please just someone get me out of this cab. I feel like I’m in a tuna can.”

Aaron muttered his thank-yous to the driver, passed him the cab fare, and the group of four walked inside the building.

The table was finely dressed, a white linen table-cloth covering a thick mahogany table, just big enough for four, sat in between the group. Several pillared candles cluttered together in the middle of the table completed the ensemble. As the older men glanced at their menu, Angelica held hers up, pretending to read it, while the spoke to Theo.

“Alright, what the hell.”

“What?” Black eyes shot up from the menu; Theo raised her gaze. Across from them, the fathers talked politely to each other about the food selection.

“Why are we here?”

“Oh God, Angelica, I don’t know,” the dark-featured teenager replied, “Just let it be.”

Her whispers became more harried, “Is this a fucking date?”

“Girls? Have you decided you order?” Alexander spoke up louder, glancing at each daughter while the waiter stood behind him, pen poised to write.

“Uh…um….I’ll have…” Angelica faltered, looked at the menu, “…The tuna thing. This one.” She pointed to an item, and the waiter jotted something down on his pad. Next to her, Theo rubbed her eyes.

“I’ll have the same. But no mayonnaise, please.”

“Give me her mayonnaise,” Angelica cut in, trying to hide a smile. The expressionless waiter took the menus and Angelica tried again, “I use it in my hair.”

Still the waiter ignored her and walked away.

“Angelica Hamilton, for the love of god,” her father began, slightly embarrassed.

“What? It’s true, mayonnaise is good for your hair.”

“He’s probably not going to give you my mayonnaise, Angelica,” Theo reasoned quietly.

“You should give it a try, Theo, it makes your hair really silky.”

“And smell like a deli, probably.” The general sipped a glass of water.

Aaron watched the three other members of the table talk amongst themselves for a moment, preparing his own speech. He wasn’t sure if Theo knew about his therapy, was certain Angelica didn’t, but had planned on using this opportunity to put things out in the open. Vaguely he could hear his mind letting him know that this was a good decision, a proper one, a deviation from the all-consuming secrecy of his old life. He watched the general tell a joke; laugh lines etched in his face.

The black-eyed man took a sip of his own water and saw the waiter coming with their drink orders.

“I would advise people not to put food in their hair, just as a precaution,” Aaron cut in, accepting his martini and sipping it delicately.

“I heard that beer is also good for it,” Angelica responded.

As the waiter placed the last of the drink orders down on the table, Theo coughed out a tiny laugh.

“General Hamilton…is that a Shirley Temple?’

All eyes landed on the general, who turned red, “I didn’t want to drink tonight.” He managed to choke out a response in between sheepish grins. Aaron eyed him.

“And why not? The martinis here are top of the line.” The Colonel took another sip.

“Because I don’t want to be drunk in front of my daughter,” Hamilton replied, a little too hastily.

“Right, because I have no idea what being drunk is,” Angelica laughed, and slurped her orange soda loudly.

“It’s not that,” her father reasoned, “It’s that I think it’s inappropriate for my children to see me drunk.”

“It’s inappropriate for most everyone to see you drunk, Hamilton,” Burr took another sip of his martini.

“I think we are all mature enough, here, to understand concepts like alcohol,” Theo reasoned from her corner of the table.

“And that, my dear, is a good seg-way into what I would like to talk about,” the colonel cut his daughter off, and placed his drink on the small square napkin in front of him. Angelica made a face and stared into her soda listlessly, while her own father sat up straighter.

“Seg-way into what?” Alexander asked, mildly alarmed.

“I’m talking about our situation,” he laid a palm on the table. The general widened his eyes.

“I think that is a subject for a different day, don’t you?” He responded warningly. The colonel paid no mind, and pressed on.

“I am of the mind that in order to have a healthy relationship with my family,” Aaron indicated his head towards his daughter, who leaned her head in one hand, elbow on the table, bored, “I should be honest in all of my dealings.”

“Not all your dealings,” Alexander spoke up again, eyes bright with embarrassment. “Just…just think before you go confessing.”

“There’s a twist,” Angelica muttered to herself, unheard by all parties at the table.

Aaron ignored the general, and continued on, “You are probably wondering why so many things have been changing the past few weeks. Concerning myself and General Hamilton.”

“Dad.”

The colonel held up a finger, “I have been visiting a therapist these past few weeks, and she has put things in perspective for me.”

“Colonel Burr, not everything needs to be shared with your daughter,” Alexander stopped his associate mid thought with a pointed glare. Theo leaned back in her seat, embarrassed, and Angelica blew bubbles in her drink.

“I will decide what to share with my daughter, General, thank you,” Aaron responded. “And Theo, you will want to know this.”

His daughter looked up solemnly.

“You will never guess who my doctor turned out to be.”

The general deflated, relieved Aaron’s confession wasn’t the one he had in the back of his mind. Quickly he shook the thought away, disturbed by it.

“Madame Wollstonecraft.”

Theo’s eyes brightened immediately; Angelica raised her head, “Who?”

“Really?” The dark-featured teenager smiled broadly. “Of all the people…how did you…how did she…?”

Aaron sipped his drink again, feeling the alcohol take effect.

“She went to school here, in New York. And stayed to practice for a little while. That’s when she met me,” he cheeks burned with mirth.

“Who is Madame Wollstonecraft?” Angelica asked again, louder.

“She’s a famous feminist,” Theo answered breathlessly, “My absolute favorite, actually. Inspirational.”

“So that’s it? That’s why we’re all here, then?” Angelica inquired, politely.

“Yes. That’s it.” The general answered her before anyone else, forcing a pointed grin. “That’s the reason. Good story, Colonel. Thank you.”

He sipped his Shirley Temple, fishing the cherry out with a finger and the straw. Aaron looked at him.

“I still can’t believe it. I just can’t. Wollstonecraft.” The dark-featured girl smiled to herself as the waiter reappeared with their food orders. She grinned into her plate, unable to hide her excitement. “Dad, that’s really great. I mean, really amazing.”

“I thought so, too. I thought it warranted a nice dinner. Also because I didn’t feel right keeping the nature of my therapy from you.”

“This food is incredible,” Alexander spoke up with a mouthful of pasta. “I’m glad I went with the linguine. Aren’t you enjoying your food, Angelica?”

“It’s the tits.”

“Madame Wollstonecraft and I discussed a great many things, and I am lucky to have her perspective on the issues troubling me lately.” Aaron looked only at his daughter, and reached out to touch her hand. “If it weren’t for her, and you, my dear, I don’t know where I’d be.”

“Of course, dad,” Theo responded, a small smile forming on her mouth. “I’m always here.”

“Maybe we can even get dessert, what do you think, Angelica?” Alexander chewed on the cherry while his daughter made a face.

“Yeah, a gigantic ice cream sundae.”

“And that brings me to my other confession, my dear T,” Aaron used the familiar nickname; the general shoveled more pasta into his mouth, “Madame Wollstonecraft—I’m sorry, from here on out I will refer to her by her proper title—Dr. Blood, as she prefers, explained to me that it would be beneficial to forge more meaningful relationships with those around me, as a means of getting closer.”

Alexander laughed to himself, and then looked at his daughter, who stared in rapt interest at the black-eyed man across from her. The general felt a worried lump reform in his throat.

“I am an addict, you see.” The Colonel spoke up, simply. His daughter dropped her gaze and nodded.

“I’d figured, dad,” Theo responded quietly. “It all made sense, really.”

“Addicted to what?” Angelica piped up, wiping tuna from her mouth.

“Colonel Burr I think that’s enough,” Alexander let his fork drop loudly onto his plate and two sets of black-eyed looked over at him. “It’s time to change the subject.”

“Oh, what the hell. I’m the only one at the table who doesn’t know what’s going on? What kind of shit is that?” The Hamilton daughter leaned back in her chair with her soda.

“It’s nothing, Angelica, you will understand when you’re older,” her father replied sternly.

“Theo and I are the same age! Why is she in on the secret and I’m not?”

Aaron took the plunge before his coworker could stop him.

“You father and I committed several…follies, of sorts, which is why he and I have been in close contact for these past few months and, I am sorry to say, why your mother filed for divorce.”

The table descended into silence, and Theo ran a hand through her hair awkwardly. Angelica looked at the colonel sardonically, unable to articulate a response.

“Great. Thank you, Colonel,” Hamilton snapped, red-faced, “There are some things a daughter need not know about her father, despite what your brand of hair-brained child-rearing seems to dictate!”

“It is part of my healing process to be more honest.”

“Damn your healing process.”

Angelica covered her face, “I can't deal with this shit...I'm going to be sick.”

“Dad, do you think maybe we should ask for the check?” Theo said quietly, watching the General shovel the last bit of pasta into his mouth angrily. Without her father’s approval—whose eyes stayed bashfully averted into his martini—the dark-featured girl raised her hand and signaled to the waiter.

Chapter Text

 

A public place, thought Betsey, wouldn’t lead to anything too scandalous. She toyed with a sugar packet on the table, watching outside for signs of her…what was his title? Lover? Friend? Acquaintance? The petite brunette accidentally tore a packet open with a manicured nail, swore quietly, and swept it into a nearby trash can. As she looked up, there he was.

“Eliza,” John began, reaching into hug her before she could think better, “Thank you for seeing me again.” He wore a look of candid eagerness; Betsey’s heart fluttered wildly.

“Of course, John, of course. I’m sorry I took so long to respond to your text,” the words came before she could properly think about them, “I’ve been so busy, but I knew it wasn’t right to ignore this, whatever it is—”

“—You don’t have to explain, my dear.” He whispered, breaking free from the hug. “I’ve been keeping myself occupied.”

They both sat down, and Betsey passed her companion his glass of water.

“Where are you staying?”

John’s handsome face broke into a grin, “I have a little place in South Carolina, but am staying in a small hotel here, for the time being. DId you know they give discounts the longer you stay?”

“I didn’t know that,” Betsey smiled, remembering Alexander’s embarrassing sojourn in a hotel a few weeks ago. That was a piece of the puzzle that would need to be re-fitted.

“It’s not so bad. A bit lonely since Frances went back to University, but I’ll manage.” He reached out, and grabbed one of Betsey’s hands, “I’ll manage, with your help.”

HIs hands were rough without being crude; warm without being sweaty. Betsey felt a flip in her stomach she hadn’t experienced in a long time. She felt herself blush furiously, and looked down.

“John, we must talk about what transpired between us,” another flip of emotion, this time darker, “It’s why I wanted to meet you.”

The tall, fit John Laurens nodded maturely, the lines in his face belying his age, “Eliza, nothing has changed since then. I still care for you. I still feel myself falling for you.”

Betsey looked away; and got to the point.

“I need to know why you sought me out. I want to know you’re with me for me, and not because you think it will get you closer to Alexander.”

John took his hands back, and watched at the small dark-haired woman chewed her lip, studying an empty table to her left. She waited nervously for his response, and was unable to bring herself to see the expression pass over his face rapidly.

“What?” John cocked his head to the side. “Eliza, you can’t possibly think—”

Finally, she resumed her gaze, “—Can you blame me?”

The bright blue eyes gazed at her, widened, and Betsey chastised herself for perhaps being too callous. John took a deep breath, and closed his eyes briefly, then resumed his confession.

“I will admit…” he began, looking out the window. In another moment he reached out for Betsey’s hand again, “I will admit that, at first…yes. That was my hope.”

“John—”

“—But you must listen to me,” he implored, “it all changed when we started talking. When I got to know you, after we made love—”

Betsey closed her eyes and took her hands back, trying to remember the last time anyone had referred to having sex as “making love”. Of course John would. And how do you know that? A little voice taunted her.

Because Alexander told you he used phrases like that.

“John, I came here to sort things out, not make them more complicated.”

“How is this complicated at all?” The tall, bright-eyed man leaned back in his seat, a look of concern washing over his features. “I don’t understand.”

“How do you not see what a messy situation this puts me in? You are…” She swallowed. “You are Alexander’s ex-lover. He has no idea you even exist, right now, and you are sneaking around with his soon-to-be ex-wife. How can you not understand the delicacy of the situation we are in, John?”

John shook his head, as if freeing the thoughts within, “No, he will understand. He has to understand.”

“I am telling you right now, he won’t.” Betsey spoke with finality.

"I take it you never sent the video.” The South Carolinian replied quietly.

Betsey laughed mirthlessly, “Of course not. I couldn’t bring myself to do it.”

Again, she wondered, why? What was the difference, the same voice taunted her, between this and a pamphlet? In fact, it continued, your method is comparably kind. At least it will stay in the confines of your relationship, and not with the entire country.

The table descended into silence; John took a slow sip of his coffee. He swallowed, and then exhaled. Across from him the petite, dark-featured woman’s face belied the thoughts within her own mind and her mouth revealed an unfriendly grin.

“What are you thinking, Eliza?” John asked.

“I never sent the video,” she began, mutely, “But I never deleted it, either.”

The tall man waited for further explanation; Betsey provided it.

“He cheated on me…back then, you know,” she said. John reached out and grabbed her hand once again, unsure. “I mean with more than just you.”

The bitterness resumed, and John felt himself grow hot with embarrassment. Betsey noticed.

“Oh, I know all about it, John. I’ve resigned myself to the fact. I wasn’t in a position to do anything about it—any of it—back then. But I am now.”

“Eliza, on my honor as a gentleman, I swear to you, that once you and Alexander were wed, he and I never—”

“—There is more to cheating than just physical.” The dark-eyed woman spoke over him. “I read your letters, I know it all.”

John shrank back, and Betsey slipped her hand from his.

“I take it you don’t know about the Reynoldses.” She asked, coming down from her reverie. The gentle sweetness was back in her voice, and John looked on with wary interest.

“I have made it a point to avoid all information regarding us, back then. I know basics, naturally they are unavoidable, but I cannot bring myself to study it.”

Betsey nodded, as if to say, smart choice. She continued, “Alexander slept with the wife, they say for a year and a half but I know it was two, and her husband used that knowledge to blackmail us. My husband’s guilt tore him apart until he crucified himself in front of the whole nation.”

“He confessed publicly,” John guessed, correctly.

“An entire pamphlet, describing the nature of his encounters. Rather than let people think he’d been abusing his position at the Treasury.” As she related the story, Betsey felt her chest swell with embarrassment.

“He cheated on me again, and again, and again…” with each word, she felt her resolve grow stronger, “And I thought, ‘I will carry on through this, if only for the sake of our children, I will be strong for them, because they need their mother.’ And I was made to look like a fool.”

The South Carolinian felt emotion well up inside him, and was afraid to show it on his face. He tried, desperately, to remember all those years ago, when he and Alexander confessed their love to one another, and promised each other forever. It couldn’t happen, and as he sat in front of the small, black-eyed woman whose tiny stature belied her large emotional fortitude, he realized it may have never happened—with anyone.

“John, I have never expressed these thoughts to anyone before,” the dark-featured woman replied, “I suppose you are the best candidate.”

“Sweet Eliza, I am so sorry—”

She covered her face, not to wipe away emotion, but to massage an on-coming headache, “My own…sister.”

“Eliza—”

She looked up, shaking her head, “He never confessed to that one, but I knew. We all knew.”

The dark-featured woman grew quiet again, prepared for the most painful realization yet to come. She slipped her hand in her pocket, feeling her cell phone.

“You know about his death, I presume.” It wasn’t a question.

The feeling hit John, in his heart, like a block of ice. “Again, I have avoided details. I hear talk it was in a duel.”

“Correct, "Betsey smiled coldly to herself. "There was one figure who arose again and again, and whose presence caused me the greatest alarm, but who I could not prudently dismiss from my husband’s life without raising any eyebrows. I of course never suspected him of being anything other than a mild, if somewhat sinister annoyance. I confess watching Alexander’s passionate tirades against this man amused me, but I never knew…I never could have predicted—”

Predicted what? The tiny, cruel voice was back.

“Alexander Hamilton never had a better lover than his own public honor.”

The tall, handsome South Carolinian rubbed his eyes, understanding what she inferred.

“You are saying his final act—the duel, if I am to understand you—was the most selfish infidelity of them all.”

“I spent fifty years, John,” Betsey responded, voice low and serious, brimming with emotion, “reasoning in my own head, trying to figure out what he thought he would accomplish, leaving me with nothing but the memory of his greatness—trying desperately to let it live on, in the hopes that it would carry me through—and all I got in return was a cold bed and a lonely heart.”

At this final confession, she felt a tear drip down her face. John reached out and wiped it away. In another moment she leaned back in her seat and ran a single hand across her features.

She placed a finger on the counter, “He gave himself—he let that snake Burr take him…from me.”

Her companion didn’t hear the name; was too busy sifting through the thoughts in his own mind. John wanted to stand up, and pick her up into his arms, and comfort her until she was able to carry on again, but prudently kept his place. His heart beat wildly in his chest, half from the sorrow at the person across from him, half in furious, righteous indignation.

“And maybe that is why you haven’t deleted the video.”

“I don’t know anymore, John. I just don’t.” Her voice was quiet.

Something within the handsome southern man snapped, and he held out an outstretched palm.

“Please let me see your phone.”

Betsey looked up, mildly alarmed, “John, please, I know you think this is right but I have my reasons.”

“I would like to send the video to myself. Surely you see nothing wrong in that?” John looked at her, blinking innocently. Slowly, without breaking eye contact, Betsey reached into her pocket and fished her own phone out. She slid it across the table to her male companion.

In an instant, John saw the file, and sent it to his number.

“There is nothing wrong with two adults sharing a video of themselves with each other,” he continued, face flushed. In another second he spotted Alexander’s number, and mentally memorized it. He slid the phone back to Betsey and pulled his own out, typing in the ten digits.

“John.”

He looked up, “May I not have a copy for myself? I find you enrapturing, Eliza, you know that.”

“If you do what I think you’re going to do, you need to be prepared for the consequences,” the brunette woman widened her eyes imploringly, wanting to stop her male companion, but also wanting the satisfaction of revenge. It was a feeling she’d never experienced—not even once.

John Laurens raised his gaze one last time, triumphantly. “Consequences are changeable, untrustworthy things. Actions are the only surety.”

Chapter Text

The remainder of Hamilton's dinner went down in a lump after the awkward confession of his coworker, who seemed not to notice. Theo kept the conversation dragging along while the waiter brought their check, peppered by Angelica’s stabs at sarcasm. Aaron listened intently to both girls. The general’s mind raced, and he checked his watch every few minutes.

“Do you have somewhere to be, General?” Aaron asked over the rim of the glass of his second martini. “I was hoping we could order dessert.”

“I am not feeling well.” He folded a napkin on the table. The two teenage girls felt the tension rise, and quieted their own conversation.

“If you insist on leaving now, we can take two cabs home,” the dark-featured man offered.

“Please, for the love of God,” Angelica cut in, stirring the straw around in her drink. “The ride here was awful.”

Alexander pursed his lips, “Colonel, may I speak to you in private?”

“I think everything that needs to be said has already been expressed,” Aaron responded stubbornly. The general sighed impatiently and Angelica rolled her eyes. Theo glanced at her, and felt her own face blush at the awkwardness of the situation.

“Well I don’t. I have some choice words for you that I would rather not express in front of my teenage daughter, and if you are a mature adult you will come with me so that I may tell you,” Hamilton locked eyes with the other male at the table and Burr felt the  stare pierce him.

Theo looked at her father, and touched his sleeve, “Dad, you might as well. Angelica and I can take a cab home. It’s not that big a deal.”

“It is the principle of the matter, my dear,” Aaron responded, balling a fist against the table cloth. Alexander stood up, red-faced.

“I am going to step outside for a moment. Colonel Burr, please meet me in there presently.” The general pulled out several bills from his pocket, placed them on the table, and made his way towards the front door. Aaron’s eyes followed him, and he scoffed.

“I supposed I’m in trouble now,” he spoke to the girls at the table.

“You better go, Colonel,” Angelica said between mouthfuls of tuna, “he’s just going to get louder and louder and probably make a scene.”

“Dad, really, I can call a cab and get us home. I have cash,” the The spoke up again, slightly louder. “Please just go talk to him. I think you embarrassed him.”

“I embarrassed him?” Aaron was incredulous. “He’s the one walking around as if there’s nothing wrong. I’m trying to be honest and he refuses to—”

"—Dad, go tell him. Not us.”

Aaron thought for a minute, and then stood up, “If you girls need me, you have my number. Stay safe.” He reached down and kissed his own daughter on her head, and then made his way to the door.

Once outside, he found the general pacing, eyes glued to his phone. At the sound of the other man’s footsteps, he looked up. The two men regarded each other for a moment.

“Well?” The colonel crossed his arms and spoke up, eyes widened expectantly.

“You know damn well, ‘what’. How dare you expose my daughter to my personal life? What the hell is wrong with you?”

Aaron stepped forward, “She is old enough to understand things, General, do not insult her intelligence—”

Alexander held up a finger, accusatory, “Oh no, don’t you dare try and turn this back on me. I know my daughter is intelligent and it has nothing to do with whether or not she knows all my secrets. I know what you’re trying to do and it’s not going to work.”

The Colonel uncrossed his arms and walked toward the street lamp, nearer to where his associate stood, and leaned against the cold pole with one hand, “And I thought you were the honest one,” he said.

“Excuse me?”

“You heard me, General,” Aaron reaplied, embarrassed, “All this time I had you pegged for an honest man, and now you say you want to have secrets.”

"Don’t insult me—”

"—It’s too late.” Burr interrupted, standing up straight. “Your daughter knows, as does mine. Frankly, General, I find it difficult to believe Theo hasn’t told her already, you know how close they are—”

Hamilton lunged toward him, “Do you have any idea how much trouble you’ve caused?”

Aaron stepped back, and his angry companion growled, “Not even Betsey knows! Do you understand me? You’re treating it like some addendum to a case brief! If she knew…if she found out what I did…who we're associated with...do you understand that there are children involved? That she could take them from me? Do you understand anything at all besides yourself?”

As his impassioned tirade went on, he got louder, “I have done everything in my power to put this circus behind me, and here you are dragging all back up again, in front of my daughter, no less. And what is your reasoning, Colonel Burr?”

“My therapy—”

The general threw his arms up,”—Your therapy!”

“General Hamilton, please lower your voice and have some dignity,” Aaron hissed cruelly. “You’re going to attract a manager or some other unwanted attention—”

Alexander could feel his own veins pulse; once his temper began, he couldn’t regain control.

“Oh shut up!” He paced, absentmindedly grabbed his cellphone, and ran a hand through his hair.

"What’s done is done and there is nothing you can do about it,” Burr replied, acidly. “So you might as well make the best of the situation and stop trying to think you’ve got control all the time, because you don’t. Clearly,” He added for spite, watching the general hyperventilate.

Still breathing heavily, Alexander dropped his cellphone on the cold concrete in a fit of frustration, the battery coming loose. As it clattered against the stone, he swore again while several patrons scurried past, eyeing him suspiciously. Aaron watched as he heaved dramatic sigh, and waited.

"Why is this all happening again.” he moaned and plopped heavily down onto a nearby bench. “I thought it was alright, all of it…”

Burr shifted uncomfortably, still standing, “General Hamilton, really—”

“—Everyone is going to find out, the whole world.”

“Hardly the whole world, General.”

"—Troup and Morris already can’t even look at me, my wife is leaving, my daughter probably thinks I’m insane, I have no home, nowhere to go, those monsters Jumel and Sade—”

Aaron felt guilty, and walked over to the discarded phone and picking up the pieces, he placed the parts in his pocket. He waited for a moment, standing awkwardly next to the other man.

“General Hamilton,” he tried again.

“I’m just done. I’m done with it all. I can’t take it anymore.”

 Aaron lowered his voice, “Things are not as bad as you think.” He noticed, with a slight heaviness descending into his heart, the redness around the other man’s eyes.

Hamilton sniffed loudly, “I don’t want to hear it. I can’t just be blindly positive all the time. I’m not like you, Burr, there are things that happen that are irreconcilably bad, that no amount of positive thinking will change.”

“General Hamilton.”

“There are consequences to every action,” Alexander looked at his hands, and then rubbed his face, “I should have never gotten involved with Jumel, revenge is never satisfying—”

He felt Aaron sit down on the cold bench next to him, and felt a tentative hand on his shoulder, “My friend—”

Alexander covered his face, “How can you call me a friend? I am irredeemable.”

“You forget that I am just as guilty,” the colonel offered, “I had my own stakes in this.”

“I never wanted my second chance to be just as ruined as my first,” he murmured softly, “How could I have been so careless?”

Aaron watched as the other man sighed, tilted his head back, lifting heavy eyes to the sky. He rubbed his nose, then spoke again.

“All the mistakes I made, back then, I feel like I am helplessly making them again, and I’m terrified, Burr, of it all, of what it all means for my future, and the future of my children—”

“Do not think that way, General, please.”

“I can’t help it. I can’t sleep at night, because I am thinking of it.”

“There is hope, my little friend,” the colonel responded, trying to lower his voice from stern to kind, “I am making changes, and so can you. There is no invisible force binding us to our mistakes. You will move out with Angelica, you will start a life on your own. People will move on, as they should, and we will make the best of this situation. And I am on your team now, sir, so what have you got to fear?”

Hamilton looked up long enough to see a tiny smirk forming on the mouth of the other man. “Jefferson,” he thought quickly.

Aaron laughed, “Probably rolling around in some dirt mound in Virginia.”

"You will raise an army with me and beat him to a pulp.”

“It would be an honor, to be certain, General,” Burr’s smile grew wider, “Shall I inform Wilkinson now, or—?”

Hamilton smiled in spite of himself, “Oh, don’t, please, Colonel. Not even jokingly…I can’t take it…”

Silence fell between them for a moment as each man thought about consequence, and fate. Alexander toyed with a button on the cuff of his sleeve. Something still nagged at him.

“You say you are on ‘my team’, now,” he spoke up after a full minute, the vague din of chatter from the dining room filling up the quiet, “Please clarify yourself.”

Aaron looked at his associate, and felt the old familiar drop in his gut, “I believe I explained my position to you several days ago, in the office. You, ah…grew so agitated you spilled that old mug of coffee.”

“Did I?” Old eyes grew wide.

“It was quiet an embarrassing confession, General Hamilton, don’t make me repeat it.”

“Well now I have to know.” 

The dark-featured colonel inhaled deeply, “I explained to you a theory of mine…referring to our unique situation…in that…I, well—”

"—Spit it out, Colonel, the waiters will start to wonder why we’ve been sitting here so long.”

Aaron made a face, “I am getting to it, please, have patience for this old fool.”

“Tick tock.”

“I said that I felt responsible for you, whatever the circumstance.” Aaron finished breathlessly, scratching a mark on his watch. “And that I couldn’t, in good conscience, let anything bad befall you without doing my best to stop it.”

The general rearranged his position on the bench, “Not that, we have been over that. I mean the other thing.”

Aaron caught on to his game, “Now you are trying to embarrass me.”

“You powers of deduction are legendary. Now say it again and convince me you are on my side.”

The other man swallowed, and studied the floor, “I said I couldn’t think of you as a meaningless part of my life. There now, I am sufficiently embarrassed.”

Hamilton studied the the other man and watched as his face blotched pink, starting at the tip of the nose.

“I suppose that will have to do.” The general stood up slowly, feeling the blood rush from his head. Quickly after, Aaron was next to him.

“I will call a cab.”

Hamilton grabbed his associate’s arm, “Are you forgetting something?”

Aaron stuck his hand in his pocket and felt for the cell phone, but the other man cut him off.

“I think an apology is in order, still, Colonel Burr,” Alexander spoke up, muted.

Aaron exhaled, and closed his eyes, “I am…sorry…for embarrassing you in front of your daughter.”

“Not precisely sincere, but comforting to know it’s what I expected,” a minuscule grin.

Aaron followed the other man to the street corner, with a small fluttering in his stomach, and opened his own phone to dial a taxi.

Chapter Text

It didn’t take long for Aaron to feel another vibration in his pocket, from his companion’s phone, that startled him as he stared out the window during the taxi ride home. Alexander opened his mouth to speak, and the colonel ignored the notification.

“It was a good dinner, regardless of the circumstances.” The general began, trying to break the silence.

“I thought so,” Aaron responded. He placed a hand on the outside of his pocket, feeling the phone inside of it, wondering why he hadn’t bothered giving it back to his associate.

Alexander looked over at him, “What sort of martinis were those? They looked unique.”

“Espresso,” Burr said, “They’re made with chocolate, you can hardly taste the alcohol.”

“Dangerous,” a sharp smile.

Aaron turned to look at him, “If you don’t know how to hold your drinks, then yes, I suppose.”

The cab sped around a corner, and Alexander fell to the side.

“General, please, not in front of the driver,” Burr drawled, lifting the started general's head from his lap. The latter man’s hand hit the phone, and he made a face.

“What is that hard thing in your pocket?”

“General Hamilton!”

Alexander brushed himself off, laughing, “Oh come on, don’t be crude.”

Another bump in the road, and it was the colonel’s turn to shift awkwardly in his seat.

“Do you think we could make it home in one piece, sir? Is that too much to ask?” Alexander called from the back seat, hand brushing against the other man’s leg. Aaron looked down at it, wordlessly. In another second he shifted uneasily away, and unbeknownst to his companion, pulled out the phone to check the message. He heard Alexander’s voice drift in and out, chastising the driver for being careless, as he tapped the video message to see what it was. One last time he stole a glance at the general, wondering why he’d received a message from an unknown number, and hit play.

A few seconds in, and a man’s loud moan punctuated the conversation between driver and passenger, and Hamilton stopped his conversation immediately.

“Colonel Burr, what are you doing?” He looked over, wide-eyed. The other man whipped the phone from sight, heart beating wildly.

“I’m—I was—nothing, General, it was—”

“Why do you look like you’ve just seen a ghost?”

The taxi pulled up in front of Aaron’s apartment building, and the driver gestured for them to get out.

The colonel looked around.

“We are here, Colonel,” Alexander said, louder, still watching him warily, “What has gotten into you?”

The general stepped out of the car, and watched as Aaron went through the motions of paying the driver.

“Colonel Burr, I am talk to you!”

Aaron didn’t hear him. He absentmindedly touched the lump in his pocket, digesting what he’d just seen—or trying to—and turned his back on the general as he walked inside.

“Excuse me!” He felt a hand on his shoulder grab him to get his attention; the Nevisian, breathless, spoke again,

“What is the matter?”

The other man’s hand were clammy as he hit the button on the elevator and stepped inside, Alexander close behind. Finally, he responded, “Nothing.”

“Nothing? You go white as a sheet like that and you expect me to believe it’s nothing?”

Burr thought about what he’d seen—Betsey sleeping with another man, his brain shouted—and toyed with the idea of Hamilton finding out. It was sent to his phone, someone wanted him to see this. Aaron tried to place the man’s face; couldn’t. His was shaken from his thoughts once again by warm hands on his shoulders.

"Colonel Burr, are you feeling alright? You keep drifting in and out of focus. Was it the drinks?” The doors opened with a ding and the men stepped out into the hallway, Alexander gently pushing his companion, leading him like a doctor would a patient. “Was it something they put in the drinks? If you feel like you are going to vomit, let me know. Ginger ale will help your stomach.”

“No, I won’t vomit, thank you,” Burr muttered, shoving the key in the lock and opening the door to his apartment. Two teenage girls greeted the men tiredly, the television prattling on before them.

“Hey,” Angelica looked up at her father, and then quickly away, remembering the embarrassing dinner, “Did you guys, uh, have desert or whatever?”

“No, we decided not to, and Colonel Burr is very sick, so I think we’re—he’s just going to bed,” the general finished quickly.

“I’m not sick,” Aaron protested, sitting himself down on the empty half of the couch Theo occupied. She looked at him, interested.

“You’re awfully pale,” she began.

“Oh for God’s sake, everyone, this is just how I look,” he shot back, a little too loudly.

"Temper, temper,” Hamilton muttered, annoyed, placing his jacket in the hallway closet. “We’re only trying to help.”

“There is nothing to help,” he responded, lowering his voice.

As Alexander walked down the hallway to put on pajamas, Aaron stared blankly at the television before him, some documentary about the stars filing in and out of his brain blandly. He pulled out the general’s phone again, trying to place the number, and couldn’t. He turned down the volume until it was mute, and tapped play again.

It was unmistakable, the colonel realized, who was on the video, and what was being done. He looked away, embarrassed, and then looked again. The entire film was just over ninety seconds, but that was entirely sufficient. Another glance at the area code, and Aaron mumbled to himself.

“843? Where on earth is that from?”

“What?” Theo heard him, turned her head interestedly.

He looked up again, startled, the phone still in his hands. His daughter craned her neck and he whipped the device from her sight.

“Dad, what’s going on?”

“Why do you have my dad’s phone?” Angelica called from the opposite couch. “He’s probably the only person in the entire state who buys a $500 phone and then doesn't bother with a phone case, that’s how I know.” She looked down into her bowl of ice cream.

“Why do you have General Hamilton’s phone?” Theo repeated.

“Don’t worry about it.” Aaron offered a pleasant smile, hiding the dryness in his mouth and the distasteful churn in his stomach. “It was a casual mix up at the restaurant.”

“Does he have yours?” The dark-haired teenage girl continued.

“I have mine, Theo, now please—”

“—What are we watching?” The general reappeared in sweatpants and a black tee shirt, and sat down on the seat opposite his own daughter.

“A documentary on Thomas Jefferson,” Angelica replied sarcastically, never taking her eyes off the screen.

“Did you know he was a Freemason, Mr. Hamilton?” Theo inquired politely. “And that he wrote the Constitution?”

Alexander barked a laugh, “You’re kidding.”

“Why do people confuse the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, like, all the time?” Angelica mimicked her father’s laugh unknowingly. “How? I mean really, how? History is my least favorite subject, and even I know the difference.”

"Do they really?” The general looked at his daughter in shock. “Do they really confuse them? I feel faint.”

Theo rolled her eyes, giggling, “This isn’t a documentary about Jefferson, it’s about outer-space—”

“—Jefferson’s theories, then,” Hamilton replied sarcastically, picking an eyelash from his eye.

Aaron sat in silence, biting his tongue and trying to digest what he’d seen. He breathed softly, afraid to sigh or make any sort of sound, and draw attention to himself. He tried to think of a quip to add to the conversation, and failed.

“Uranus is a gas giant," Angelica repeated the documentary, and Theo covered her mouth to stifle a laugh.

"Angelica, please,” she said between giggles.

“Why is that so funny to me? ‘Uranus is a gas giant.’ Dad, Uranus is a gas giant.”

“Angelica Hamilton.” The general shook his head, “Hopeless. Completely hopeless.”

“Dad, do you remember when you wanted to buy a telescope?” Theo inquired to her father next to her, who almost jumped at being addressed directly.

“What?”

“The telescope!” She repeated. Angelica kept her eyes on the television, and Alexander fixed his, curiously, on the other man. “You wanted to buy one and teach me astronomy.”

Aaron wrung his hands, another mile smile on his mouth, “Ah, yes. Yes I remember.” He tried to ignore the Alexander's gaze.

“And I went outside, and saw a shooting star, and started crying because I thought the sky was going to fall down,” Theo continued her story to everyone in the room. “I think I was five.”

“Was that now, or back then?” Angelica inquired.

“Oh, now. Did we have telescopes back then, dad? I can’t remember.”

Aaron toyed with the end of his tie, watching the silk shimmer in the dim light of the television. He didn’t hear her.

“Dad!”

“Oh, Theo, I’m sorry…I don’t remember, either.”

“I think someone had too much to drink,” Alexander piped up, only half joking. “Colonel, why don’t you go to bed?”

“Because it is only nine-thirty, and if I go to bed now I will be wide awake at three.”

“Maybe there will be a good documentary on,” Angelica chimed in, making herself laugh.

“Well you’re not really with us, right now,” Alexander continued, somewhat irritated, “And you haven’t been since we left the restaurant.”

Aaron stared back at the other man, “I’m thinking, that’s all.”

“Share it with us,” the general grinned.

“This is a safe place,” Angelica piped up.

The colonel stood up suddenly, startling his daughter, “I have nothing to share. If you will all excuse me, I am going to retire for the evening.”

“I thought you said you didn’t want to go to bed yet?” Alexander looked up, frowning.

“I said I would retire, not sleep. I’m going to go read or something,” he touched the phone again.

In another minute, the colonel was making his way down the hall, rubbing his eyes. He thought about the area code again, and tried to organize his thoughts. There was a person from an undisclosed location messaging Alexander, his mind informed him, blissfully leaving out any emotional implications. But he didn’t have the number saved, which, his mind continued, must be somewhat significant. Aaron shut the door to his bedroom, locked it, and sat down on his bed, looking at the other man’s phone.

The woman in the video was Betsey, unmistakably, and the colonel cringed at the thought of seeing her in such a private moment. He rubbed his face.

“This is a disaster,” he whispered to himself. “Ms Schuyler, what are you doing?” He placed the phone on the bed next to him.

And with who? Aaron’s mind could only assume the text was sent from the male party’s phone, which was why Alexander’s phone didn’t recognize it, and the colonel set to work trying to figure out a way to reveal what he’d seen—if he revealed it at all.

Chapter Text

 

The colonel, shaken, left the phone sitting on the bed as he stood up to get ready for the night. Each motion acted independently of his mind, which was still stuck on what he’d seen, and the logic behind it. He shook his head to himself, hanging up his suit jacket. A few seconds later, a light knock.

“Colonel…” Hamilton's voice began slowly, muffled, “…may I please come in?”

Burr looked up as he buttoned his pajama top, “What is it now?”

“You know I don’t like talking to doors, Colonel. Please do me the decency of at least opening it.”

The black-eyed man walked over to the bed, grabbed the phone, and hid it behind a stack of books on his dresser. A moment later he unlocked his door, and opened it to reveal his guest’s somewhat worried face.

“I came to apologize for the way I acted at dinner.” Alexander said, in one breath. He stood expectantly with both hands hidden in the pockets of his grey sweatpants. “Your behavior tonight, afterwards, had me a bit worried, I confess, and I—”

Aaron cut him off by walking away, sitting back on his bed, “—You needn’t apologize, General, please. You did nothing wrong. I embarrassed myself. I shouldn’t have spoken so openly about such private matters.” Again, Aaron was unsure of the words coming from his mouth, his mind still stringently adhered to the video on the phone. Alexander followed him to the bed.

“I realize now that…” he began, again, this time slower, sitting down, “Well, about the things you told me, a few days ago, at the office…”

The general gestured with his hands, words failing him. Burr waited, and stared at a blank spot in front of his face.

“The things you said at the office, about being bound to each other, regardless of circumstance…I have been thinking a lot about that.” His hands fell into his lap. The colonel felt the heat of the body next to him with uneasiness. “And it…well it makes a good deal of sense.”

Another pause, and then, “Now I’m not saying that I expect to be taken care of, by you, Colonel Burr, but I…but your theories about this situation we are in are unique and interesting and I would like to explore them some more.”

Aaron blinked, and frowned, “Explore them some more?”

Alexander shifted, “I mean…well it’s…you know, it’s obvious that—”

Burr interrupted him, again, by turning his torso to face his guest. Alexander stopped his explanation and stared down at his hands, picking a fingernail.

“It’s obvious that your willingness to go to therapy, your notion of being responsible for me, your desire to help me…” his voice dropped, and he blushed, “…I think…I think you actually care about me.”

Aaron felt his skin grow cold, and then hot, rapidly. “Now, General, before you go postulating wild theories—”

“—It’s not my theory, it’s my definition of your theory.” Alexander cut him off. “Now, I’m not saying its right, because, like I said, we have yet to really explore it—”

"You misunderstand my actions, General Hamilton, please,” Burr held up a hand, noticing with some distaste his shaking nerves. “I am doing all of this as much for myself as for you. In fact, my therapy is all for myself, so that I may live a more fulfilling life, rather than get closer to you.”

The general cleared his throat, “Yes, clearly, I understand that, but…a few days ago…you said—you made it seem like—”

“—Well I was given the impression that what I said was a mistake.” The colonel cut him off with finality; Alexander looked over and nodded, slowly.

“Certainly, your words were misplaced,” Hamilton agreed quietly. Then, abruptly, he laughed, and shook his head, “You and I were together under the impression that we were humiliating the other one. What a—”

“—An absurdity, to be sure,” Burr chimed in, watching the smile play on his guest’s mouth. Down the hallway, the two men heard their daughters talk animatedly in Theo’s room, preparing for bed. Alexander broke the silence with a sigh and a grin.

“Quite a way for revenge. Who knew?”

The colonel smiled briefly, nodded, and then remembered the phone message, growing cold again.

“I mean…I certainly never…well, with you, of all people—” Hamilton lifted his hands again, sifting through his thoughts, “I despise the woman for her tricks, but I must give Jumel credit where credit is due.”

Burr cleared his throat, trying to sound pleasant, “—I am a little tired now, General, I don’t mean to be rude, but—”

Hamilton, lost in an increasingly animated reverie, felt lightheaded after his confession, “—I can trust you won’t speak about this to anyone, you’re not one to kiss and tell, for sure.”

“No, definitely not,” Aaron nodded and scooted an inch away from his guest.

Alexander stared in front of his nose, eyes going wide, “…I mean, could you have ever imagined—you and I—after all that needless tragedy—”

“General, I think I am going to brush my teeth.” 

The colonel felt a warm hand on his thigh; he looked down at it, alarmed, and then back to his companion, who kept chatting pleasantly.

“I regret losing money, well, at least, when you actually took it, but the fact of the matter is, we both enjoyed ourselves, if only for several brief moments.”

Burr felt the hand squeeze tighter, and felt his own pulse increase at the touch. Searching for words to distract the other man, and finding none, he sat helplessly as the books on the dressed floated in and out of his mind.

“I may not agree with the way you handle your finances, sir,” Alexander’s smile faded only slightly, “But the fact that you are willing to help me out of this mess shows a magnanimity that, I must say, leaves me feeling just a tiny bit hopeful for you, Colonel Burr.”

“Well, that’s—there is no need for—”

“—I feel just terrible that I never properly thanked you.”

A weak laugh escaped Aaron, who prayed Alexander’s hand wouldn’t travel any further north, “Don’t…don’t thank me just yet, please—”

Hamilton gazed at him in the dim light of the night-stand lamp, and the general continued, “You are different. And I have not completely worked out my feelings towards you, whatever they are.”

“You needn’t, I promise, I am quite comfortable in the undefined,” the colonel moved his leg slightly, and the general looked down at his own hand.

“These are some pajamas, Colonel. Is that real silk?”

Aaron looked around the room, “Well, yes, I can’t stand the imitation fabric, it’s so needlessly stifling—”

“—I always admired your expensive taste,” Hamilton murmured.

“Now, you and I both know that’s entirely incorrect—”

“I bet it feels lovely against your skin.”

Burr cleared his throat again, mouth going dry, “It’s quite nice, I suppose.”

The general sighed heavily, and then, averting his gaze, spoke louder, “You know, Colonel Burr, I think you and I have always made it a point to try and enjoy each other’s more amiable traits even if we disagree on the vast majority of things.”

Aaron toyed with the hem of his shirt, nervously, then looked outside as snow began to fall.

“—Have you seen the weather, outside, General? They were right about that awful, unseasonable storm, look at the flakes—”

Alexander leaned in unnecessarily close, craning his neck to peek through the window, Aaron closed his eyes—praying he’d have the will to end whatever game they were playing. In another minute, the general resumed his place, leg touching his companion’s.

He laughed, and brought his mouth to the colonel’s ear, “I hear they are calling for six inches tonight, but I think its closer to eight.”

Burr stood up quickly, “General Hamilton, I know what is on your mind, and I have to stop you.”

Alexander was quick on his feet, and followed his companion as he backed away, “What are you talking about?”

The black-eyed man felt his back hit the wall, “There is something very, very pressing that you need to know about—”

“—Oh I’m sure,” freckled hands found their way across expensive silk fabric.

"No, you don’t understand,” Aaron breathed, “we can’t do this, right now—”

“Nonsense. We are both grown men. I have resigned myself to this situation, what you mean to me, what we mean to each other, however superficial, and I am comfortable admitting that you have a way of…” he laughed again, a single hand unbuttoning Burr’s shirt slowly, “…satisfying my appetite.”

Aaron caught the wandering hand, clenching his teeth, “Listen to me—”

“Just once more,” the general insisted quietly, “Before I leave for a new apartment. And then we will put this mess behind us. Just one last time.”

“My therapy—the doctor…General, I am doing well, I am trying to get over this embarrassing—”

“—Right, yes, your love of fucking,” Alexander pressed in further. “Believe me, I know all about it.”

Before he could say another word in his defense, Aaron felt a warm hand slip beneath the waistband of his pants. His breath hitched in his throat.

“No one will know. Not a single soul,” shuddered breaths hit his neck, “Tonight will be the last time, and I will be satisfied.”

“Alexander—”

Another laugh, “There is no need trying to even articulate a defense, because I can plainly feel how desperately you want this.”

Black-eyes closed once, and the colonel moaned. 

“Tell me how badly you want it—” Alexander gripped harder.

Finally, Aaron regained control, and grabbed his companion gently by the shoulders, “Please, listen to me, before we do this—” His whispers came out rushed, nervous. Hamilton watched him with a fluttering pulse and dilated pupils.

"What have you got to say for yourself?” A wicked grin spread across his features, and he leaned in for a kiss. Burr felt his defenses crumble, and he returned it eagerly. Alexander pulled away first, “That’s what I thought.”

“During the cab ride home I got—”

“—You are still thinking  about dinner. And I told you, I am alright with the physicality of our relationship. So tonight…let us just be strictly that—” Hamilton went in for another biting kiss, and maneuvered his companion to the bed. "I am under no pretensions, I promise you."

Burr closed his eyes once more and let Hamilton take control, forgetting, blissfully, the trouble that was waiting for him behind the pile of books on his dresser. And more importantly, his mind screamed one last time before the carnal thoughts violently took over, the trouble waiting for both himself and the man at his throat.

Chapter Text

 

The general rolled over onto his back, exhaling, and rubbed his eyes. Aaron waited another moment to open his own eyes, the high of his climax still coursing through his body, and the man next to him laughed.

“That was a bad decision…bad, bad, bad…” Hamilton breathed, situating his blankets.

“I don’t know, I rather enjoyed myself.” Burr felt the presence to his left shift again, and sit up. The general brought his legs over the edge of the bed, and sat still for a moment. Then, “I suppose I should be going.”

Aaron propped himself up on his right arm, “Do you suppose?”

The general turned gazed at him, the shadow of a smile even in the dark, “Are you mocking me?”

“Never!” For a moment, Aaron forgot the video. “I am used to sleeping alone, so it’s probably for the best.”

Alexander fell back, head landing on the dark-eyed man’s stomach, and he waited. Instantly he felt fingers through his thick hair, toying with it playfully.

“This was terrible. A mistake from start to finish—” the general tried again, sarcastically.

Aaron pulled his hair, “Lies!”

Hamilton shot up, rubbing the spot where it stung, “Why are you so violent?”

From the bed, the colonel watched as the other man stood up and dressed himself. He inhaled deeply, calming himself, feeling satisfied and fell back onto his pillow.

“So you aren’t going to stay here and keep the bed warm, then?” Burr asked, holding a smile in place though he felt it slipping.

Alexander looked back at him from within the mirror on the dresser, “No, I don’t think that would be wise.”

“Fun, though.”

Finally, Hamilton turned around. “Fun, perhaps,” he corrected, “but devastatingly awkward tomorrow morning.”  He reached for the door handle, and Burr called his name from the bed.

“Alexander, just…wait a moment—”

The general turned around, “If you really want me to stay—”

“—It’s…it’s not that,” Aaron responded sitting up straight, trying to stay lighthearted.

“Spit it out, Colonel, I have to pee.”

Burr thought quickly, got up out of bed, and pulled his clothes back on, all while the general waited expectantly. In another second, he was in front of Alexander, eyes bright with purpose.

“I never said good night,” Aaron tried.

“Oh for goodness sake, Colonel—”

“—Good night, sir, I hope you sleep well.” A split second later, he reached in for a stilted hug. Alexander couldn’t help himself, and laughed.

“What are you doing?” Hamilton whispered. He reacted with a playful hit on his companion’s shoulder, “I am done, for the evening, Colonel. Spent. Whatever goal you are angling for here, I can assure you, despite what Adams says—”

"No, no, no, I am finished, too…”

“Well then would you please let me go?” The general tried again. Burr watched him, curiously, and Hamilton looked down, somewhat embarrassed, “Colonel, I told you this was just…I was feeling very frustrated tonight, and needed a release, and felt…I should take my chances with you.”

“I understand.”

“So you will also understand that nothing changes between us.”

The colonel nodded, yes, he’d remembered. And subsequently wondered why his shoulders suddenly felt heavy.

“Colonel,” Alexander implored, “please let me know that you understand where I’m coming from.”

Aaron looked up. “You forget who you are talking to. Sex as a stress release? I literally wrote the book,” he finished, referring to his own journals. “You needn’t explain yourself further; I know how these things go. I was merely teasing you.”

Finally, Hamilton nodded and smiled, as if in agreement. He placed his hand on the doorknob once again, and felt the dark eyes watch his every move. Turning around one last time, he placed a quick kiss on Aaron’s mouth, breathing him in.

“Thank you,” he muttered, while Burr felt his stomach sink with the lie.

Once in the hallway, the general tried to shut the door without it clicking, or slamming, or any other noise that might wake one of the two sleeping teenagers down the hall. That thought made him fell guiltiest of all, the idea that—

“—General Hamilton, what are you doing?” A pair of orb-like black eyes stared at him from in front of the bathroom, blinked once.

Alexander let the door shut, and started, “Oh, my god, Theo, dear girl, you gave me such a scare—”

“—What are you doing?” She tried again, calmly watching him.

“There was…I heard a noise…” he looked at the floor, at the wall, ran a hand through his hair.

“A noise.”

“At first I thought it was a cat burglar, you know, scaling the building,” Hamilton raised an arm, gesturing, as the lies flew out of his mouth wildly, “The fire escape is right outside your father’s room, as you know—”

Theo cleared her throat, cutting him off, “—I should think my father would be able to take care of intruders himself.”

“He’s a heavy sleeper—”

“—He’s not.”

Hamilton stopped talking and locked eyes with the quick teenage girl across from him, “I heard a noise and I came to investigate, that is all, Theo.”

“Well is everything ok? I mean, with the threat of burglars?” She inquired politely, hand resting on the bathroom door knob. “Perhaps we should all sleep in the living room tonight, just in case.”

Alexander sighed, “Theo.”

“Look, I understand a lot more than you give me credit for,” she whispered, “I know my dad better than anyone else, maybe even better than you, and he’s really trying to change—”

The general held up a hand, “—This is not a discussion I am comfortable having with you, Theo, I am sorry.”

“I’m just saying, I know what’s going on,” the teenage girl continued, somewhat embarrassed. “He’s trying to change and I hope you can see that.”

“There is…I am…I told you, I do not want to discuss things of this nature with you, dear girl, I am sorry—” their whispers carried down the hallway.

"You don’t even need to discuss anything with me; I already know what’s going on.”

Alexander closed his eyes, and stepped closer to the other hallway occupant, “Theo, this is a highly sensitive subject.”

“Yes, I know.”

He raised his hands, palms open to the floor, “No, you don’t—”

“Yes, I do.”

“Shut up," came an irritated, muffled female voice from inside Theo’s bedroom. Theo swallowed, steeled herself, and spoke up again before the general could cut her off.

“I know what happened between you two, and I know what’s happening now. I know about back then, and I know the current situation. I’m not going to tell anyone or make you feel ashamed, because you’re right, it isn’t my business. But my father’s well being is, and anyone who stands in the way of him getting better becomes my business as well—”

"—For the love of God, stop talking!” Angelica’s voice carried down the hall.

The general rubbed his face, “Theo, you are a brilliant girl and a good daughter, and I am not trying to be condescending, but you must understand that there are things between your father and I that are not meant to be anyone’s business but our own.”

“Don’t hurt him.”

Hamilton's eyes widened, “What?”

Theo cleared her throat and looked down at the floor, responding quietly, “I said, don’t hurt him.”

“I’m going to come out there with a machete and start slicing," another muffled plea from inside the girls’ bedroom.

The large black eyes looked at him in the darkened hallway, “You have a way of affecting him, unlike anyone else. I saw it back then and I think I’m seeing it now. Please, General, just…just be careful. Please.” Theo locked eyes with the adult man, who felt himself shrink under the gaze of the wise teenager, and then she let herself into the bathroom.

Chapter Text

 

Aaron could not stop chewing on his lip, and wondered when he’d picked up such a nervous habit as he sat at the counter the next morning. He sipped hot coffee, white with cream and sugar, and stared blankly at the red light on the coffee pot, waiting for the others to wake up. He’d slept for approximately three hours, peppered by disturbing dreams. Down the hall, he could hear the happy chatter of the teenage girls, blissfully unaware of his mistake, he told himself.

“Good morning, Dad,” he felt a pat on his back, and a kiss on his cheek, “Hope you slept alright.”

Theo sat herself down next to him at the counter, and reached for a banana. Aaron nodded silently into his coffee.

“I was a bit cold,” he admitted.

“You didn’t leave your window open again, did you?” She inquired. Aaron shook his head, no, and took another sip of his coffee. He couldn’t quite bring himself to look at his own daughter in the face, and prayed she’d didn’t notice his jitteriness, though a small voice in the back of his mind told him she always did. Another laugh, and Angelica appeared in the kitchen.

“Good morning,” she swept thick, unruly hair from her eyes, and reached for the coffee, yawning, “hope everyone had a great night. I know mine wasn’t.”

Theo looked up, alarmed, and tried to catch the other girl’s eye.

“You people are ridiculously loud. I don’t know why you need to hold conversations in the hallway at midnight, but whatever,” she sighed disinterestedly, and leaned against the counter across from the two dark-featured occupants. The Hamilton daughter took a loud slurp of her coffee and waited for a response.

Aaron furrowed his eyebrows, “You much have been dreaming, Angelica. No one was having conversations in the hallway.”

“Probably a dream,” Theo added quickly, mouth full of a banana. Her father looked at her.

“Were you in the hallway last night, Theo? Sleepwalking?” Aaron asked. He watched his daughter laugh nervously, out of character.

“What? Dad, don’t be silly, of course not…like I said, it was probably a dream she had—“

“—That was no dream, I recognize your voice, Theo, I definitely heard you in the hallway talking to someone.”

The fourth member of the household appeared in the kitchen, already showered and red-faced. “Is there any more coffee left?” Hamilton asked, unable to look at the other man in the room. “I could really use some.”

“I think I’m just going to go to the library today, all day. I have a lot of studying to do,” Theo chimed in, a little too loudly. Angelica made a face.

“Please don’t drag me with you.” Angelia whined.

Alexander continued to ignore the two Burrs, “You should go to the library today, Angelica, remember what we talked about. Midterm grades are coming up and I don’t want any nasty surprises.” Aaron watched the general with some chagrin, and Angelica filled the awkward silence.

“Nasty surprises? Come on, dad, I’m not doing that bad.”

The colonel cleared his throat, and tried to edge his way into the conversation, “At least, if you go and study with Theo, you will be with a friend, which will be more fun—“

The general still did not look at anything, or anyone, in the room besides the hot coffee he was pouring into his mug, “I myself am going into the office today, to finish up some things—“

“—What?” Burr asked him, directly. Hamilton cleared his throat.

“I said, I am going into the office today, to work on some things, just some case-related notes, for the trial next week—”

“See? Everyone is doing something productive today, that’s good, right Angelica?” Theo looked at the other girl brightly, smiling. Aaron shifted his gaze from the general to his daughter, feeling the undercurrent of discomfort between them.

“So? I don’t need to study.” Angelica flipped a section of hair from her face once again, and blew on her coffee.

“Personally,” Aaron cut in, louder, “I would like to know about the voices Angelica heard last night, in the hallway. Wouldn’t you, General?”

Alexander blushed at being addressed, “If you think it’s necessary, Colonel.”

“Well I should think if people are breaking into my apartment and holding conversations in my hallway then it is entirely necessary.”

"Ok, well, I’m just going to grab my books and be off, I think the library opens at ten, today—” Theo hopped off her stool, quickly, leaving her banana peel. Angelica arched an eyebrow.

“Angelica has such vivid dreams,” Hamilton spoke up again with his sharp grin in place, “Don’t you, dear? Won’t you please tell the colonel that what you heard was probably a dream?”

“I told you guys, it wasn’t a dream—”

“—Alright, see you guys later!” Theo called from the living room behind them, grabbing her book bag. In an instant, Burr grabbed one of the straps, and pulled her back.

“Everyone just stop,” he demanded. “What is going on?”

"Beats the hell out of me,” Angelica murmured into her drink.

“Theo and I met in front of the bathroom last night,” Alexander sighed, “And had a conversation. I suppose we were too loud.”

“That’s what this is about?” Angelica cut in, “I told you, I heard your voices. Who cares?”

“I suppose I should offer an apology to you for being so noisy,” Theo chimed in, hands shoved into her pockets nervously.

Angelica looked from the black-eyed girl to her father, incredulous, “Ok.”

“So can we leave now?” Theo asked to no one in particular.

Aaron sat silently at the counter, holding his mug of coffee and feeling it slowly grow cold, “Yes, that’s fine, Theo. Take care to let me know when you get there, and when you’re on your way home.”

“Of course, Dad.”

“You too, Angelica,” Alexander spoke to his daughter, who rolled her eyes.

“I hate studying,” she informed the room, frustrated.

Theo put an arm around her, “It will be painless, I promise.”

The two men watched as their daughters left the apartment, chatting between themselves about test sand midterms and the cold weather. In another minute, Hamilton was the first to find his voice.

“Theo caught me sneaking out of your bedroom last night,” he confessed in one breath.

Aaron’s heart sank, and he lowered his head, “Are you serious?”

“Yes. That’s what Angelica heard, us talking,” he sipped his coffee and stared at the floor. “She knows everything, Burr. There’s no keeping anything from her.” 

Aaron’s voice came out muffled as he put his head down on bent elbows, “I know she does. But I would still rather be the one to put it in perspective for her. She will be disappointed in me, and that I can’t bear.”

Alexander finished the last of his coffee, “I think I am going to leave now. I will be at the office for several hours, do call me if you need anything.”

The colonel’s head shot up, remembering the cell phone hidden in his bedroom. His heart raced and his words failed him as he watched the other man place his mug in the sink and grab his briefcase. Alexander gave one last heavy-eyed, nameless look to the other man, and turned to leave.

Chapter Text

Snow had a way of making everything sound different–more muffled–Theo thought as she made her way down the aisle of the bus, looking for an empty seat. Behind her, Angelica hummed a song to herself. The two girls sat down in the very last seat at the back of the vehicle and once they sat down, the dark-featured teenager set about explaining herself.

“So I wasn’t exactly truthful earlier,” she began, looking at the cover of a book that sat in her lap. Angelica glanced over at her.

“About what?” The bus hit a bump and she swore. “Is there a reason we couldn’t take the subway?” She asked of no one in particular, changing the subject.

Theo didn’t answer, but rather got back to her point, “I mean, I didn’t exactly lie, I just omitted some of the truth. Your dad was sneaking out of my dad’s bedroom.”

“Oh Jesus,” Angelica scratched her face, “Is that why you look nervous?”

“Well, I thought, I don’t know…I felt bad not telling you…but at the same time, it’s not exactly a subject I want to talk about. But you reacted so badly when you found out you were the only one in the apartment who didn’t know what happened between them, I figured you’d want to know everything from now on–”

Angelica girl squirmed in her seat, trying to get comfortable, and craned her neck to look out the window, “–Well, I appreciate it, I guess.”

“You guess?” Theo balked at her nonchalance.

“I mean, I would have found out sooner or later. My dad’s not exactly a stranger to confessing his stupid shit to anyone and everyone who will listen,” she replied, wiping condensation from the cold glass to see better, “but it still weirds me out, though.”

“Naturally.”

“Anyway, thanks for offering to help me study. I hate it, but thanks.” Angelica smiled at her dark-featured friend. In an instant, her expression changed, and she pointed to the window.

“Is that Phil? Did you see him, walking down the street?”

Theo turned to look, shaking her head, “No, I don’t think so–”

“–Hit the button to stop the bus, let’s get off here! I want to see if that was Phil, I’m pretty sure it was.” Angelica asked excitedly.

“Angelica, come on, we have to get to the library, I told my dad–” The Hamilton girl interrupted her by reaching across Theo and pressing the button to request a stop, “It’s my brother, Theo, I want to see him.”

“What would he be doing in the city, anyway?” Theo inquired, mostly to herself. She spoke up louder to her friend, “I thought he stayed in Albany with your mom and the rest of the kids?”

Angelica shrugged and waited for the bus to slow down, grabbing her bag, “I don’t know, but I’m pretty sure that was him. What if he’s in the city to visit me?”

Theo started to articulate a response, but the other girl moved quickly, and made her way back down the aisle, indicating she follow. The former girl made a face, unsure.

“Come on, Theo, it’s Phil! I haven’t seen him in weeks!” Angelica practically stomped her foot, and the bus driver cleared his throat impatiently for the girls to get off. Theo took one last look out the window, and reluctantly agreed to follow suit.

---------

The smell of the old church hit Burr first, as his eyes adjusted to the dim light, and he blinked twice. He looked around at the sparsely populated pews, searching for the man he knew, without a doubt, would be here. He made his way down the appropriate aisle, locking his vision on Hamilton. Sliding into the seat next to him, he sighed.

“I should have known,” the colonel began, kneeling next to the general, who blushed furiously.

“Why are you here? Did you follow me?” Alexander asked, slightly insulted.

“You said you were going to the office, General.”

“Well I changed my mind. I’m allowed to do that.” Hamilton rose up from his kneeling position, and unfolded his hands, sitting back on the pew. “I was really hoping you wouldn’t find me, you know.”

Aaron mimicked him and sat back himself, not responding. The silence in their conversation was filled by the solemn organ’s mournful bellows.

“Mass let out an hour ago. I don't know why she’s still going,” Alexander spoke up again, referring to the music.

“Did you want to stay for the next service?”

The general looked at him, surprised, “Am I hearing things correctly? Aaron Burr wants to sit through church?”

“I never said I’d stay, now,” he replied, holding up a hand, “Don’t get crazy.”

“I…how did you know I’d be here?”

Burr shrugged, “Lucky guess, I suppose.” There was more to it than that, he wanted to say, there was the fact that Aaron knew how the general’s mind worked, that the first place he’d turn to in a time of need was the abstraction known as God–abstraction that Hamilton claimed to be terrified of. He felt inside his pocket, the solid plastic of the phone cold against his fingers, a stinging reminder of what he had to do.

“I have something for you, General,” Burr began, moving in closer.

Hamilton loosened his necktie; crossed his legs, “Oh? And what is that?”

Aaron took a deep breath, and then the plunge, “You left your cellphone…I’ve had it since last night, when you dropped it and it broke, outside, you remember–”

Alexander’s eyes widened, “–I had completely forgotten about it!” He took the device from his companion, and turned it on.

“Thank you, Colonel, you know how absentminded I am about these things, especially lately,” he added, with a touch of sadness in his voice, “No one actually calls me anymore. At least that’s what it feels like.”

Aaron swallowed, “Now, Hamilton, there is something you need to know before you go looking through the messages–”

The screen lit up and Burr watched as the light flickered across his associate’s handsome face, his own resolve crumbling.

“Who on earth sent me a video?” Hamilton asked. He used his finger to scroll around, while Aaron fell apart beside him.

“General Hamilton, please listen to me,” he gently moved the phone from the other man’s face, who let out a noise of protest, “there is something you need to know about that video.”

“Do you know who sent it? The number isn’t saved…I don’t recognize that area code–”

“–May I just…may I have your phone for a minute?”

The General paused, and frowned, “Wait a minute, how did you know I had a video message? And why didn’t you tell me?”

“Because, it’s complicated–”

Alexander leaned away from the other man, giving him his full, piercing gaze, “Excuse me?”

Aaron closed his eyes, remaining calm, “When you broke your phone, I grabbed it, put it back together, and put it in my pocket when we were in the taxi, and I felt it vibrate, and I–”

“–And you snooped through my personal information?” Hamilton cut him off, “You didn’t think to give it back to me first?” The colonel opened his mouth to articulate a defense, and his companion held up a hand, “Do you get off on this kind of thing? Prying into peoples’ secrets? Honestly, Burr.”

He hit play on the video and the organ stumbled through a sour note.

Aaron watched, helplessly, as the expression on his Hamilton's face turned from curiosity, to confusion, to wide-eyed horror. Several church patrons turn around, shooting the two men dirty looks as the voices in the video hit an embarrassing crescendo. The colonel leaned in to offer an explanation, as Alexander stopped the film and covered his mouth.

“General…General, listen to me…”

“That was…oh my God...”

Burr remained quiet, and waited for the storm. In a flash, Hamilton looked at him angrily.

“Was that–in the video–” Alexander’s breaths became labored as he tried to keep him calm in the holy sanctuary.

“Yes.” Aaron replied simply, still waiting.

The general breathed in deeply, shutting his eyes, “That was Betsey.”

The organ player resumed her practice, a slower melody, and Aaron counted to ten in his mind, wondering what to say next.

“And the man she was with was John.” Alexander’s eyes shot open and he fixed his gaze on the alter at the front of the church. “This is a South Carolina area code.”

The name and reference were lost on the colonel, but he saw it effect the other man drastically. Aaron reached out and went to put a hand on the other man’s shoulder, words failing him, but was viciously denied.

“And you knew?”

The colonel was not prepared for the acid he saw in Alexander’s eyes.

“You watched this, didn’t you.” It wasn’t a question.

The other church-goers turned to give a few dirty looks, an old woman shook her head and walked out. Alexander kept his blazing gaze on his associate, who shrank helplessly away from him.

“General Hamilton, I didn’t know how to tell you–”

“–You watched this and you didn’t tell me.”

“–Please, please lower your voice, this is a church.”

“–Damn you, this is a church!” Hamilton stood up quickly and the priest at the front of the alter looked on the two men worriedly. “You knew about this since yesterday night and you didn’t tell me? Betsey and John? What is this?”

Alexander held up the phone again, and his voice cracked. The other man watched as the lines in his face deepened, sorrow carving a path across his mouth and forehead. “You knew they did this, you watched this, and then you let me fuck you?”

At this, Burr stood up, the tip of his nose turning an embarrassed pink, “General Hamilton, for the love of God, pull yourself together,” he hissed.

“I will not ‘pull myself together’,” he shot back.

“Gentlemen, is there a problem?” The priest made his way over to where they stood, concern on his face. Alexander sniffed loudly and turned away from him, while Aaron tried to offer an explanation.

“We are fine, father, please, I do apologize for the disturbance. We were just leaving.”

The priest nodded, still furrowing his eyebrows, and slowly walked away. Alexander stood with his back to the alter, chest heaving as he tried to steady his breathing. He held out the phone, “This is more than betrayal. I don’t think there is a word for this.”

Aaron waited again, watching for several seconds as his companion looked blankly at the blackened phone. Without turning to acknowledge Aaron, who stood wringing his hands uncomfortably, Alexander made his way out of the pew, down the aisle, and out the front doors.

Chapter Text

 

Phil squinted his eyes, which began watering as the wind picked up, and a bright smile played across his face as he saw his sister approach. Immediately, she ran to him, and gave him a hug.

“Phil! What are you doing in the City? I thought mom didn’t let you come down here by yourself.” Angelica let go of her brother, breathless, who nodded a greeting towards Theo. The latter girl hitched up her backpack and smiled.

“She uh…she doesn’t know exactly where I am, to be honest,” Phil turned pink, and scratched his head, “I told her I wanted to go driving today, just to get a feel for it.”

“You drove here?” Theo asked, the vicious city traffic springing to the forefront of her mind.

“Well, I drove to the train station.” Phil offered sheepishly. “I told mom that I wanted to look at some colleges in the area, and she finally assented. Under one condition.”

“Which was?”

The Hamilton son leaned in and lowered his voice, “I had to take Challz with me and try to get him a job.”

Angelica made a face, and Theo covered hers.

“You’re still friends with that tit?” Angelica cocked her head to the side, face scrunched up.

“What the hell is he doing in New York anyway?”

“I told you. To look for a job.”

Theo watched as the siblings bandied verbally, back and forth, noticing pleasantly that they each took opposite physical traits from their parents: Phil’s hair, dark and soft like his mother’s, contrasted prettily with his father’s bright eyes. Angelica’s thick copper hair and lightly freckled nose were her father’s; her oddly colored eyes couldn’t agree on which parent to belong to. In a split second, Theo was shaken out of her thoughts.

“Do you believe this, Theo?” Angelica laughed. The black-eyed girl jumped at being addressed directly,

“Challz wants to try and work in the city to get away from his dad.”

The Burr daughter let a small smile play on her mouth, “I guess that’s understandable.”

Several doors down, an unruly looking youth with large, wet eyes and rosy cheeks stumbled out of the doorway of one of the shops. He threw a slip of paper onto the ground, frustrated, and then swore loudly. Phil walked over quickly.

“Challz? What the hell, man? What happened?” Behind him, the two girls arrived on the scene.

“That dickhead manager won’t even look at my application if I don’t get an ID!” The Adams boy shouted, drawing the attention of some of the passersby.

“I’m…I’m sure it can’t be that hard to get an ID…” Angelica stepped forward, unsure, and picked up the application. Challz stared at the ground dramatically while the Hamilton daughter continued, “…I mean…how old are you?”

“I don’t know!” Challz wailed into the air.

“Oh for god’s sake, Challz, come on,” Phil laughed, “Didn’t you ever go back and do the math?”

The Adams boy shot his friend a sardonic look, and then, “I don’t fuckin’ know when I was born…or what year it would be…or where. You can’t get an ID unless you have a social-security card, or whatever, or like…at least a passport to prove citizenship–”

“You’re almost thirty.” Theo’s small voice cut through Challz’s speech, and he stopped short, furrowing his eyebrows.

“No way…” he breathed, counting on his fingers, “that can’t be right.”

“It is.” The dark-haired girl insisted politely. “You’re nearly twelve years older than Phil, and he’s seventeen, so…” She let her words trail off as the three others looked on in interest. Finally, she spoke again, nonplussed. “You mean…none of you have ever actually tried to calculate his age…?”

“Age is just a number, man,” Challz said.

“That saying has literally nothing to do with what we’re talking about,” Angelica closed her eyes, “his dad probably told him and he forgot.”

“Man, I hate my dad. He’s starting his shit again,” the Adams boy cut in, to no response.

Phil raised a hand, palm parallel to the concrete beneath them, “Whatever. The point is, he wants to get a job and move out of his parent’s house, maybe go to school, and start a real life. Here, in New York. And I promised to help him.”

“Dad’s going to flip his shit, Phil,” Angelica shook her head, smiling.

“I’m not afraid!” Challz cut in emphatically. “He’s supposed to be my mentor!”

“You clerked for him, he wasn’t your mentor,” Theo corrected. Challz finally gave her his full attention.

“Wait a minute, you’re Theo Burr.”

“I am.”

The Adams boy widened his eyes, as if discovering something foul, “Phil, you associate with her?”

Phil rolled his eyes, and made to speak, but his sister cut him off. “Yeah, actually, she’s alright. Her father’s a weirdo but that’s not new.” Theo shot the other girl a look, who talked on, “I’m actually living with her now, for the time being, until my dad can–”

“–It’s, like, really cold out here,” Phil cut in, “Does anyone want to get a bite to eat somewhere?”

Theo shook her head in alarm, “No…no, I don’t think that’s a good idea…I told my dad I’d be at the library all day–”

“–Can we go to Applebee’s?” Challz jumped into the conversation.

“Sure, man, we can go to Applebee’s if you want to…” the Hamilton son laughed.

Angelica nodded her agreement, “Applebee’s sounds good.”

“No, come on, guys, I can’t go,” Theo turned a light shade of pink as she continued her protest, watching Challz try and discern why a child wouldn’t disobey their parent, “…My dad made it pretty clear that if I make even one B this semester–”

“–Is your dad here? Right now?” The Adams boy reasoned.

“No, but–”

“Theo your GPA is a 3.9,” Angelica put her arm around the other girl, “and he’s not going to know if you skipped out on going to the library–just once–in your whole life.”

“And Applebee’s has the bacon quesadilla burger,” Challz added helpfully.

“Well I’m just going to start walking,” Phil chimed in, urging his friends to follow suit, “And if you all decide that you’re coming…then we can…all walk together…” He leaned heavily towards the direction of the restaurant, eyes widened.

“You don’t have to ask me twice,” the rosy-faced Adams boy replied, “What about you, Theodork?” Angelica snickered at the nickname; Theo looked down at the ground, a war waging inside her mind.

“I really…I really shouldn’t. He would be so, so angry if he found out…” she protested weakly. Next to her, the other girl cleared her throat.

“He doesn’t own you, Theo.”

The dark-featured girl looked at her friend, who stared at her knowingly. 

“Ok…fine,” Theo breathed, “We can go to Applebee’s.” She felt her hands begin to shake with nervousness. “But I swear, the first phone I get from my dad, I’m out of there. And none of you better rat on me, either.”

“No way, Jose,” Challz shuddered and looked down at the ground as he began walking.

Chapter Text

 

“General Hamilton, please, just stop ignoring me and let me explain myself,” Burr followed his roommate down the hall. The former man was gathering his belongings, doing his best to remain calm.

“I can’t stay here anymore.” Alexander spoke more to himself than to the other man, who could have kicked himself for being so secretive.

“General, at least let me tell you–”

“–Why you didn’t immediately show me?” Angry eyes locked Aaron in place. “Why did you felt it necessary to shelter me?”

“I wouldn’t use the word ‘shelter’,” Burr reasoned, crossing his arms. The two men stood face to face in the hallway, the general hitching up a duffle bag filled with dirty clothes.

“You thought I wouldn’t be able to handle it,” he spoke up, “You thought, what, that I’d go crazy? Have a nervous breakdown?”

With a final glare, Hamilton turned on his heel and fled to the guest bedroom to gather more things, muttering angrily.

“What do you call this?” Aaron continued his pursuit.

Hamilton stuck his head out of the small closet, “This is not a nervous breakdown. This is me protecting myself from everyone else who feels the need to protect me.” He spoke through gritted teeth, showing his frustration by tossing out old shirts here and there. “This is me finally getting out of a toxic situation, away from everyone who–”

“–Where are you going to go?” The colonel caught one of the shirts, and gently laid it on the bed. He watched as his roommate sorted through more clothes, sighed, and then leaned down next to him.

“I wanted to be sure it was Betsey I saw, and not just a random female,” he reasoned further, lowering his voice, “General Hamilton, I didn’t keep it from you maliciously.”

“I am sick and tired of people treating me like I don’t exist anymore, or that I need to be protected, or that I need help–” with each word, Alexander’s inflection grew more and more heated, and he turned to look at the black-eyed man, “–or that I’m an idiot, or an easy screw, or that I need to be someone’s responsibility.”

At that, Burr stood up again; Hamilton followed suit and continued:

“I am none of those things. I am a grown man with a family to provide for, a practice to run, a life to live, and I am tired…” he heaved a labored breath, praying his emotions wouldn’t get the best of him, “…I am tired of feeling like a burden to everyone.”

At this, the general closed his eyes, realizing his emotions won. Aaron shifted uncomfortably.

“I don’t know where I’m going. I’ll pick an apartment and deal with it. I can’t stay here anymore,” His cheeks turning pink, “I have to get away from you. I am sorry.”

Hamilton rubbed the stress from his eyes and took a moment to process the video again, as he’d done one million times since seeing it, and it didn’t get easier. He wondered how long she’d been interested in Laurens; remembered how she’d wept with him when he died. His stomach dropped.

Several feet away, Burr stood awkwardly with his hands in his pockets, waiting for the next move.

“You don’t have to leave, Alexander,” he tried, using the general’s given name in hopes of calming him. It only made him shake his head.

“This is all wrong…all wrong….” Hamilton repeated, caught in a stare. “You saw the video, you knew who it was, and then that same night we…” HIs voice dropped off.

“I’m sorry, General–”

“–Is it payback?” The wet eyes finally gave Aaron their full attention. “Is that what she’s playing at? I don’t understand. Of all people, why him?”

“Why who?” Aaron stepped forward.

Alexander didn’t answer, but began pacing, intermittently wiping his eyes and sighing loudly, “And how would she know he’d be back, too? Did she seek him out or did he…did he want to see me and thought that the best way to contact me was through her?”

“General Hamilton, I’m afraid I don’t follow–”

“–Why, Betsey? Why him, of all people, why him?” Hamilton sat down on the edge of the futon and put his head in his hands.

Burr watched, alarmed, as Hamilton's shoulders heaved, trying to recall a time when he’d seen another man so emotionally unguarded. Alexander was, for sure, both florid and sensitive, and the colonel had seen him enraged during the uglier days of their previous rivalry, but had never experienced this sort of outpouring. He clasped and unclasped his hands, opened his mouth to speak, and then closed it again.

“She knows…she must know…but how would she…who would tell her?” Alexander talked to himself, voice muffled and nasally.

Burr cleared his throat, “Who?”

Hamilton looked up, “You.”

“The woman will not see me,” the colonel said definitively, “And I will not see her. You are mistaken, General.”

“No,” he wiped his eye with a sleeve, “I mean the only way she would justify this kind of revenge is if she knew the punishment fit the crime. She knows I have been with you. She is…sending me a message.”

He finished with another loud sniff, and another wipe of his eyes.

“The only way to prove to fix this is to get out,” Hamilton stood up again, gaze darting this way and that, “To get away from you. To start out on my own.”

Aaron waited.

“Because I know what people think when they look at me. I know what goes through their minds, I know what goes through Betsey’s mind every time she sees that hideous scar–”

He kicked a suitcase violently, his previous sadness turning into anger again. He continued:

“–'There is Hamilton, he was brilliant but peevish, candid but offensive, he died as he lived, a slave to his own pride,” with each realization, he raised his voice, “until the assassin Burr put a bullet in him, there he is, look,’ and my story ends the same, always, every time, and I can’t win...”

His anger reached a crescendo and he slammed a fist into the side of a bookshelf. Several books fell to the floor loudly, and the general felt is insides quiver with frustration at his inability to make sense of his rage. He shut his eyes tight, again, and cupped his bruised hand to his chest, nursing it. Burr felt himself blush with embarrassment at the explosion of sentiment; he slowly made his way over to where the other man stood. 

“I don’t know what to say.”

“Don’t say anything, Colonel Burr. Just stand there mocking me while I try to explain myself, just like it always was.”

“Come now–” Aaron grabbed the other man by the arm Alexander shook himself free and refused to look at the colonel.

“And now she’s done the same thing to me that I did to her,” he mentioned, referring to Betsey, “so I suppose this is exactly what I deserve, right?”

It was a rhetorical question, one that Burr couldn’t answer. He shifted his weight uneasily. “I should have shown you the video when I got the chance.”

“You should have made a well company instead of a bank.” Hamilton slammed the closet door, kicking a pair of shoes out of his way and wincing as the sharp pain coursed through his fist.

“What is this about?” Burr responded, more angry than sympathetic. “I told you I was sorry for keeping the video from you. What more do you want?”

“I want you to give me the money you promised so I can get out.”

“If you’re angry about sleeping with me again just say it, instead of this petulant whining and wailing,” Aaron shouted, losing his patience.

“I am angry because you kept this, this,” Alexander locked his burning gaze on the other man and violently waved the cell phone in his face, “this, Colonel, you kept this from me and then allowed me to carry on as if nothing was wrong, to make a fool of myself.”

Burr swatted the phone away, “I didn’t purposefully keep it from you with the intent to humiliate you, for Christ’s sake.”

Hamilton gathered all his bags in the middle of the room, nursed his bruised hand some more, and closed his eyes, inhaling deeply, “I am leaving, in the morning, very early. And I am going to sign a lease the same day. You will see me at the office, where I will be requesting another room. Perhaps Morris and I can trade. You will speak to me in court, about legal matters, if our daughters interact, I will see you then. Other than that, I don't think we can be around each other any longer.”

Finally, he opened his eyes to see the fathomless expression on the other man’s face.

“If that will make you happy, General, then god-willing, I will do my best,” Aaron shot back, sarcastically.

Alexander waited for the colonel to beg him to stay. When this didn’t happen, the former man nodded curtly.

“Fine. Thank you.”

“I would still, however, advise you to seek professional help, as I have done,” Aaron continued, trying not to sound condescending. The general shot him a scathing look.

“I don’t need counseling.”

“Dr. Blood is one of the best,” the colonel wrote down an address and number on a tiny slip of paper. He handed it to Alexander, who stood in stunned silence. “I will give you your money tomorrow, and the rest to the Sades.”

The general held the slip of paper in his hands for a moment, debating whether or not to be insulted, and then shoved it in his pocket. He wiped his eyes one last time and then exited the room, desperately craving a hot shower.

Chapter Text

 

“Trauma”, Mary spoke definitively, pacing the room, and glancing at each member of the meeting like a teacher to her students. “Who can tell me, what, exactly, trauma is?”

“Do you want…like, a definition?” The tan skinned woman to Aaron’s left, who’d been present at the first meeting, raised her hand.

“It’s up to you, Theresa,” the doctor responded politely. She put her hands on the back of Aaron’s chair, and leaned there. The dark-eyed man breathed in once, sighing.

“Well, I suppose…I suppose it’s like something that happens to you, something really scary or life-changing, and it changes you,” Theresa touched a bangle on her arm, adjusted it, and then placed both hands in her lap.

Behind him, Aaron felt Mary nod, “Indeed. That’s a good place to start. Can anyone pick out the most important part of Theresa’s definition?”

The doctor removed her hands from Aaron’s chair, circled the group once again, and then sat back down in her own seat, “Come now, don’t be afraid to speak up.”

“Can we give, like, examples?” The tall, athletic man asked. “Of traumatic experiences, I mean.”

“If you’d like,” Mary acquiesced.

“I was in a car accident when I was twenty,” the man responded, “That was traumatic.”

“And what happened to you, as a person, afterwards?” Dr. Blood pressed him to speak further; Aaron scratched at a mark on his watch.

“Killed a buddy of mine. Merged into a lane without looking. I had been drinking.”

The colonel felt his skin flush cold, and looked up.

Dr. Blood lowered her gaze and nodded, “That is traumatic, Sam, thank you for having the bravery to share. ” She paused for a moment, and then, “But I wonder if I can ask again–what was the most important part of Theresa’s definition of trauma?”

She waited for another few seconds, and when no one replied, Mary answered herself, “The definitive concept behind trauma is that it changes us. That was the most important part of Theresa’s definition.”

Aaron hadn’t planned on coming to this meeting, thought of a myriad of things he’d rather be doing, starting with getting out of the stuffy apartment for the rest of the evening. He knew he’d have to face the music tomorrow morning, crawl to the Sades–watch the General leave–but as Alexander lay sleeping, fitfully, on the sofa in the living room and Theo studying dutifully at the library, Aaron decided it would be alright if he escaped one last time.

“It definitely changed me,” Sam, the athletic man, nodded his head, “lost all my friends.”

Mary fixed her gaze on him, “Would you like to share more about how your trauma changed you?”

Sam sat back in his chair, Aaron watched him stretch lean, muscled arms, a welcome distraction from the actual conversation, “I woke up in the hospital the next morning, and they gave me the news. I only had a broken arm. But Chris…that was his name, it was Chris…Chris was gone.”

The same muscled arm reached up to wipe away a small tear, and Sam looked down at his hands clutched between his legs, “Never meant for him to die. After that, I became depressed, I guess you could say. Started abusing all my pain meds. Dropped out of college…lost my girlfriend. She left me a month after it happened, said she couldn’t deal with me being depressed all the time.”

The five other inhabitants of the room watched Sam relate his story with a mixture of sadness and pity; each brain synthesizing it into his or her own mixture of traumatic memories. Aaron bit the inside of his mouth on accident and tasted metallic blood.

“It was a stupid party. He didn’t even want to go, and I made him. I told him, ‘Chris–you can’t miss this party, man, everyone’s going to be there. That girl Amber you like, she’ll be there. She’s expecting you to go, and if you don’t, she’ll think you’re a dick.’ That’s what I said. Those were my exact words.” Sam sighed longingly, and covered his face for a moment. “He kept telling me over and over again how he couldn’t go, he had to study, he was nervous about seeing her, his parents didn’t want him partying all the time–he even tried telling me he couldn’t miss church the next morning.”

The black-eyed colonel dropped his watch. It clattered on the floor and Mary looked over, mildly interested.

“I finally talked him into it. Six hours later, he was dead.”

Theresa reached out and placed a hand on Sam’s back, comforting him as the athletic man wiped away more tears.

“This trauma changed you, undoubtedly, Sam,” Dr. Blood commented, cocking her head to the side sympathetically. Sam nodded, yes, without looking up.

“Like I said, I got involved with all kinds of drugs,” he continued, “I thought to myself, 'fuck this–fuck God for letting this happen–if this is what life’s about, pain, that is, then I’ll beat it to the punch.’”

“An exceedingly common reaction to trauma,” Mary interjected, “I would say, the most common.”

Another bout of silence, and the doctor continued, “When we, as humans, experience trauma, we want to defeat it. Our brains have come up with a defense mechanism that works something like this: let’s say, for example, you are a young child shopping in the grocery store with your mother. You find something that you, as a six-year-old, think is exciting, and you reach up to show her. And what does she do? She says, 'no, put that down, stupid.’”

The group waited.

“To us, fully formed adults, that doesn’t seem very traumatic. But to a six year old who views his mother as the ultimate figure, being called 'stupid’ flicks a little switch inside of them. They begin to define themselves as stupid–and manifest it in their behavior.”

“Is that like…” Theresa began, “Well, I saw this show about these girls in Hollywood that make sex tapes, you know, in the privacy of their relationships, and then the tapes get leaked. And the program said that these girls have one of two options: they can either fight the circulation, or embrace the publicity and just become what everyone sees them as, anyway.”

Mary nodded vigorously, “Yes, Theresa, that is exactly right. This is the most common reaction to trauma. Have you ever heard the saying 'face your demons.’?”

The group nodded; Aaron felt himself begin to shrink, wondered what malicious twist of fate had brought him here, tonight, in the presence of his own wild devils.

“After a trauma occurs, be it sexual, emotional, violent or some other form, we internalize the events and try to make sense of them.” Mary held the room in rapt attention; orb-like black eyes glazed over, searing into her. “The trauma–the demon–will not disappear if we ignore it, because it’s already happened. It’s already affected us. But, if we can familiarize ourselves with the trauma, wear it as a skin, make it our own–we are suddenly in control of it.”

Aaron’s breaths became labored and he realized he’d not said a word the entire meeting. Mary, if she noticed, made no comment on it. His mouth tasted stale, and he desperately wanted a glass of water but couldn’t bring himself to ask for it aloud–afraid of what words might actually come tumbling, desperately, out.

A loud sniff from Sam, and he spoke up, “I became an adrenaline junkie.”

The room looked at him again, and Mary raised a palm in his direction, silently asking him to continue.

“That’s why I started having so much sex, and using all the drugs. I used to steal things, too. Just for the hell of it. Just to see if I could get away with it. It was a control thing, just like you said. Because I thought, 'what the hell. I’ve seen the worst life can offer. This is reality. This is me.’”

Mary touched a hand to her face and stared at the athletic man, who stared at his shoes, just a moment more. Aaron wondered again when he’d started biting his bottom lip, splitting the skin until he felt it tear away from his mouth.

Look at me, Madame. Look at me and ask me my story, and let me give you that satisfaction.

Dr. Blood did not look in his direction; she didn’t need to.

Chapter Text

 

“Okay,” Angelica plopped down on the bed next to Theo, exhaling dramatically, “ I think that’s everything.”

The two girls scanned the floor, taking inventory of the baggage around them: one book bag, two medium-sized duffle-bags, and a cardboard box filled with sketchbooks and drawings. Angelica sighed again.

“All he said was, ‘gather your things, we’re moving out on Saturday.’ And that was that. Like, no warning at all. I didn’t even know he found a place, to be honest.” The Hamilton daughter stood up again, and stretched. She craned her neck to look outside, the orange glow of the evening streetlamps catching in a halo of light around her head.

“Well, it’s good, right? That your dad’s finally striking out on his own? I mean, he always complains about feeling stifled, so this should be therapeutic.” Theo reasoned, crossing her legs. She kept her gazed locked on the other girl, who began to pace.

“I don’t want to live with him, really, and I can’t stand the thought of staying with my mother if she’s going to be hovering over me every second. Philip’s got the patience to put up with it, but I don’t.”

“I know what you’re getting at, Angelica,” the dark-haired girl smiled, “And I’m about six-hundred percent positive your dad won’t let you stay here with us.”

Angelica smiled at her roommate, “But I thought you had to help me study.”

“You won’t be that far away. Just a couple blocks, from what I understand.”

“I’ll spend all my extra time here,” Angelica responded, pacing the room and deciding which bag she wanted to sit on, “And make him understand that I have a life, too.”

----------

Down the hall, Hamilton talked to himself, situating his own bags in a heap in the corner of the living room. He didn’t want to take stock of what he had, knowing that his meager possessions would only depress him further. He looked at the clock–nearly eight pm–and wondered where the Colonel could be.

“He’s been gone since five. Probably out screwing god knows what,” the General opened the fridge, grabbed a can of soda hidden in a drawer under a bag of lemons, and chugged it.

“I’m not jealous, I’m just disgusted that he can’t get a grip on himself. He’s been going to this therapy for what, two months now? I’m sorry, but obviously something’s not working out.”

He threw the can into the garbage, “Madness. This whole thing is complete madness." The old sinking feeling hit Alexander again as he remembered what he had to do.

"You can’t say you didn’t try, Alex,” he reiterated to himself, “No one on God’s green earth can sit there and tell you you didn’t try–try to see things his way, try to get along, try to make it work with everyone involved.”

He moved to the bar stools at the counter; hoisted himself up onto one.

“There is nothing left for you to do but go,” he picked up a piece of paper and began folding it absentmindedly. He concluded his thought under his breath, “Just like before.”

The click of the door-handle brought the general from his morose thoughts as his dark-featured, and visibly sullen roommate walked in.

“Where were you?” Hamilton asked, flatly.

“Group meeting,” Burr answered, not meeting his gaze. “It ran longer than I expected.”

“I gathered my things, I hope you don’t mind me keeping them in the corner there. It will be easier for when I pack on Friday.”

Aaron checked the clock on the kitchen wall, “So you’ve been able to do all this in little over than two hours?”

“Obviously.”

“I suppose you don’t have much,” the colonel replied, acidly. He walked from the front door to the living room, never once looking at the other man, who fumed.

“You’ll be happy to know I settled on an apartment four blocks from here,” the general’s voice shook, but he kept his composure, “It’s in a nicer part of the city. We move out on Saturday.”

Aaron ignored him and grabbed a book from the table beside the couch.

“How was your group meeting?” Alexander called again, hands shaking.

The colonel silently raised his eyes and stared at the other man.

“Was it all women this time? Or were men involved too? In this group meeting?”

“Shut up, Hamilton.” The black gaze fell back down onto the book.

Sensing that the other man was in no mind for an argument, the general  looked back at the folded piece of paper in his clammy, jittery hands, “I can practically smell it.” He spoke quietly, without thinking. He looked over to see if the colonel noticed; he hadn’t.

Alexander put his head in his hands and rubbed his eyes and tried a new tactic. “The silent treatment. How very recherché. And predictable.” He spoke louder. “C'est quoi ce bordel…Colonel Burr expects me to think that if he’s quiet and ignores everything awful he’s done, it will go away. But I know it’s because he’s got nothing to say in his defense. Il est un putain.”

“Will you be cramming everything into your tiny car or will you be renting a van?” Aaron called from the couch, ignoring the pretentious French, idly flipping a page.

“It will all fit into my car nicely. I won’t have to 'cram’ anything vous miserable petit merde,” he responded.

“And what time will you be out?”

“Noon, God-willing.” Hamilton stood up. “Et je n'aurai pas besoin non plus de ton aide. Je demanderai à Bobby et Morris demain, au bureau.”

“Morris won’t help you,” Burr shot back. “He wants nothing to do with this situation. Says he won’t get caught in the middle of anything.”

“Bobby, then. Bobby and I can handle it all just fine.”

Aaron waved his hand, spat, “Je m'en fiche, paon. Fous le camp.”

Chapter Text

 

The next morning, Aaron found himself gazing out of a taxi window, expressionless. That morning had been silent–the girls dressed, gathered their things, and were out the door before sunrise, eager to get away from the two angry men even if it meant an earlier start to school. Alexander stood at the door to the guest bedroom, inside, waiting to hear the other man leave before he emerged. Aaron knew what his roommate was doing; he grabbed the small envelope of money he’d been keeping between two books on the shelf in the living room and was himself gone by seven am.

The car stopped in front of the decrepit building he’d seen only once before, in the middle of the night, and the colonel marveled at how innocent it looked in the dim morning light. He tipped the driver, then brought his hands to his mouth to warm them as the cab sped away.

“Alright you old snake,” Aaron muttered to himself, “Let us be done with this infernal connection once and for all.”

He exhaled one last time, and walked toward the building. He felt inside his jacket pocket, reassuring himself that the money was still there.

The same dingy, dimly lit entrance room greeted Aaron and he reached out to knock on the door. In another split second, the same sallow face that threatened him all those weeks ago now faced him again, smiling dully.

The Marquis checked his watch, “Seven forty-five, right on schedule. Enviable punctuality, Colonel Burr.”

“May I come in, please?”

The sallow man retained his expression and gestured for Aaron to walk inside.

“Do be quiet, my wife is sleeping,” Sade muttered, following him. The colonel looked around at the familiar basement apartment, fingered the money in his pocket once again. Forty one-hundred dollar bills, neatly stacked, made the cloth bulge.

The Marquis moved a newspaper from the couch and sat down; Aaron followed suit.

“I am assuming you have my money with you?”

Aaron nodded, “Every damnable dollar.” He pulled out the stack and laid it on the table before him. The Marquis’ eyes grew wide. “Take it. All of it. And consider this my official resignation.”

The thin arm reached out and plucked the cash from the table quickly, “You will always be a whore, Burr, but at least now you will be an honest one.”

Aaron ignored the insult as best he could, “Right then. I’ll be going.”

The Marquis looked up from his bundle of cash, “So soon? You don’t want to stay for a little coffee? Perhaps a chat?”

“Not particularly. I have to get to work.” The black eyes scanned the dark interior one last time. It was surprisingly clean. Aaron wasn’t sure what he’d expected.

“Jumel’s money is in here, too, I presume?” The Marquis resumed the conversation. “She has been nothing but a thorn in my side ever since our last meeting. You really should have a talk with her.”

“I don’t associate with her anymore.”

The Marquis bared his sharp teeth in something like a grin and walked into the kitchen. Emerging with two mugs of coffee, he offered Aaron one. The latter man stared at it for a moment and, realizing he wouldn’t be allowed to leave if he didn’t acquiesce to the Marquis’ desire for conversation, accepted it.

He stood quietly, brought the mug to his nose, and breathed in the hot aroma while his host took a sip.

“Awfully suspicious, so early in the morning. Do you think I’d poison you?” Sade grinned again; sat himself back down on a small armchair. “I’m not as bad as they all say, I assure you.”

Aaron finally drank. And then, “I have been victim enough of hearsay to know when not to believe it. I always try to give the benefit of the doubt.”

“Please sit, Colonel Burr, you’re making me nervous.”

Without thinking, the colonel obeyed.

“Jumel talks incessantly about you. How you swindled her out of her money. How you two were once lovers,” the Marquis glanced Aaron up and down; the colonel shrank in embarrassment, “She was a prostitute. I like prostitutes.”

Another loud sip of his coffee and the Marquis crossed his legs. “Nothing shameful in that sort of business, do you agree?”

Aaron took a longer sip, nodded yes, “I am no judge.”

“No, I shouldn’t think so.”

The clock in the hall chimed eight am. Aaron hadn’t heard it before.

“Regardless of whatever sordid past you two have together, she seems rather eager to put it all behind her,” he held the money up, “Amazing what power little pieces of paper have.”

Aaron fidgeted with a button on his vest, “They’re not just ‘little pieces of paper’, they’re representative of a larger form of credit–”

“–We’re not here to discuss banking, Colonel Burr,” the Marquis cut him off, “Although I am rather curious as to how you came into these funds so quickly. Are you still whoring?”

The casualness with which Sade reminded Aaron of his past profession made the latter man’s skin crawl. Black eyes looked up defiantly, quiet.

“No.”

The sallow face in front of Aaron looked on, politely interested, as he silently persuaded the colonel to say more.

Aaron exhaled loudly, almost bored, “The term is called 'short selling.’ It’s basically a lie about the price of stocks. I collected the trimmings.”

“So you are a thief?”

“You are in no moral position to judge me, Marquis,” the colonel finally snapped, “I came here for one reason and one reason only: to give you that.” He indicated towards the money. “Not to be scolded.”

“Who said I was scolding you? I am merely asking questions. If I found out that this money was, in fact, in some way, stolen, I would feel just dreadful. You must understand that, given your history, I am wary.”

“I am not that man anymore,” Burr shot back, definitively.

Sade smiled mirthlessly, “No, of course not. Nor am I the monster in the tower fantasizing about rape and murder. And yet you still treat me with unwarranted suspicion.”

“Get to your point, please.”

“I think it’s rather humorous that we choose to use our second chances as an opportunity to get back at one another, rather than to move on. You are given a new life, and yet you still carry over the burdens from the past?” Sade picked a piece of lint from the table beside him and flicked it away lazily. “I will never understand that mindset. Petty squabbles, revenge for this or that–all of it puerile.”

“Perhaps to you, but I count myself lucky–”

“–Lucky? You call this lucky?” Aaron had forgotten about the Marquis de Sade’s infamously mercurial temperament. He felt the sting in the latter man’s response almost instantly.

“You call this merry-go-round from hell 'lucky’? I rot to death in a freezing prison cell only to wake up again in an alien world, witless, questioning my very existence? You think this is luck?”

The colonel would not be dissuaded, “Yes. I think this is luck.”

“I think we are in hell.”

“Suit yourself,” Aaron burned with anger and stood up.

“There is no point to any of this, you imbecile,” Sade hissed, “Look at you, making the same stupid mistakes. Gerbils on a wheel, running around and around. Do you really think you’re going to save yourself any heartache? Placing yourself near Mr Hamilton? Or your daughter, for that matter?”

Aaron’s heart beat faster, “Do not talk about my daughter.”

“You know what I know: that men like us do not get second chances. We are born from the opinions of others. It does not matter what we say or do, because to them, we are not human. We are symbols.”

“Stop it.”

“Do you think that by shutting me up you will change the truth of the matter?” The Marquis was almost shouting now; briefly Aaron remembered his sleeping wife.

The colonel pointed a finger at his host, “You are a cynic and a hypocrite. You talk about choice and absolute freedom and yet you complain about fate. I have no reason to consider you anything other than a madman.”

Sade laughed, unpleasantly, “The only difference between you and I is that I have embraced my image and you are repulsed by yours. Prepare yourself, Colonel Burr, for the inevitable tragedy, because given the choice, mankind would rather destroy himself than create anything beautiful.”

Chapter Text

 

“Stop asking me where Burr is. I don’t know and I don’t care.” Hamilton frowned as he looked at his computer screen, trying to answer an email. Bobby, like always, hovered.

“You don’t have to lie anymore, Alex, I already know everything, remember?

"I’m not lying.”

“Alex, I’ve known you for a long time–”

“–And you don’t know everything. Not quite.”

Bobby sat down on Aaron’s empty office chair and wheeled himself over to his friend’s desk. He put his elbows on the shiny top, and looked at the general, “You can tell me, Alex, you know I won’t judge.”

Alexander avoided looking at his old friend’s eager, earnest face.

“Look, I won’t judge, I promise. If you’ve fallen in love or whatever–”

“–Bobby for God’s sake,” the general finally locked eyes with his friend.

“He’s out whoring again, I knew it,” Bobby leaned back, deflated. “And here I thought the therapy was working.”

“That was my guess. But like I said, I don’t know, and I don’t care.”

“Should we have an intervention?”

Alexander looked over at his friend again, a smirk hiding in the shadows of his mouth, “What?”

“You know, like they do on television. We all gather around him, tell him he’s hurting us and himself–”

“–I know what an intervention is, Bobby. I just think with Burr it would be like talking to a brick wall. And at this point, I don’t want to waste my energy.” The smirk faded quickly as the general remembered his soon to be ex-wife. “I have more pressing matters to attend to.”

Hamilton felt his friend deflate. The fat man crossed his arms and looked at the floor, “It’s going to be very hard to work with you two now that you’re fighting again.”

“Bobby, please.”

“Will you be staying with us? Here at the practice? Or will you try and find another one?”

“I don’t know.” Hamilton squinted at his screen and typed faster.

“Morris talked about switching offices. He and Burr would share one, while you and I would share another. Don’t know why it wasn’t like that in the first place, to be perfectly honest. I knew this would happen again. I just knew it,” Bobby shook his head, “I understand why you two wanted to get along better, I just never thought…well, I suppose that’s over now. We’ll find a happy medium.”

The general didn’t answer. A happy medium, he thought, does not exist between us.

He felt his heart sink at the implications.

Bobby’s hopeful voice shook Alexander from his dark reveries, “I don’t know if you see it, but I think he’s changed for the better–”

“–He’s still a liar,” Hamilton spat.

The other man sighed, almost defeated.

“Look, Alex, I don’t know what happened, and you won’t tell me, but just the other day you two were at least civil to one another. Now he’s gone and you’re here fuming and Morris and I are stuck in the middle, again, trying to put together the pieces before someone gets hurt.”

At this, the general gave his friend a look. Bobby shook his head and pressed on.

“I know you don’t want to hear it but I’m saying it anyway. No one else is going to say it, but you two need to get over yourselves and come to some kind of agreement again so that we can stop worrying. I’m tired of it, Alex. I’m tired of walking into the office like it’s a war-zone. Morris, too. If you can’t get along, then at least tell me why, in stead of bottling it all inside. It’s not like you to do that, and it’s not healthy–”

“–Betsey is seeing someone. And Burr knew. And didn’t tell me.” The general kept his piercing, angry gaze on his talkative friend, who quieted mid-sentence.

“I…oh. I had no…I mean, I’m–”

Alexander looked back at his screen and continued typing, “He’s a liar and that’s all there is to it.”

Bobby watched at his friend’s face turned bright red, his internal thoughts playing out on his concerned visage, “I’m sorry, Alex.”

The geneal shrugged. A moment of silence fell between them, and Bobby bravely pushed for a further explanation.

“Is that…I mean…is that why he’s not here?”

The general faltered in his typing, and swore. He knew it was an overreaction but his emotions got the best of him and he slammed his fingers against the keyboard until the white page in front of him was a mass of inarticulate typos. Bobby jumped at the sudden outburst of rage. The general then slammed his computer shut.

“Betsey is sleeping with Laurens,” Hamilton shot, to the bewilderment of his friend,“She is sleeping with Laurens and they made a video and he sent it to my phone. Burr got to it first, saw the video, and then proceeded to keep it from me for an entire day, all the while acting like nothing was wrong.”

Bobby spoke up softly, “Alex…Alex I’m really, really sorry…I don’t know what to say–”

“–And do you know what else?”

“You don’t have to go on, Hamilton,” the fat man was sympathetic, placed a hand on his friend’s.

“We slept together again, the very night he found out.”

Bobby recoiled, embarrassed.

Hamilton shook with rage at the memory, “That lying piece of–he’s used me, from the very beginning–”

“–Alexander, stop.” His friend spoke louder. “You’re not accomplishing anything here, being angry.”

Hamilton looked up, “What am I supposed to do, Bobby? I can’t go back to that apartment. I can’t go to Betsey anymore. Even if I thought, in some wild dream, to find Laurens and explain myself, I could never look him in the eyes–where would I begin–how would I ever–”

“–Come stay with me and Jenny. At least until Saturday.”

Alexander covered his face, “All I wanted was for things to turn out differently. But I assumed 'differently’ would mean 'better’. Not this.”

Bobby wrapped an arm around his friend, “I promise you things will work themselves out. You’ll see.” The fat man felt Alexander heave another sigh, and released him from the hug. The general desperately wanted to believe his oldest friend, if only for some momentary comfort, but knew that a temporary solution only prolonged the inevitable. In his emotional state, Alexander tried to figure out what the inevitable was. Several miles away, as the black-eyed colonel made his way to the office, he pondered something similar.

----------

“Is General Hamilton in there?” Aaron asked, inclining his head towards the office down the hall. Morris grunted in the affirmative.

“Where else would he be?” The one-legged man reiterated, somewhat impatiently. He glanced over at the much smaller man next to him, suspiciously, “Why? What’s going on now?”

The tall, normally good-humored Morris hadn’t planned on running into Aaron as he made his way from his own office to Alexander’s, to see what the commotion was–and in fact had tried to avoid all conversation relating to Burr and his illegal side-job–but was unlucky this morning.

Aaron looked down at the floor, then fished through his pocket for a cigarette, “Come outside with me while I smoke this.”

“Are you kidding? It’s forty degrees.”

“It will take five minutes.”

“If it has anything to do with you know what I’m not interested. I’ve said my piece. The rest is up to you and God. And Hamilton.” Morris crossed his arms, frowned.

“I’ll give you a cigarette,” the colonel tried, with a weak smile.

“Bribery?”

“Don’t tell me it never worked before.”

Morris sighed, irritated, and relaxed his stance, “Let me get my coat.”

Aaron nodded and the taller man continued.

“But this doesn’t mean I’m taking sides. And it doesn’t mean I want anything to do with this mess, nor does it mean I want to get in the middle of things,” he talked louder, back at Aaron, as he made his way down the hall to his own office, “That bleeding heart Troup might want to help out, but not me. Not this time.”

Morris reemerged with a large, dark brown pea-coat. Drawing it around himself he motioned towards the elevator, “Let’s get this over with.”

Aaron followed him closely, grinning, “No stairs this time?”

“Not unless you want to carry me.”

The two men made their way into the courtyard of the large sky-scraper. Morris brought his hands to his mouth and breathed on them, “Should have brought my damn gloves.”

“It will only take a minute,” the black-eyed man responded, offering him a cigarette. The one-legged man took it and finally let out a gruff laugh.

“Black and Milds?” he took it and accepted the Bic lighter from the other man, “I don't understand you, but cheers.”

He drew in a breath while Aaron watched him, smoking as well.

“I like the smell.”

“I’m sure.”

A few seconds of silence passed between them while the smoke mingled with the whiteness of their breaths. The little colonel was the first to speak up, “Hamilton’s found his own place, finally. He moves out on Saturday. I think he’s getting Bobby to help him.”

“Is that what all the yelling’s about.”

Aaron swallowed, “Not quite.”

The taller man inhaled deeply, preparing himself, “What did you two idiots do now?”

“It’s not about either of us. Betsey’s moved on. She’s seeing a new man.”

Morris choked on his last breath and coughed loudly, face turning bright red. He put a hand against the nearest wall to steady himself, “I’m sorry, what did you say?”

Black-eyes scanned him, “I said Betsey is seeing another man.”

For a moment, the one-legged man stared at his small associate in disbelief, a shadow of protective jealousy flashing in his eyes. Aaron tried to recall seeing it before, back then, and swallowed as he prepared to finish his thought.

“She…sent General Hamilton a video–”

“–A video?” The cigarette hung loosely out of the side of Morris’ mouth as his eyes widened. “What the hell kind of video?”

The colonel locked eyes with his associate; raised an eyebrow. Morris finished his own thought.

“Jesus H. Christ.”

Aaron took another drag on his cigarette, looked down, and blew a stream of smoke towards the earth, “Yes. That kind of video.”

Morris struggled to find his words, “Was it…I mean…” he looked around, “…Was it someone we know? Why would she think…we are talking about Elizabeth Schuyler, correct?”

“One and the same. And I don’t know the man she was with.”

“She sent this video to Hamilton? Thinking to accomplish what?” The taller man’s voice grew louder as his own emotions got the best of him.

“Well, she didn’t send it. The man did. From his phone.”

Morris stared at his smaller coworker, mouth slightly open in disbelief. He waited for Aaron to explain further, and when no explanation came, he lost his patience.

“Do you want to expand on that, Burr? Or are you going to just let me draw my own conclusions? How in the hell did you find all this out?” He pulled the cigarette from his mouth, blew smoke, “I find it difficult to believe Hamilton came to you with this information, given its sensitivity, no offense.”

“He left his phone in a cab we were in and I grabbed it for him,” the colonel began, lying slightly, “I felt the vibration when the message was received and I checked it.”

Morris put a hand to his temple, and closed his eyes, “You checked…you checked it. 'Checked it’, he says…Burr checked the video of Hamilton’s wife being screwed by another man.”

“Well when you say it like that,” the colonel lazily took another drag, and in another moment Morris hit him on the shoulder.

“You ass,” he started, watching the smaller man jump, “You absolute horse’s ass.”

“What was I supposed to do, Morris?” Burr shot back, louder, “I opened the message and it started playing immediately. It wasn’t hard to tell what was happening. It wasn’t exactly a long video.”

“Did you watch the entire thing?” Morris asked frantically.

“No!”

The tall man exhaled, threw his cigarette onto the ground and stomped on it, “Jesus Christ…at least you had some sense. Although to Hamilton it won’t make a difference whether you watched one minute’s worth or ninety.”

“Believe me, I know.”

Another moment of silence passed between them while Aaron finished his own cigarette. Morris spoke up, “And I assume that’s the reason he’s moving out so quickly.”

“He’s been wanting to for a while,” the colonel replied indignantly.

Morris’ thoughts quickly returned to Betsey, “Who was the man? I’ll find him and kill him for making that video. I’ll do it.”

“The area-code was from South Carolina. Hamilton seemed to know him.”

“Who the hell does he know in South Carolina?”

“I don’t know. John something. It didn’t ring any bells,” Aaron looked at his own hands and flexed his fingers, skin tightened and dry in the frigid air.

“I’m not getting anything either,” Morris said, “Does Betsey know it was sent?”

“Well she’d have to know. Hamilton didn’t have the South Carolina number saved in his phone, so the Mystery Man must’ve gotten his phone number from someone who had it.”

Morris sighed again, and rubbed his face, trying to gather his thoughts, "No wonder he wants to get out.“

Aaron couldn’t figure out a way to respond, and knew Morris wouldn’t want to hear the rest of the story anyway, what he and the grinning, flushed face general did that same night, which seemed to make the whole thing uglier somehow. His insides twinged with a modicum of shame and Burr waited for the taller man to speak again.

"I’d suggest going back inside, but now that I know what we’re dealing with, I’d rather stand out here and freeze to death.” Morris glanced sideways and his companion. “Unless you think it’ll be alright.”

“I can handle myself.”

Morris shook his head silently and walked towards the door, opening it for the shorter man who wasn’t far behind him. The pair made their way towards the elevator, silently, unable to look at each other. The taller man’s thoughts swarmed, chaotic and undefinable, but centering always around the dark-haired Schuyler woman.

Bobby Troup greeted them, wide-eyed, as he noticed Aaron behind the large one-legged man.

“Oh, Aaron–I–You’re here. I didn’t–”

“–It’s alright, Troup. He’s staying with me,” Morris held up a hand, then gestured towards his own office, “And I know everything.”

Bobby Troup bit his bottom lip, “Everything?”

Morris grunted again, and hobbled towards his office door, leg slightly pained from the cold. Aaron watched his two other coworkers, and felt Bobby’s gaze land on him. He looked up just in time to see the worried man walk over to him.

“I told Alex I’d help him move on Saturday. I’ll be over at around nine am. You don’t even have to be there if you don’t want to.”

“He has six duffle-bags and a box of books. He doesn’t need help.”

“Aaron,” Bobby looked over his shoulder to make sure Morris was secure in his office, “I know you didn’t tell Gouvernuer everything.”

“So what.”

“So it means you’re ashamed.”

“Dammit, Troup,” Aaron looked around the hallway, searching for his words, finally settling his gaze on the man across from him, “It doesn’t mean I’m ashamed. It’s not his business. He wouldn’t want to know anyway. And it’s completely immaterial to the issue.”

“That’s not what Alexander thinks.”

“I don’t care what Alexander thinks,” Burr replied loudly, looking through the glass wall of the general’s office. Angry, deep-set eyes landed on him, then diverted quickly back to a computer screen.

Troup covered his eyes, “Aaron, let’s just make it through this week without any incidents, okay?”

“I don’t know what he told you, but it was his idea to sleep with me,” the black-eyed man shot back, clinically. Troup turned red and rolled his eyes while Burr continued, “He can lock himself away in the office all week, I don’t care. What Betsey did is not my problem.”

“Can you at least see how…your actions might have–”

“–I’m not having this discussion with you right now, Troup,” Aaron interjected, making his way towards his new office with Morris, “General Hamilton may choose to play the victim with you, but not with me.”

Troup’s eyes widened and he prepared to comment but the colonel shut him off, “And yes, Bobby, I chose my words very precisely.”

Chapter Text

Saturday came and with it Troup’s red face, bundled up against the autumn winds, as Alexander opened the door to let his friend in, “Thank you for coming, Bobby,” he muttered, kicking a small box out of the way.

“You probably have more stuff than you think,” Troup tried, giving his friend small grin, “Where’s–”

“–Sleeping, still. He was out again last night. Not my problem,” the general walked from the front door to the kitchen and poured them both a glass of water. Bobby accepted it, and let the silence descend between them as he heard the two girls rustling around in Theo’s room.

“How is…how is Angelica taking it all?”

Hamilton shrugged, “I tried explaining things to her, and she’s a smart girl, she knows what’s happening. She knows why I have to leave. I wish she didn’t, but he told her everything last weekend at dinner.”

“Oh..”

Alexander looked at his friend imploringly, then back at his surroundings. “I don’t know, Bobby. It’s like…he’s trying to be a different person, and he recognizes that he’s done something wrong, but the…the details are all a mess.”

Troup waited for his friend to finish the thought.

“His definition of a better person and what he did wrong and my definition of the same are two very different definitions,” Hamilton realized in a moment of bright self-awareness. He put his glass of water down and thought about his conclusion further, “Yes. That’s actually it.”

Bobby walked closer, “A lot has happened to you in a very short period of time, my friend.”

“I keep thinking about Betsey, and–”

“–Don’t,” Troup cut in, more sternly, “Don’t dwell on it, Alex, you’ll make yourself sick.”

“I can’t get it out of my head,” the general widened his eyes and stared at his friend, “For the past week it’s all I’ve thought about. Him and her…he's back, and she’s…with him. My him–” Alexander’s thoughts shuffled around in his head in a disorganized jumble, “How…how could they–”

“–Alexander, please.” Troup put a hand on the other man’s shoulder. “Nothing good will come of these sorts of dark thoughts, I promise you.”

The general walked away from his friend and over to the pile of belongings on the floor. He picked up odds and ends, a book here and there, and flipped through it idly, a look of concern on his face.

“I can’t stop them, Bobby.”

“Does…does Aaron know about…well,” Troup tried to phrase his next question delicately, and he lowed his voice considerably, “…about who John is?

Hamilton stopped his movements for a moment, and rubbed his face, briefly overcome with emotion. There were a myriad of explanations, but he settled with a single,"No.”

The other man waited for a minute, afraid to press the matter. Alexander quickly changed the subject. “You mustn’t share this information with a single soul, Bobby,” he began, locking eyes with Troup, who nodded vehemently.

“I wouldn’t, you know I wouldn’t.”

Alexander smiled sadly for a brief moment, “You’re the only one I can trust right now.”

Bobby turned pink, and faltered, “You know that’s not true. You’ve got plenty of friends–”

“–Friends aren’t the same as confidants,” the general corrected him. He walked closer. “I have a theory.”

The concerned man looked down at the floor and waited for a moment, and then, “…About confidants?”

“About what’s happenings. All of this”

“Well?”

Hamilton bit his lip, and in the brief shred of silence between the two men, while he gathered his thoughts, he could hear Angelica talking animatedly in Theo’s bedroom about this and that. He situated his thoughts before speaking, and felt his face flush.

“As you know, it all started with…well with Colonel Burr and—our private indiscretion.” Hamilton struggled with a more polite name for what he’d done, lay in bed late at night, letting the guilt and lust sear inside him like a chemical spill, struggling with a more polite name for what he’d done.

“Just like before.”

Troup waited, and sat on the arm of the couch, “I’m afraid I don’t follow.”

“You don’t see it?” Alexander implored. “It’s the same as before. The exact same. We meet in secret, and then everything is ruined.”

“Oh…Alex…I don’t think–”

“–No that has to be it.” The general refused to be dissuaded by his friend, who rung his hands together nervously. Alexander continued, “It’s the only thing that makes sense. He can’t kill me, there’s no modern equivalent to a duel, so he finds another way to screw me–”

“–Alexander, I can’t in good conscience listen to this,” Bobby finally spoke up, “Aaron’s my friend, too, and I really don’t think–”

Deep-set eyes locked on him, “–It all makes sense. Why I’m losing everything. It’s like I’m dead again. But not. I still lose, but I get to keep my life, but at what cost, Bobby, that’s the issue here.” The general’s friend watched as the other man started to look through boxes, a wild flash in his eyes. With each passing word, Troup noticed his high-tempered friend becoming more and more unraveled.

“–And he planned it like this, you know he did,” Hamilton laughed mirthlessly, caught his nervous friend’s stare for a brief second, then went back to sorting through boxes, “You know he had this all schemed out with that Jumel woman. He says he didn’t but I don’t believe him. Or her, for that matter. Just like with his stupid well company, just like he was at all his parties, insinuating, hiding behind a lie and a facade of–”

“–You’re not making–”

“–And now he think’s he’s got me again.” Alexander picked up book, and then tossed it back into the box. “Well he doesn’t. I’m one step ahead of him, like I always was, ready to put him in his place.”

Troup sighed and tried to piece together a rebuttal, but was beat by the general who walked over to him again, finger raised in thought.

“I bet he’s had this all planned out. He wants me gone, he’s never been able to stand me, it’s this weird control thing he has–because as long as I’m around, right, he has to face what he’s done wrong. I represent that. I’m his conscience, Bobby.” Hamilton’s pink-faced friend looked at him sadly.

“That’s quite a conclusion to draw, Alex.”

“Do you have a better one?”

“I try not to ascribe motives to everyone, and I think it’s healthier that way.”

Alexander pushed past him, still deep in thought, “You don’t know him like I do. When I say he’ll do anything to get ahead of me, I mean anything. Yes, even that. He’s not listening to a ’therapist’. Please. If anything, he’s lying about that, too.”

Down the hall, Burr leaned his ear against his bedroom door, straining to hear what was being said about him. His emotions fluctuated between resentment and despair and he reached for the doorknob, preparing his defense. His hand rested on the metal for a moment while he decided whether or not to be angry. He heard the general’s words clearly–I’m his conscience–-and Troup’s muffled response. He let the definition sit inside his head for a moment, toyed with it, and tried to figure out what it meant.

A brief wave of anger coursed over him. The arrogance of it struck him as funny in a dark sort of way and he remembered flashes of his life post-duel–-being denied life’s pleasures because of an invisible force always present–-and he pushed the door open.

“I must have not heard you correctly, General Hamilton,” Aaron strode into the living room, interrupting the conversation between Troup and the general himself, whose mouth hung open mid-sentence.

“What are you talking about?” Hamilton asked, suddenly turning red. Troup eyed each man cautiously.

“I thought I heard you announce to Troup, here, that you are my conscience. Implying that I am some sort of monster who needs moral guidance. Implying that you are somehow morally superior to me,” his countenance grew darker in  anger, “I couldn't possibly have heard you correctly.”

Alexander straightened up, “I can’t affirm or deny what you think you heard.”

“Don’t play games with me, Hamilton,” Burr replied, stepping forward.

The general lifted a hand and motioned around him, “What part of this situation do you think is ok, I wonder? What part of this situation says you’re a man with everything under control, who has his life together?”

“What Betsey did is not my fault.” Burr felt his hands began to shake.

“No, but keeping it from me is. You lied about everything you said to me.” A small voice told Hamilton to quiet himself, and he shut it down with his next stream-of- thought. “That you care about me in any way. Lies. All of it.”

The black-eyed man came closer, “What did you just say?”

“Perhaps now I should remind both of you that your daughters are right there, in the other room,” Bobby piped in, nervously. Neither man seemed to hear him.

“I said you are full of shit.” Hamilton spat the curse like a hex. “All that talk about you feeling responsible for me, acting as if you cared about my well-being--all of it lies you said to get me to shut up and to make yourself feel better about everything you did.”

Burr felt himself lose control, “Who do you think you are? When did you decide that you are somehow morally superior to me? What gives you the right–”

“–Oh, I don’t know,” the general cut in, sarcastically, “Maybe when you lied to me, cheated me, taunted me, forced me to stand in front of a loaded gun and put a bullet in me.”

Bobby stepped back, and opened his mouth to speak, but was cut off.

“Don’t you dare bring that up,” somewhere, in the back of Aaron’s mind, an alarm went off, “All I wanted was an apology–all I ever wanted was an apology and you were too proud and insecure to give it.”

“Ok, I think perhaps Alexander and I should maybe think about starting to pack up, what do you say?” Troup provided a weak laugh.

You’re too proud!” Hamilton shouted, eyes blazing. “I don’t regret a single thing that I did. I would do it all again in a heart beat, everything, the same. The letter–everything. You got what you deserve. Because I was the one who finally made everyone see you for exactly what you were: a manipulative, evil, power-hungry, self-obsessed narcissist more concerned with his own reputation than with the good of his fellow citizens--”

Burr felt himself lunge forward, words failing him, as his thoughts tumbled out of his mouth incoherently, “You planned it all, you self-righteous son of a whore–”

The fat man reached out and grabbed Aaron before he got his hands on the general, who backed away into a side table, knocking over a lamp. He tried to pull away from Troup, and screamed.

“Do you have any idea what I went through? I lost everything, my career, my loved ones,” Burr felt his friend’s fingers gripping his arm tightly, and it stung, “I told you all of this the very first time I saw you and realized you’d returned, too–I told you everything–”

“–And none of it made a goddamned bit of difference,” Hamilton replied, holding himself up against the book case, voice raised to match the colonel's.

“We’re still here, at each other’s throats, and you’re not sorry.”

“I don’t know what you want me to say, Hamilton!”

Alexander, embarrassed, felt his thoat begin to tighten. “You were never sorry. For anything. Every time I felt betrayed. You played it off like it wasn’t a big deal, like everything was fine, when I was completely crushed–you don’t know how horrible I felt, even when I explained myself to you and you still didn’t care–and you were hell-bent on getting me in front of that gun.”

“No!” Aaron shook his head head; Troup loosened his grip. “I told you, I never wanted it to come to what it did. I gave you opportunity after opportunity to apologize–three weeks’ time to apologize–I delayed and delayed and delayed and you know I did, Hamilton, you know what I put up with, for the sake of harmony between us.”

“Why did it end the way it did? Why did it get to that point?” Hamilton straightened himself. Internally, he hated himself for the wetness now filling his eyes, and wondered how many more times he could pour himself out for the world to see without leaving himself completely empty, and exposed.

Troup stepped back, finally letting Aaron’s arm free. From his new vantage point, he noticed, with some worry, the girls’ bedroom door cracked open a few inches. Silently he crept towards it, hoping not to be noticed. In another second he realized that the building itself could burn down around his two friends and they’d probably not see it.

Burr shook his head,“I don’t know.”

Hamilton looked at the small, dark-eyed man, and rubbed a dull headache at his temple,.“I thought this matter was settled between us but now I see that there is still so much more to discuss–and I just can’t do it anymore. It’s too painful….it’s too painful to think that one of us might be wrong.”

“You were both wrong,” Bobby finally found his voice. His companions looked at him. “You were both wrong, and everyone knew it. And those who pretend otherwise were lying. Or delusional. I knew it, Morris knew it…” his voice quivered, “…Even Jefferson knew it. He didn’t care about either of you, but he knew it.”

The room fell into a solemn quietness. Troup raised a hand to his heart, feeling it’s rapid, terrified beat, and continued, “You two created this fantasy. This…this…” the fat man gesticulated in front of his chest with his hands, “…arena. This gladiator’s arena. In your own minds. And then–”

He looked at each of his friends in turn, helplessly, “There’s more to this than anyone else understands, because you two created it on your own. And then it was over, and everything was completely shattered, and the rest of us are just standing around… dumbfounded.”

Hamilton shook his head, and stepped closer to Troup, who finished his thought, “Not a single person expected it.”

Unheard to the three men, the bedroom door clicked shut.

“Even in his death he tried to control me, Bobby,” Burr raised a hand towards the general, who shook his head wordlessly.

“I never wanted to be a part of this arena, Burr,” Hamilton replied, regaining control, borrowing Troup’s phrase.

“You were a apart of this ‘arena’ from the moment you decided I was a threat,” Burr hissed, “from the moment that little voice inside of you told you I was someone to look out for, you decided. And you spent the rest of your life trying to build me into a monster for you to slay, so you'd look good. So you’d be a hero–and have your words immortalized in books and have your face carved into marble and printed on little green slips of paper. You’re as ambitious and selfish as I am, and don’t you dare try and pin this all on me.”

“We are not getting anywhere pointing fingers!” The fat man reached his limit, and shouted. “How many more outbursts like this is it going to take for you two to realize that nothing is getting accomplished!”

“I told him he needed therapy,” Aaron spat.

“You both need therapy,” Bobby shot his dark-featured friend a murderous look, “Because I'm sick of it. Blaming each other for things completely out of your control, he said this, he said that, you lied to me, you cheated me’–it’s all a load of baloney. And I’m sick to death of it.”

The two men stood in stubborn silence for a moment, and processed their friend’s words. After several seconds, Troup spoke up again.

“It’s not my job to sit here and act as a go-between. I can’t do it anymore. You two don’t know what it did to me back then and I’m not going to let it happen again. I had an ulcer, you know! Hives, too. My asthma’s back with a vengeance–physical symptoms of stress and I know exactly where it came from–don’t you roll your eyes at me, Hamilton–”

“–I’ll do it for you, Bobby, and for my own well-being. But not because Burr told me to.” Alexander reached out and put his arm around Troup protectively and it was Aaron’s turn to roll his eyes.

“Oh, how noble of you,” he walked over to where Bobby stood, “But Troup is my friend, too, you little–”

Alexander gripped him tighter, defiantly, “He was my friend first, and I’m doing this for him.”

“Until he met me and realized he could do better,” Aaron interjected childishly.

“Enough!” Troup broke free from the general, red-faced and short of breath. “I can’t believe what I’m hearing right now! You are grown men and you are fighting over a friendship!”

A set of handsome, if somewhat haggard, faces looked back at Bobby, “I see now that there is more to all of this than I know. Alexander, I can’t be here right now–”

“–Troup–”

“–No, Burr,” the fat man reached in his pocket, fingering his inhaler, and struggled, “I’m serious. It’s a goddamned health risk.”

“See what you’ve done!” Alexander spoke up without thinking. “He’s going to have another asthma attack!”

“That’s it. That’s the limit.” The fat man reached for his coat, which lay sprawled on a chair, and he put it on quickly. “I’m going to leave now, Alex. I’m going to leave now and you’re going to call me when you’ve regained your sense. Both of you.”

He looked at each man in turn, and then, quickly, down the hallway–where an teenage girl's head slowly peeked out from inside the bedroom. Angelica widened her brilliant eyes, mouthed the words, “take us with you.”

Chapter Text

 

“Who do you keep looking at?” Alexander jumped from thought to thought, walking closer to where Bobby stood. Aaron kept his silence as he seethed, unaware his daughter had heard every word.

“Me, he’s looking at me,” Angelica stepped out of the bedroom and strode boldly into the living room, jaw set. “Do you think you could be any louder? I don’t think the entire state heard you two screaming.” She felt a hand on her shoulder, and looked over to see the concerned face of Troup hovering near her,

“Do you see what I mean? I told you your daughters would hear you.”

In another minute, Theo emerged, staring at the carpet.

“Theo,” Aaron started, wanting to explain himself, “I am sorry you had to hear all that. It was ungentlemanly.”

“And I thought living with mom was going to drive me crazy,” Angelica interjected. “But this is a whole new level of insane.”

The general wiped his face, breathed in deeply, “I’m sorry, Angelica. You shouldn’t have been privy to that conversation. I am embarrassed.”

“I hope you two learned your lesson,” Troup continued, scolding,“Carrying on like that, saying those evil, evil things, in front of your children, no less. I thought you two knew better.”

“Bobby, come now–”

“–No, Burr. Don’t try and silence me.” Troup found momentum; Theo looked from the red-faced man to her father, interested. “You two are like ammonia and bleach. When mixed together, everyone in the nearby vicinity with a breath in their body inhales it and is poisoned.”

He looked from one man to the other, and then, “Alexander, if you’re ready to go, and you want to leave on this note, then fine. We’ll start packing up. Otherwise, I can take the girls to lunch or something and let you figure out how to mend this ridiculous behavior–you too, Burr–before we leave.”

“I vote lunch,” Angelica interrupted, speaking for both girls. Theo chewed on a hangnail silently.

Aaron closed his eyes, sighed loudly, and threw himself down on the nearest couch, “Prolong my suffering by letting this parasite stay here. Good idea, Bobby.”

Alexander shot him a scathing, offended look, and before he could respond, Troup cut in angrily, “Burr, I’m serious. Knock it off. Work something out for the sake of your daughters and Morris and I or there will be nothing but misery and aggression and the same stupid mistakes for the rest of your days.”

—-

“I didn’t know you had it in you, Bobby,” Angelica remarked proudly, taking four sugar packets from the basket on the table and attempting to stack them. The mid afternoon sunlight streamed in through the blinds next to the table, casting a series of sharply contrasted swatches of light.

“Talking like that to my dad, I mean. Man, I thought I was hearing things. I looked over at Theo to make sure I wasn’t just hallucinating or something. Is the asthma thing real?”

Troup pulled his inhaler out of his pocket, “I never leave home with out this.”

Meanwhile, Theo stared off into space. Across the aisle, a family of five sat grinning and chatting in a booth. The mother spoon-fed the youngest child, who laughed and spit up something green.

“I want to apologize, again, for the things you had to hear, girls,” Bobby said. The waiter appeared with his soda and he accepted it, smiling.

“No big deal,” the Hamilton daughter shrugged, “I wish my dad wasn’t such a raging pain in the ass sometimes.”

Bobby laid a palm on the table, “It’s not all your father’s fault, Angelica. He’s…well, he’s had a rough time these past few months.”

“He’s always ‘having a rough time.’” Angelica sipped her iced-tea, “It’s always about walking on egg shells around him. Back then, it used to be because he was writing something important, some letter, or he had a headache, or a big case the next day. I felt like a guest in my own house sometimes, now that I think about it.”

Troup sighed, and the girl talked on, “I can’t wait to get out on my own, honestly, away from it all. Me and Theo are going to be roommates, right Theo?”

The dark haired girl didn’t respond to the sound of her name, and Angelica frowned, “I said, right Theo? Hello?”

Theo was only vaguely aware of her friend’s chatter, keeping a closer eye on the family in the booth, the way the dust mites circled in the streams of sunlight, the pattern on the carpet, and the way her father screamed vitriol like she’d never heard before.

“Theo–Theo!” Angelica hit the table in front of the dark-haired girl, making her jump. “Are you in there?”

“Oh–I–yes, I’m sorry.”

Troup looked at her, a vague sadness in his eyes, “You’re awfully quiet, Theo. You alright?”

“I’m fine,” she smiled, lying, “I’m thinking about what to order. This menu is huge.”

“Split some nachos with me,” Angelica suggested, “Look at this thing. That’s probably like…ten pounds of nachos.”

“Nachos would be nice,” the Burr daughter responded absentmindedly.

The waiter came back a few moments later, jotted down the meal orders, and walked briskly away.

“I kind of want to get a job,” Angelica spoke up again, “I’m tired of asking my mom for money every time I want to buy something, or go somewhere. It’s embarrassing.”

Troup sipped his drink, swallowed, “Well, I think you need to be a bit older, but I commend your ambition, Angelica.”

“Do you remember your first job, Bobby?”

“Hm…now that I think about it, no, not really. It was such a long time ago,” he smiled, “I mean, a really long time ago. I went to Columbia with your father, then joined the army, then passed the Bar exam, then started practicing.”

Angelica stirred her straw around in her drink, clinking ice cubes together, “What was my dad like in college?”

“Well now we’re talking ancient history,” Troup joked, “I can’t even remember what I had for breakfast!”

The Hamilton daughter offered a pointed grin, identical to her father’s, “Oh come on, you have to remember some things. Like…was he a super dork? Or was he popular?”

“Dorky. Very dorky. To be fair, he roomed with me, so, there wasn’t a whole lot of opportunity to be 'cool’.”

“But like, what did you do? For fun, I mean.”

“Oh no, no time for fun,” Bobby laughed, “Your father was the strictest student I’d ever seen. Well, him and Mr .Burr, from what I hear.”

At the mention of her father’s name, Theo blinked out of her stare, “He was strict for the first two years and then gave up.”

Bobby nodded in her direction, swallowing his soda, “Right. Well, to be fair, he wasn’t the most robust thing in the world–”

“–He gave up his studies and started partying all the time,” Theo cut in, an uncharacteristically bitter inflection in her voice that made Troup’s smile fade slightly.

“He was a good student, regardless,” the fat man added, then looked back at Angelica, “But if I had to choose who was the dorkiest, well, Angelica, I’m sorry to say I’d have to go with Hamilton.”

“I knew it,” Angelica laughed.“He told me about the time he gave this big speech in the courtyard or something, riled up a whole bunch of people and ended up getting rocks thrown at him.”

Bobby smiled more broadly, “He told you that story? Oh, dear.”

“Were you there with him?”

“Unfortunately. I was just getting done with lunch and I heard a commotion outside. I looked out the window and saw your father standing on a table and I prepared for the absolute worst.”

“It was a speech on behalf of the Patriot cause on a campus full of Loyalists,” the Burr daughter’s bitterness was back. “I read about it.”

Troup looked at the dark-featured girl, interested, “Very true. But Mr. Hamilton’s always had strong opinions.”

Theo shrugged, “I guess I just don’t understand why you’d put yourself in harm’s way like that. I mean, for the sake of an idea.”

Angelica looked at her friend, frowning slightly, “Well, I mean, it was sort of a really important idea.”

“Says who?”

“Says, like…I don’t know. Everyone. He ended up being on the winning side, anyway, so there’s something to think about.”

The waiter came back with their food and placed it carefully on the table. Theo stared at the nachos disinterestedly, “Yeah, but it’s not like he knew it would be the right decision beforehand. He was just another college radical thinking he had everything figured out.”

“What, so he just made a lucky guess?” Angelica turned her whole body to face the other girl. Troup cleared his throat nervously.

“Maybe.”

“What’s the matter? All of the sudden you’re like…totally moody, Theo.” The Hamilton daughter scowled, “Don’t take it out on me.”

“I think what Theo means is that some people like to be a little more cautious about voicing their beliefs,” Bobby cut in before another argument ensued, “Am I right?”

“I mean that just because someone feels something is right doesn’t make it right for everyone. It just means it’s right for the individual feeling it. And to try and force an individual feeling of rightness on another human being is bigotry.”

“Ok, so my dad’s a bigot,” Angelica responded sarcastically, “Wow.”

“But Theo–” Bobby interrupted, faltering slightly, “–It wasn’t just Mr Hamilton who felt this way, a lot of people agreed with him. Perhaps not at Columbia, but elsewhere. Why, at your own father’s college there was quite a large group of Patriots–”

“–It still doesn’t excuse bigotry.”

“Stop calling my dad a bigot just because he stood for something,” Angelica blushed a deep red. “Like I said, he was on the winning side anyway.”

“So all the Loyalists should just go fuck themselves, I guess.”

“Theo!” Bobby Troup dropped his fork, and Angelica scoffed.

“What the hell is the matter with you? You were find back at the apartment, and now you’re picking stupid fights with me about stupid, pointless shit.” 

Theo sat quietly, internally furious that she’d let her temper get the best of her, and looked away from the other two occupants at the table. The father in the booth across the aisle made a joke and his two elder children laughed. The wife checked her cellphone and smiled.

“It’s not pointless to me.” The black-eyed girl shot back angrily, refusing to make eye-contact as they filled with tears.

“Theo, I know it’s been hard for you, you have to understand,” Bobby tried, softly, “This is not an easy situation to be in.”

The Burr daughter stuck her hand in her pocket at felt for cab fare, suddenly wishing she were anywhere else. Next to her, a wild sort of pride filled Angelica’s chest, and she spoke out.

“My dad followed his beliefs and he helped create something great.”

Theo stood up, beginning to seethe, “It doesn’t matter if the causes make the man, or the man makes the causes because the winners write the history regardless.”

“Where are you going, Theo?” Bobby asked, putting his fork down and wiping his mouth.

“Thank you for lunch, Mr. Troup. I’m not feeling well, and I think I’m going to take a cab home.”

Chapter Text

 

What Betsey thought would be an inevitable blow never came, and as she picked up her pace against the wind and sunlight, the petite, dark haired woman realized this made everything worse.

Why did you let him send that message? Why did you let him?

She shook her head to herself, I didn’t ‘let’ him do anything. He did it on his own.

You could have stopped him.

No, I couldn’t have. He had his mind set.

So did you, apparently.

Betsey stopped walking, and pulled out her cellphone, checking it. No messages, and it had been nearly three days.

There is nothing to do but wait, Elizabeth, Betsey told herself strictly, You know what’s happened, regardless of whose fault it is. Fault doesn’t change consequence.

She remembered John’s bright face urging her to take action.

Betsey sighed and continued walking, searching for the coffee house she was to meet someone at. In a few more seconds she was there, pushing the door open as a small bell rung and a barista greeted her.

She smiled politely and looked around.

“Can I get you anything today?” The barista caught her off guard, and the brunette started.

“Oh, I’m sorry–just a black coffee will be fine,” Betsey nodded and gripped her purse, hating herself for being nervous. In a flash, she saw a hand raise and wave in her direction, grabbing her attention.

A delicate, well-manicured hand placed a loos strand of hair behind her ear, and the Schuyler woman walked over to meet her friend.

“Morris, it’s…nice to see you,” Betsey faltered. The tall, one-legged man stood up from his seat and pulled her into a hug.

“You too, Eliza–Betsey–whatever you’re going by these days,” Morris grinned back, “Ever the enigma, you are.”

“Either will be fine, Morris.”

“Not by the look on your face.”

Betsey sighed, “Only Alexander called me Betsey. As a pet name.”

“Eliza it is, then,” the one-legged man sat back down, waiting for his female companion to do the same. After a moment of silence, he spoke up again.

“Thank you again, Eliza, for meeting me on such short notice,” he reached out and touched her hand.

“You know I always make time for old friends, Gouverneur,” Betsey responded. She stared at the man’s face, searching it for clues. “Though it does have me somewhat alarmed–the short notice, I mean. Is everything alright?”

The barista returned with her coffee order; Betsey sipped it cautiously and her male companion looked around him, slightly nervous.

“Well, I…I know about what’s happening…” Morris scratched at a bump on the table, “…between you and Hamilton…”

Betsey looked down into the warm blackness of her drink.

“…And I wanted to properly offer my condolences. And let you know that if there is anything I can do–and I mean anything,” the one-legged man reached out and grabbed her hand again, “Do not hesitate to ask me. You deserve the world, Bets–Eliza.”

The Schuyler woman felt her stomach flip at the touch of a different man, and quickly, prudently, quelled it.

“Gouverneur, you know I hold you in the greatest regard, and I am overwhelmed at your kindness.”

He let go of her hand, and she finished.

“Things have been hectic these past few weeks.”

“That’s what Hamilton says. But I wanted to hear your side too.” Morris leaned back in his seat

Betsey watched him for a moment, trying to discern a motive.

“I appreciate that, Gouverneur. I suspect he has a lot to say on the subject.”

“You know him well,” Morris responded, his face breaking into a smile. "He’s an absolute nightmare most days. Can’t get him to leave his office. And when he does, it’s to come complain at me for an hour or so.“

The dark-featured woman offered another small smile, and sipped her coffee quietly.

"He’s a master at the art of complaining,” she agreed.

Morris wondered how much longer he’d need to dance around the subject of the meeting. Betsey did the same.

Finally, she gathered her courage, “I take it you didn’t call me here to discuss your legal woes.”

A heavy sigh from the man across from her, and then, “No, Miss Schuyler, I did not.”

“'Miss Schuyler’, now, is it?”

Morris looked at her pointedly, “I will admit that I came on behalf of Hamilton.”

“Does he know about this?”

“No. At least that I know of.”

She sipped her coffee again, “And why did you decide to come on behalf of my ex-husband?”

The tall, aristocratic Morris was not used to being intimidated, and yet felt the weight of his knowledge about the video crushing him. He looked at the woman across from him and the delicacy of the knowledge made him slightly nauseous with nerves.

“There is no easy way to ask you this, me dear.”

“Gouverneur, what is it?”

“Did you make a…personal video…and send it to Hamilton?”

In a flash, Betsey’s hand jumped at the accusation, and she knocked her coffee over. Thinking quickly, Morris grabbed a handful of napkins and wiped it up before the scalding liquid hit her lap.

“What did you just say?” The petite woman turned a deep pink.

“Eliza, answer the question–”

“–I don’t owe you such an explanation!” Betsey whispered back, her voice strained. “And how dare you accuse me of such a thing! This is completely improper!”

Morris swept the wet napkins into a nearby trashcan, “I am not trying to embarrass you.”

“Too late, Mr. Morris.” Betsey’s heart pounded, and her anger flared.

The one-legged man tried another tactic, “As an attorney with experience in divorce cases, I have to tell you, Miss Schuyler, that if you did, in fact, make such a video, and send it to your husband, it could be used against you. You have to understand this. The courts are old fashioned.”

“What is that supposed to mean?”

“If a judge finds out that you’ve been making pornographic videos he could deem you an unfit mother,” Morris finally finished his thought, his voice ominous.

“Pornographic–I–this is–” the Schuyler woman stared at her male companion, outraged, “–You are overstepping your boundaries, sir.”

He laid a hand on the table definitively, “I am telling you my legal advice, Miss Schuyler. I am not making this up.”

“I never asked for your advice!” Her whispers became strained once again. “That video was meant for a private audience–”

“–The why did it end up on Mr. Hamilton’s phone?”

The woman began to seethe, “Because the man I was with wanted revenge. Not that any of this is your business.”

In her anger, a new thought presented itself to Betsey, and her skin burned with rage and embarrassment.

“Did Alexander show people that video?”

“Eliza, you must let me explain things–”

The petite woman had heard enough, stood up, and grabbed her mug to take it back to the counter, “I am done with explanations. I am going to find Mr Hamilton and give him a piece of my mind. I have never been so humiliated in all my life, do you understand me?”

“Eliza–”

“–Enough!” Several patrons turned and looked at Betsey, who realized quickly that she was beginning to make a scene, and prudently decided to lower her voice. “I know exactly what he did. He showed you this video to get back at me for making the video.”

Morris himself stood up, grunting as his leg pained him, and then, “Mr Hamilton did not show me the video. I’ve never seen it and I don’t want to see it.”

“Then how did you find out!”

The pair stood next to their table, and the tall man dug into his pockets for cash to leave, “Someone else got to his phone first, and according to this person, stumbled upon it accidentally. He then came to me with the delicate information and I made the decision to tell you.”

Betsey put her free hand against her stomach, feeling herself grow faint with nausea. She closed her eyes and prepared for the worst, “Morris, who saw that video first?”

“Colonel Burr.”

The room began to spin as Betsey repeated the name in her head, and the she felt the mug slip out of hands, vaguely hearing the crash as it hit the floor and shattered. She closed her eyes and Morris reacted quickly, catching her before she, too, hit the floor. Several patrons stood to see what had happened and Morris waved them away, calling for a glass of water.

Chapter Text

 

“I can probably fit all of this into my car,” Alexander muttered to himself, re-stacking several boxes, “I can drop it off at the apartment and then come back for Angelica.”

Aaron watched him, arms crossed as the general refused to make eye-contact.

“Tomorrow Phil and I can go to Ikea or something an pick out some furniture. He’s strong, he can help me carry it all. I’m sure he’ll want to be a part of this,” Hamilton tried to keep his thoughts occupied, his face growing redder and warmer as he felt the other man watch him, unblinking.

“General Hamilton, look at me.”

“Will you please stack those two bags over there? I want to carry them out together.” Alexander pointed to the corner.

“Please do not leave on these terms,” Aaron asked, acquiescing to the other man’s demands. He dropped the bag on top of it’s twin and stood upright again.

“I need to be alone. Away from everyone. Especially you.”

At this, both men looked up at the sound of the front door opening, and watched as Theo entered by herself.

“Where is Mr. Troup?” Burr inquired, “Where is Angelica?”

“I felt sick, so I came home by myself.”

Hamilton watched the young girl walk quickly into her bedroom, and shut the door. Her father was close behind.

“Theo? What’s the matter? You were fine this morning.” Aaron rested his hand against the door knob, and turned it once.

“Well I’m not fine now,” the general heard the teenage girl respond, her voice muffled.

“Is this door locked?”

“Yes.”

Aaron tried the handle again, “Unlock it, please, Theo.”

Alexander stopped folding a shirt he’d picked up several seconds earlier and listened to the conversation down the hall. Craning his neck to see the events unfold, he watched the interaction curiously.

“Theo, do not lock yourself in your room.”

“I would like to just be alone now, dad,” her voice replied, calmly. Burr stepped back from the door, concern etched with confusion.

“Is everything alright?”

“Yes.”

From down the hall, Hamilton stepped back, obscuring the view of himself as he strained to listen further. In another second the front door opened again and his own daughter stepped inside followed by Troup.

“Is Theo here?” Angelica asked, agitated. “She stormed out of the restaurant and–”

“–She didn’t storm, Angelica,” Troup corrected the girl, and then looked at her father, “There was a bit of an argument.”

“What sort of argument? Why is my daughter refusing to come out of her bedroom?” Aaron walked over to the others.

“Oh, you know how teenagers are…” Bobby waved his hand, produced a weak smile, “Just a little spat.”

Alexander looked from his friend to his daughter, “Angelica, are you ready to leave? Are all your things packed?”

“They’re in the bedroom…if I’m even allowed to go in.”

A soft click of the handle signaled it’s unlocking, and the Hamilton daughter walked inside. As soon as the two teenagers were out of ear shot, Aaron turned to the mutual friend.

“What was it really about?” He asked in low tones. Troup shrugged.

“We were talking about you two in your college years. The girls were curious. I suppose Theo must have taken something the wrong way.”

“It’s not like my daughter to lock herself in her bedroom and refuse to explain herself, Troup,” the colonel reiterated. Hamilton scoffed.

“So you think my daughter had something to do with it?”

“That is exactly what I’m saying.”

“Of course, how predictable,” the general hitched up a backpack he was holding, and looked at Troup pointedly, “You see how he is? Nothing is his fault. His family is blameless. I’m the one with the issues.”

“Alex…” Troup began warningly.

“No, Bobby, help me grab the rest of this stuff and get me out of here.”

-----------

Aaron held the paper in front of him at arms length, not comprehending any of the words. If he was being honest with himself, something he admitted he rarely did unless the situation was irredeemably bad, the entire week had been a bust.

There was a tiny part of him that cringed at the thought of Betsey and the video, the way he found out, the manner in which he’d told Alexander and the general’s heated reaction. He shook out a wrinkle in the paper and tried to concentrate again. And then there was Theo, who hadn’t left her room for three hours.

The black-eyed man checked his phone for a text letting him know Alexander had made it to his apartment safely. It had been nearly four hours since he’d left and Aaron assumed everything went smoothly. In his mind’s eye he saw Bobby wordlessly loading half the general’s possessions in his own truck, and, with a sympathetic nod to the Colonel, close the door softly. Aaron had forgotten how silent a living room could be.

He rubbed his eyes and put the newspaper down, and stared at the blank television screen in front of him. In another minute he was in the kitchen, his thoughts racing. It his Aaron with rude clarity that he needed someone to talk to, and hit options were woefully limited.

“Theo,” he voiced, hoping his daughter could hear him, “It is time to come out of your bedroom.”

There was no response and the dark-featured man made his way to the teenage girl’s door, knocking lightly.

“Theodosia.” He tried again, louder, and more sternly.

“I’m trying to study, dad,” he heard a voice respond from within. Aaron frowned. “You are allowed breaks, you know.”

“Midterms are coming up.”

The colonel closed his eyes, “I am giving you permission you take a break from studying and come talk with me.”

From inside the bedroom, Theo paused the soft music that floated out of a slightly beat-up radio, “I’m also not feeling well.”

Her father responded, voice muffled, “You will feel much worse if you don’t eat dinner.”

A few seconds of silence, and then Aaron continued, “I have a hard time believing you actually ate any lunch today, also.”

At this, the young girl rolled her eyes and shifted the papers on her desk into a neat stack. He was right–she left before she’d had any of the nachos Angelica promised would be good–and her heart sunk at the thought of her friend and the terms on which they left. She, too, checked her phone, and noticed, heavily, that she hadn’t gotten any messages either.

“Theodosia,” her father resumed use of her proper name, “This is not negotiable.”

“If I throw it all up, you’ll feel bad.”

“I have a key to this door,” the Colonel tried again, “And I will use it if you are not out in exactly sixty seconds.”

He waited, listening to the soft rustle of books and papers from within, and approximately one minute later, his daughter stood before him.

“That wasn’t so hard, was it?” He asked, crossing his arms. His daughter remained silent while he pressed on, “It is entirely unlike you to shut yourself away and refuse to talk to me. What happened, exactly, at lunch today to make you act like this?”

Theo shifted her weight, “It was a stupid argument. Nothing more.”

“I don’t buy it.”

The daughter felt herself heat up at the neck and pushed past her father into the kitchen, “Dad, I’m telling you. It was stupid. Angelica was being antagonistic, that’s all.”

“It must have been some antagonizing, to make my level-headed daughter react so childishly,” Aaron followed her, still stern.

The teenager opened a bottle of water and took a sip, staring at the counter for a minute before replying.

“Are you interested because you actually care about the fight, or because you think Angelica and I represent you and General Hamilton in our thoughts and actions?" She hadn’t meant to sound so vicious, but the younger Burr instantly regretted voicing her deepest fear in front of her father–who narrowed his eyes in anger. 

"What did you say?”

Theo blinked once, and remained quiet.

“What do you mean by that, Theodosia?” Aaron asked again. “You and Angelica do not represent myself and General Hamilton. And I do not know where you would get such a silly idea.”

Theo looked at her father indignantly, “It’s not a silly idea.”

“It most certainly is. Now please set the table and bring out the pasta from the fridge,” Aaron walked past her into the dining room, clearing his laptop and work-related paraphernalia while his daughter’s mind raced.

“You see us as a reflection of yourselves,” the dark-featured girl whispered to herself. “And it’s not fair.”

“Did you say something else?”

“No, dad.”

“I didn’t think so. Now come eat with me.”

Theo dutifully followed her father to the table, prudently biting her tongue.

Chapter Text

 

The general lay on his back, shifting uncomfortably atop the air mattress in his new bedroom, cellphone screen bright in his hand, illuminating his face in the thick darkness.

He’d forgotten light bulbs, and had spent the day trying desperately to set things up, at least passably so, while there was daylight. He touched a finger to the screen and scrolled. He hadn’t deleted the video.

The file was there, staring at him straight in the face. There was no reason to keep it, other than seeing the faces of the two people he once loved more than any one else, in a separate but equal category as his children. He’d tried to convince himself to hit play several times–eight, in fact, since he’d gotten his phone back–but each time ended in a sinking feeling in his chest.

It was John, unmistakably. There was no one else in South Carolina that he’d know–that Betsey would know–well enough to pull off something like this. No one who would know how painful it would be. Alexander tried to remember the exact moment his current life went to hell and it all came down to sex.

He rolled over on his side, shut his eyes tightly and reminisced about his old life as a young officer, in love with every new idea and pretty face, nineteen years old and indestructible. It was odd, the general pondered, how each time fate shot through his barricade, he’d had to build it up with new bricks and new mortar, thinking each subsequent build would be stronger than the last. In the end, Alexander realized, it was still man-made, and imperfect. But he tried to protect himself from the surprise attacks life was so fond of giving. 

His pillows suddenly felt softer; his eyes, heavier. The general couldn’t remember a time when he’d felt more mentally exhausted, more tired, and as the dreams drifted cautiously into his mind he shut down consciousness.

“I’m here, you know. We could start over again.”

“You left me.”

“You think I wanted to die?” Alexander could hear John’s voice as clear as mid-August sun. “Did you think I left you on purpose?”

“No..I don’t know. I don’t know how I feel about it because I never let myself dwell on it.”

“Then how do you know it wouldn’t work?”

“How do I know it will?”

Alexander’s eyes sprung open once again. John had chosen intimacy with someone else.

“But what if it’s not real intimacy? What if he’s only doing it, lashing out, because he’s hurt?”

“Then you and I could be together, Alex.”

“Then Betsey has been cruelly used.”

He grabbed a handful of hair, and turned over to lie on his back. The thoughts in his head were so loud and vivid he wondered how his daughter, sleeping peacefully down the hall, hadn’t heard him.

“You could never settle, Alex. You are as temperamental as a hurricane.”

“What is that supposed to mean?”

No one answered him. The general exhaled softly, placing his phone on the nearby nightstand. He’d gotten the letter that John had been killed and he set to work rebuilding the brick and mortar wall that protected his soul, determined that it wouldn’t fall again. He had children, a career, a purpose, a cause–new bricks baked in a blistering hot sun.

“Why Burr, Alex? Why him, of all people?” John’s voice was back, inquiring.

“Why what?”

“Why let him have you like that?”

“Have me?” Alexander thought about naturally occurring water, seeping through the cracks in his wall, eroding it. Chipping away at the foundation until it cracked and fell.

John’s voice didn’t answer him. He could have stopped the erosion if he wanted to. The truth was, Alexander admitted to himself, he was nothing without his words, and produced none finer than when he was hit with an Enemy.

“You have two options, General Hamilton,” Alexander spoke to himself aloud, this time, “You can go to John, see him again, explain everything–let him explain himself–and see where that path takes you. This will be especially difficult given his…”

The general adjusted his blankets.

“…Indiscretion with Betsey.”

He waited for a response from the voice, and none came.

“Or…”

A lamplight flickered in the distance and burnt out, and a car’s squealing tires echoed off the walls of an alleyway.

“Or you could…once again…try your luck with Burr.”

The red LED lights from his alarm clock read one forty-five am. He didn’t recall if, when he was young, he’d made the conscious decision to define humans as essentially selfish or if he just had too many experiences with bad people. Does human nature make the situation, or does the situation make human nature?

“It is too late for that sort of thinking,” Alexander muttered out loud. “I’m going to have to pick one of them, so start planning, Alexander.”

A new thought then appeared, “Do I have to pick one of them?”

The red numbers glared at him.

“Well they’re both picking me, it seems.” At this, the general laughed bitterly to himself. 

Chapter Text

 

The overwhelming redness of the aisle hit Aaron as he meandered through the last-minute shoppers, glimpsing here and there a sad-looking, slightly damaged tree-topper angel and a half-opened box of lights. He’d never understood the commercial hubub over Christmas, but he liked the idea behind it. The dark-featured man side-stepped a nervous looking youth trying to decide between two garish greeting cards, and he made his way deeper into the store.

It shocked the colonel how difficult grocery shopping could actually be. If it were left up to him, Aaron decided, he could live off of what Theo called “boring foods”–coffee, water, pre-packaged dinners and, just for color, random fruits here and there. He reached out for a can of soup, read the label, and dropped it in his basket before he was rudely ushered to the side by a pushy woman who reached in front of him. In the aisle next to him he could hear two customers commenting on the terrible weather.

Aaron tuned out the rest of the conversation out and managed to grab five more cans of soup–guessing blindly at which ones Theo would like–and moved on to the next shelf of food. 

It had almost become a subconscious habit, him wondering what the general was up to, and the sinking feeling afterwards realizing Alexander probably wasn’t thinking the same. The first week without his tiresome-but-entertaining roommate was easier than he’d expected–and quieter–and Aaron found himself almost enjoying it. As the weeks turned into months, his opinion changed.

Of course, Hamilton had always been the more frugal shopper, and had somehow always been able to pick out exactly what they needed–and then some–on a tight budget. Burr had been born without that particular character trait and he dropped a box of cake mix into his basket absentmindedly.

He meandered down each aisle, grabbing products, looking at them, internally guessing if he and Theo would need them or not. A pair of unruly children sprinted past him and Aaron looked around for their neglectful parent, irritated. He found himself coming upon the feminine care aisle and stopped for a moment, realizing that Theo had never once admitted to having started her period.

The middle-aged man fretted, awkwardly wondering whether or not he should pick up something for his teenage daughter.

“I can’t stand this aisle,” Aaron heard a deep voice behind him. He turned to look at the other customer who politely squeezed past him, and saw the tall, handsome man make his way to the condoms at the end of the shelf.

Burr found himself chuckling, “It’s all rather overwhelming, I suppose.”

The tall, handsome man nodded in agreement, “Funny how they put the condoms in with the baby stuff. The woman I’m seeing pointed that out to me–I guess I never noticed the joke.”

Aaron studied the other man for a moment, trying to place his face, but failing.

“I have a fifteen-year-old daughter who probably needs these things,” he motioned to the myriad of products before him, “but…I’m afraid I don’t know the first thing about this.”

The handsome man nodded, smiled, “Her mother should know, don’t worry.”

“Ah…unfortunately her mother…passed away. Several years ago. I’m on my own with this one.” The colonel kept a small grin on his mouth to keep things from getting too uncomfortable.

“Oh, I’m sorry,” the other man walked closer, his southern drawl becoming more noticeable with each syllable, “I just assumed–I shouldn’t have–”

“–Please, it’s quite alright,” Aaron found himself growing more relaxed.

“I actually have a daughter, too. She’s grown, out of the house, but…well her mother was out of the picture,” the handsome, Southern man gestured with his hands, trying to find the right words, “…Actually, I was the one out of the picture. It’s all…well it…we were young, you know, and–”

“–Oh, I know,” Aaron smiled, studying his new companion, interested.

A charming, deep laugh escaped the taller man, taking Burr by surprise, and then, “What I’m trying to say, badly I suppose, is that these young girls are smarter than we give them credit for. She’ll know what to get. She probably has a friend or something who explained it all for her.”

The colonel raised his eyebrows, and responded slowly, “I suppose I agree with you.”

“She’s back in my life now, thankfully. My daughter I mean.”

“Well that is important.”

The handsome man’s face split into a grin, “I’ve got what you’d call a second chance. I’m not going to mess it up this time. Things are finally working out, in a way. Do you know what I mean?”

Bright blue eye’s met Aaron’s dark ones and he found himself opening up to the lively stranger.

“I know precisely what you mean.”

“Now, you look familiar to me.” The taller man studied Aaron for a moment with a finger at his lips. “You’re not…are you from New York? Or did you move here from somewhere else?”

The nervousness hit Aaron instantaneously–you look familiar–a phrase that the colonel never liked to hear.

“No…” he paused, rapidly thought up a lie, and then just as quickly discarded it, “I’m from New Jersey.”

“Same thing,” the tall man laughed, “To a Southern man like me.”

He reached out a hand and Aaron shook it, liking its warmth.

“I’m actually from South Carolina. My name’s John. And you are–?”

“Edward,” Aaron felt the name leave his mouth before he could stop himself.

“Strange place to meet people, here in front of the condoms,” John laughed again, quietly. “But you seem like a nice fellow. I just came in to pick up a few necessities and here I am making friends.”

The colonel returned the smile, his nerves at ease, “It’s probably very easy for you to make friends.”

John turned pink, glanced at the other man briefly, before landing his gaze back on the products in front of him.

“I don’t like shopping for these, but I don’t mind using them,” John scratched his chin, and reached for the cheapest box.

“Oh, not those,” Before he could stop himself, Aaron gently grabbed the box from his companion’s fingers, and the latter man turned pinker. “I used those once and had quite a scare, if you know what I mean.”

“Oh no…” John looked concerned, crossed his arms.

“She contacted me the next day and said the condom had broken. I held my breath for the next month. Luckily nothing ever came of it.”

The other man put a hand to his forehead, “Good God, you saved me a scare, then.”

“You get what you pay for, with these.”

“Are you an expert?” Another charming laugh.

“Unfortunately.”

“Well then I appreciate the input, Edward,” John reached for a more expensive brand, “I’d rather bite the bullet and spend the money now.”

“A smart decision.” Aaron smiled.

The Southern man put a hand on his new friend’s shoulder, “I better be going if I want to beat this storm they’re calling for. Thanks again.”

The colonel nodded politely and the men parted ways.

----------


“Well, Miss Schuyler, it’s not the flu, I can tell you that.” Betsey watched anxiously as her doctor entered the small, sterile room, and shut the door. She watched the other occupant sit down in the swivel chair across from her.

“It’s not?” Betsey pulled her thin hospital gown closer around her. “I’ve been feeling so out of it lately, and it’s usually this time of year when I’m hit with some kind of sickness, it being so miserably cold and all, so I just assumed–”

“You say you’ve been feeling tired and sick for how long?”

The petite brunette thought for a moment, “I would say about two weeks now. And when I threw up yesterday, I thought it had to be the flu again."

The doctor sighed, and Betsey felt her insides writhe with nervousness,

"Doctor Rush…please.”

The older man scooted closer to his patient, concern etched in his features, “Miss Schuyler, you know I care about you and your family greatly, and I’ve known you for a long time.”

“You’re scaring me,” Betsey responded. The doctor reached out and gripped on of her hands.

“It’s nothing to be frightened of. You’re not sick at all.” Benjamin Rush looked over his glasses, swallowed, and then gave her the news. “I’ve gone over the tests very thoroughly, and it looks like you’re pregnant, Betsey,"

The small, dark-featured women thought she could feel the floor give way, and the room suddenly seemed much smaller. She could barely muster a whisper.

”…Excuse me?“

The doctor squeezed her hand one last time before dropping it, "These tests have a 99% accuracy rate.”

Betsey felt her mouth go dry, “That’s…that’s not possible…Doctor Rush, surely you know…surely you know what I’m trying to say–” 

She stammered, and the older man before her shook his head, “I’m telling you, my dear lady, it is undeniable.”

“But I’m…my age…I couldn’t have possibly…” Betsey paused, and then covered her face. A sudden wave of pity coursed over the doctor and he put a hand on her shoulder.

“You are not that far along. There are options, Miss Schuyler,” he muttered. She raised her gaze for a brief second.

“I must keep it, you understand.”

Doctor Rush nodded, “I assumed you would be of that opinion. And I respect you for it.”

Betsey resumed her position, covering her face and pressing her eyes into her palms. Her skin burned hot, and then cold. “How far along?”

“I would estimate estimate about four weeks. Given that your last two deliveries were a bit late, I should suspect a due date of mid to late August. But of course we’ll know more as the weeks progress.”

Betsey looked at her doctor once again, “I thought…we used a condom, Doctor, there’s no way–”

“–It’s rare, yes. But it happens.”

“But I am forty years old,” she insisted.

The other occupant in the room gazed at her, concerned, “Again, it’s not unheard of. Miss Schuyler, it is none of my business…I am only your medical doctor, you understand my predicament…but I am certain Mr Hamilton will understand. You of all people know how joyous he is with children.”

The petite brunette covered her face again, “We are separated. I have not been intimate with him in nearly a year.”

Doctor Rush blinked several times, processing the information.

“I see.”

“Please do not tell him this news.”

“I am bound by my profession never to reveal my patients’ troubles, my dear.”

She looked up at him again, eyes wet, “What am I to do? This can’t be happening. I don’t…”

“Miss Schuyler, if you are having doubts and fears about this child, I suggest talking to someone. A therapist, perhaps, or at the very least an intimate acquaintance.” He paused to look at the small woman, and felt another wave of pity. “Do come back and see me whenever you feel necessary. You know my door is always open, my dear.”

Betsey nodded and reached for her clothes, which lay in a pile behind her.

“I will write you a prescription for the nausea, if you’d like,” the doctor said, preparing to leave the small room.

“That won’t be necessary,” Betsey responded, emotionless, “But thank you.”

Chapter Text

 

The morning sun hit Alexander directly in the eyes; he hadn’t planned on sleeping directly in it’s path. He rolled over on the cheap mattress, noticing with some annoyance a tear in the lining on the side. Sighing, he rubbed his eyes and checked the time. He half-expected to have had some dreams, visions explaining what he should do with himself, but was sadly denied.

“You know what you need to do,” he muttered to himself, still half asleep. His bones cracked as he stood up, unsteady, and stretched. It was nearly eight–Angelica had a habit of greeting the day with the sun–she’d already be awake.

As he made his way down the new hallway, he could hear the television mumble faintly, the clank of a spoon against a bowl, his daughter chewing.

“Morning,” she said, not taking her eyes of the screen.

“Good morning.”

“There’s no coffee.” Angelica adjusted herself on the new, uncomfortably firm couch, still locked in to her program. “I mean, there’s really nothing at all. The only reason we’ve got this is because I stopped at the convenience store yesterday.”

She raised her cereal bowl to her father, finally looking at him. Alexander, still disheveled from sleep, closed his eyes and groaned.

“Not even the instant stuff?” He asked. His daughter shook her head silently.

“Well if you bought cereal, why didn’t you think to buy coffee?” The general pressed on. Angelica gave him a look.

“I had like, six dollars on me. You know, because I’m broke.” She paused. “You know…because you won’t let me get a job.”

“Don’t start. Not this early.” Alexander reached for the only other dish in the cabinet, a sad-looking tupperwear container. He held it up and looked at it.

“Where did this one come from? I don’t recognize it.”

“I stole it from Colonel Burr’s. It was sitting in Theo’s bedroom for the longest time,” she responded, nonchalantly. Alexander closed his eyes and shook his head again, not in the mood to argue about anything. He grabbed a plastic spoon from the box his daughter had gotten and joined her on the couch.

“What is this. What are we watching.”

“It’s this lady–she goes around playing matchmaker or something. Like for millionaires.”

“Oh, Angelica, not this reality TV garbage,” he exhaled and leaned back against a pillow. His daughter took a large bite of her cereal and rolled her eyes.

“Well it’s either this or informercials,” she commented.

“Why don’t you read a book?”

“My eyes hurt. I’m too tired.”

The general chewed on a spoonful of cereal silently, feeling his energy drain every time he thought about the circumstances around him. His mind was far away from the small, brightly lit television that sat on the floor against the wall opposite them. Secretly, Alexander thanked God for the fact that his daughter was too distracted by the program to notice how pale he looked, or the stress-induced dark circles under his eyes, or the lack of coherent furniture. He tried to change the subject.

“So, Bobby tells me you wanted to make getting lunch with him a thing. He says to make sure you're not spying on me.”

Angelica let out a small laugh, “Bobby’s funny. He tells us stories about you when you were in college. How much of a dork you were.”

“Oh, wonderful,” Alexander managed a tiny grin, and took another bite. “I’m sure he told you all about the speech I gave, when I got pelted with rocks. That’s his favorite.”

“That’s the one,” Angelica laughed.

Her father nodded, “I thought he was going to have a heart attack, watching me get hit with rocks from the crowd. I could tell he wanted to help me–he really did–but he was always more nervous about being in front of crowds. And with the rocks flying everywhere–” Alexander motioned around his head, still grinning,“–With the rocks flying everywhere, I’m sure he felt like he’d get hit.”

“He had good intentions.”

“Bobby always has good intentions.”

The pair chewed on their cereal for a moment more, and then Angelica spoke.

“I think…I think it was really brave of you to stand up in front of people like that and speak your mind. Really cool, too.”

“‘Cool’? Did I just hear you describe me as 'cool’? Alexander smiled and looked at his daughter.

"You better write it down, or take a picture of this moment or something.”

Hamilton laughed, “Well, I’m flattered. I wouldn’t classify myself as "cool"–”

“–You just really believed in something good and fought for it. Hearing it all from Bobby put it in a different perspective. Mom never bragged about it, of course, so I guess we kids just didn’t think anything of it. But… I don’t know. It’s cool.” His daughter finished her thought with a slight blush, and went back to staring at the television.

Alexander stared at her for a moment, then back into his sad tupperwear container, the cereal quickly becoming soggy.

“Theo got weird about it, though,” the girl continued, not looked at her father. “She stormed out without even eating. We haven't talked as much as we used to, either.”

The general furrowed his eyebrows, “Theo? Storming out? That doesn’t sound like her.”

“She didn’t get why what you did was so important. She belittled it.”

Alexander paused, digesting the information. Angelica spoke further, feeling herself on a roll, “She said just because you feel something is right, doesn’t mean it’s right for everyone. I told her it doesn’t matter now because our side won, so there’s no use in quibbling.”

“Well, you’re not incorrect, Angelica,” the general began, “But you have to remember, people like me were in the minority, at least at first, and it was hard for people to see the benefits of independence–”

“–But it was like she couldn’t even admit that you were right, about being on the Patriot side. I mean even after all these years, after everything we know. She's said like, six things to me since then.”

“Perhaps you should ask her about her feelings. Maybe she’s waiting for you.”

Angelica chewed on this thought for a moment, and turned her gaze to several pigeons outside the window, bobbing their heads at crumbs on the fire escape. After a minute of silence, the general changed the subject again.

“Did we happen to buy any towels?”

“A couple. They're in the bathroom already.”

“I’m going to have a shower.”

Angelica looked at the screen in front of them, silently shaking her head, “Go for it.”

Hamilton stretched and stood up, making his way into the kitchen and dropping his bowl into the sink. He rubbed his features and sighed again, wishing more than anything he’d remembered coffee. He placed both hands on the counter, leaning forward, internally planning his day.

A small, timid knock on the front door shook both Hamiltons from their thoughts, and the elder walked from the kitchen into the living room, where his daughter sat, slightly confused.

“Did you invite someone over, Angelica?”

“No. And nobody even knows where I live yet.”

The general waited for a brief second, and another knock greeted him, less timid. He walked from the kitchen to the door and opened it, vaguely worried.

“Betsey,” he breathed.

“Mom?” Angelica called from the living room, standing up and smiling. “What are you doing here? How did you know where we live now?”

Betsey greeted her daughter by stretching out a hand and rubbing her shoulder lovingly, “Mr. Troup gave me the address.”

Alexander stood silently, suddenly feeling nervous.

“Betsey…” he began again, “It’s great to see you. Come in.”

“I apologize for coming over so early,” she responded, staying put, “but I knew you two would be awake.”

The Nevisian struggled to find words, felt his stomach sink at the sight of Betsey and what had happened, and the petit brunette in front of him filled the silence.

“I came to talk to you about something important, Alexander.”

Angelica looked back and forth between her parents excitedly, curious.

“I’m…well of course, Betsey, I just…well there’s not really any furniture in here, and I–”

Betsey looked at him, her face expressionless, “There is a small cafe a few doors down.”

Chapter Text

 

The general didn’t have time to be angry, or even nervous, at the thought of the video–he was far too excited to see Betsey. “You look well,” he tried, greeting the winter winds with a squinted gaze.

Betsey tightened her scarf, and kept silent, her own problems keeping her from comfortable small talk. She recalled Morris’ advice, though wasn't able to bear the thought of facing her ex-husband until this moment.

“We both know why I needed to talk to you,” the petite, black-eyed woman said, walking slowly with her head down, out of the wind, “I would rather we not dance around the subject.”

The cafe door loomed several feet in front of them and Alexander felt his stomach flop.

“Of course.”

The sat themselves at a far table in the corner, near a widow and far from listening ears. Alexander watched as Betsey confidently ordered for them–a black coffee for him, a lemon seltzer for her. The waiter smiled and left. Alexander felt his throat tighten at the sight of the small woman, and steeled himself.

“Where to begin.” His voice came out quietly.

“I have much to discuss with you, Alexander,” Betsey began, “And none of it easy to say.”

He leaned back, exhaled,“ The video. Just say it.”

She looked up, almost demurely, through thick lashes, “The video, then. We shall start there,” she added, more quietly.

Alexander leaned forward onto his elbows, and prepared his words, but they never came. For the second time, Betsey spoke for them.

“It was cruel of him to send that video,” she placed her shaking hands atop the table and forced a smile as the waiter brought their drinks–even the smallest break in her explanation made Alexander’s gut churn–and she started again, “I should have tried harder to stop him.”

The general looked at his coffee, appetized, but the buzzing in his ears prevented him from functioning.

“‘You should have tried harder to stop him’ ” he repeated, incredulous. If Betsey heard him, she showed no sign.

“You know how John gets–”

“So it’s John, now. Not Colonel Laurens.”

“Alexander–”

“–I do know how John gets, Betsey. Do you know why?” He paused, looked at her, felt his face burn. “Because I loved him.”

The Schuyler woman sipped her seltzer, rather embarrassed.

“You should not have been with him in the first place,” he tried again, slightly louder.

“Do not make a scene here,” Betsey replied calmly. Her ex-husband shook his head

“You have no problem being on display.”

“Alexander!” Her voice was quiet, but shrill, at the barbed insult.

“Of all the people. Of all the people in the entire world–in this city alone–you chose him.”

“You know my options are limited,” she hissed. “And how dare you insult me like that.”

Hamilton bit his tongue, and began to shake his head, to himself. In front of him, Betsey took another sip of her drink to cool her nerves. She inhaled deeply, “You must stop thinking of me as an extension of yourself. Those days are gone.”

Alexander looked at her, watched her swallow something: emotions. She blinked once, “It is time you understood that I am an independent person now, and as such I will be making independent decisions, without your knowledge, and you will have to learn to be comfortable with that–”

“–'Independent’…what are you talking about?” Against his better judgement, Alexander felt his blood heat up. “Independent decisions–you mean like sleeping with my best friend…"His voice trailed off as his anger got the best of him.

Betsey straighten her posture, and glared at him. A voice in her mind shouted and raged.

"I know about you and that absolute sociopath Burr. I know what you two have been up to. I know he’s seen the video and it’s some great joke amongst you and Morris and Troup, and I know–”

At this new information, Alexander coughed as he choked on his hot coffee, “Morris? Morris?”

Betsey stared.

“What did you say?” He balked. “Morris has seen it?”

“Oh, you didn’t know? There’s your upstanding Colonel for you–” Betsey smiled bitterly, uncharacteristically, “Burr told Morris, who in turn advised me to quell this little issue before it got to the custody courts. Which is why I am here explaining myself to you before things get out of our control.”

Alexander covered his face, “This isn’t happening…”

She heaved a sigh and reached out, taking her ex-husband’s hands from his face.

“Morris has good intentions, barbaric as they may seem.” She spoke, matter-of-factly. “I suppose, in some cob-webbed, dusty crevice of Colonel Burr’s brain he thought he was doing the right thing by telling Morris–I cannot believe this but I will try to give him the benefit of the doubt–” Betsey swallowed something hard.

The general tapped his foot, “Is there no one I can trust? Am I a laughing stock now?”

“No.”

“It seems that way.”

Betsey was silent for a moment, feeling a slight twinge of pity for her beleaguered ex-husband. She swallowed a small amount of pride, and then spoke calmly. “I didn’t come here to embarrass you.”

“You’d be the only person.” The general could not get the thought of Morris out of his head, and recalled Troup’s anger at being caught in the middle of things, and briefly wondered where Burr was, at this very moment. The petite woman in front of him stalled his whirring thoughts.

“I came here…” she breathed, steadying herself, “I came here to express regret at the manner in which you found out I was seeing someone new.”

Alexander made to speak, but she held up a hand.

“I am not finished. I want to say I am sorry. I know this is not an easy situation for you.” Betsey chose her words quickly, seeing the desire to interrupt Alexander wore plainly on his face, “I cannot apologize for choosing John, and I cannot apologize for Colonel Burr’s sneakiness, but I can apologize for not handling this with more discretion.”

She finished by exhaling, looking at her drink, then sipping it quickly. In the time it took her to get her words out, Alexander had forgotten what he’d wanted to say. He looked at the small, warm countenance of his ex-wife, and was crushed.

“Betsey…you have to know how I feel right now.”

She nodded solemnly.

“Do you love him?” Hamilton cut right to the chase. Betsey looked up, pink-cheeked.

“I don’t know.”

Alexander accepted this answer and watched at the brunette before him shifted her gaze out the window, unaware of the other secret she’d kept to herself since her visit to Doctor Rush. He sighed, “I have to know one thing.”

She looked back at him.

“Was it revenge?”

“Alexander…” Betsey breathed, slightly hurt, “I hate the concept of revenge. I always have. You know that.”

“Do I?”

She was perturbed, “Do you think I would promote, within my life, the same concept that stole you away from me the first time around?”

The general couldn’t answer her.

“This happened organically. All of it–”

“–Spare me the details.”

“I have said everything I needed to,” Betsey responded, a small voice in the back of her mind disagreeing. “I do not want to be callous, Alexander, but I have made my decision.” She absentmindedly placed a hand on her stomach, watching the man across from her shake his head.

“I suppose you will continue things with John, then.”

“I would like to see how the relationship pans out.”

Alexander scoffed quietly to himself, raised his gaze to the ceiling, “Wonderful.”

“I am sorry things happened the way they did but there are some things I have no control over.”

“That appears to be the running theme in my life,” he responded, to himself. The coffee did nothing but make him jittery.

He waited for a moment, and then hailed the waiter for the check. Internally, Betsey raged with herself over whether or not to continue her confession.

“Colonel Burr and I are no longer on speaking terms because of what he’s done. This situation. His knowledge of it. Among other things.”

“Angelica is out of that apartment, then?” The Schuyler woman asked hopefully.

Alexander nodded; signed his name on the bill. The brunette watched him as he stood to leave. She will miss Theo. They’ve grown quite close.”

“Theo is a lovely young woman, against all odds.” Betsey gathered her things. “I would like them to continued their friendship, and not have our issues affect them.” She looked at her ex-husband intently.

“She is a good influence on Angelica. The children’s well-being comes first, Alexander.”

The warning in her voice chafed him. “I know that.”

“None of this will ever reach our children’s ears, do I make myself clear?” Suddenly, Betsey felt worried: worried that her husband’s florid temper had spoiled things for her daughter.

“Alexander.”

He looked at her, “What? Do you think I would tell these things to my own daughter?”

“You have a way.” She walked to the door, anxious to get out of the cafe and the people she felt watching them

“A way?”

The brunette fixed her scarf and squinted, “You blurt things out. I am just saying I want all of this to be neatly taken care of. No outbursts, no grand displays.”

“Grand displays!”

“Please lower your voice.”

Briefly the night at the restaurant sprang to mind–his stomach sank at the memory of Burr’s cavalier treatment of their relationship in front of the girls. He said nothing, felt nothing, as he watched the woman before him.

“I must go to the drug store now.” Betsey sighed. “Please try and convince Angelica to return to Albany to visit. I miss her terribly, as do her brothers.”

Alexander was silent, nodding slowly. His ex-wife looked at him, a sliver of pity in her eyes, and turned to leave.

Chapter Text

 

“I knew I’d find you here,” Angelica said, somewhat loudly, approaching the table where Theo sat. She had a large book open and several pages worth of notes. The dark haired girl looked up, somewhat startled.

“Angelica…what are you–”

“It’s totally beautiful outside, Theo, you should be enjoying it. ”

She closed her book, an stared at her friend.

“How did you find me here?”

“You’re at the library every single Saturday from nine until one. Without fail. Does your dad make you do this?” She picked up a piece of paper casually, looked at it, “Does he know you’re wasting your life?”

Slightly agitated, the black-eyed girl responded, “I’m not wasting my life. And my father merely made this a suggestion, not an order.”

“If your dad ‘suggested’ you fetch the moon, you’d be in here studying aeronautics.”

“I’m still cross with you, Angelica. You can stop skirting the issue, now.” Theo replied, nose tinged pink. She looked back into her book and turned another page. Her friend frowned.

“Yeah, I can tell. It's been a month and I’m over it. I came here as a peace offering.” Finally, Angelica sat down next to the other girl, removing her light coat and adjusting herself in the seat.

“A peace offering isn’t an apology…” Theo muttered. “You said some hurtful things.”

“So did you!”

The black-eyed girl closed her eyes and rubbed them, “You have to keep your voice down, Angelica, people are going to stare. It’s a library.”

“Don’t talk to me like I’m a moron,” the Hamilton daughter dropped her voice to a rough whisper, “I’ll apologize if you do.”

Theo watched her friend, her prettily odd-colored eyes set in determination. She sighed, “Fine. I’m sorry I lashed out the way I did.”

Angelica smiled sharply, “I’m sorry for pushing the subject. After you left Troup kind of explained things a little bit better. Sometimes I just say stuff, I don’t mean it, it’s hard to remember what’s what and who’s who from back then. He, Troup I mean, told me your mom was a loyalist, and I was like, 'of course’! How could I have been so thoughtless–”

“–Apology accepted, Angelica,” the Burr daughter smiled, cutting off her verbose friend.

“I’m still learning.” Angelica confessed. “About things. Back then.”

“We all are.”

At a different table, several patrons eyed them, annoyed, as the two girls continued their conversation.

“My new apartment is terrible. I wish you’d been there.” The Hamilton girl rested her chin in her left hand.

Theo marked her place and closed her book, eyeing the time–nearly one–and decided to call it a day. She wasn’t going to get any more studying done.

“Oh?”

“My dad found this…grotto in Queens, it’s all dank and tiny–”

“–So you’re living in a cave, now?”

“I might as well be. He keeps saying how he hates settling but 'This is the way things are going to be from now on, Angelica, we will just have to soldier on’ or some other ancient nonsense…” Angelica replied, in a near-perfect imitation of her father. “…I thought living in the city would be great.”

“It’s awfully cramped.”

Angelica nodded sadly, “I’ve already begun the process of switching schools. I'll start my new one at the beginning of next semester, in January. I can’t go back to Albany, but you should see my new one. It’s a dump. I wish I could have gone to private school.”

“It’s not all it’s cracked up to be, believe me,” the Burr daughter offered helpfully. “My dad always says education is what you make of it. That’s why he’s got me doing this studying on my own. I go to one of the best high schools in the state and he’s got me 'Supplementing my studies with my own thoughts’.” It was the dark-featured girl’s turn to accurately mimic her father. Angelica laughed.

Theo pressed on, “You should see some of these kids. So rich. And so bored with everything. Just…ennui. Some of them just fool around, others think they don’t even have to try, they think good grades are going to happen without effort.”

“Spoiled.” Angelica offered. Theo nodded to herself, a small voice reminding her that she nearly described her teenage father.

“I don’t even bother talking to anyone, because what’s the point. I’m just going to do my time. I can’t wait for college.”

“Girls, this is a library, you know.”

The two teenagers jumped at the approach of a tall female librarian, wearing a stern look on her face, scolding them through a thick Brooklyn accent, “If you want to study here, you have to keep your voices down. I’ve gotten complaints.”

Theo muttered an apology, and Angelica glared. The Hamilton girl didn’t avert her gaze when she spoke up again, this time quieter, “I want to go on a road trip.”

“What?” Theo exhaled at the quick change of subject.

“I want to go to Virginia. See what those bozos are up to.”

“You can’t be serious. Your dad–your mom–would never allow it.”

“They’d let Phil do it.”

The black-eyed girl stifled a laugh, and Angelica continued her thoughts out loud:

“I was thinking. I want to get out of the city, and see as much of the country as I possibly can before I…I mean before something terrible has the chance to happen–”

“–Don’t talk like that–”

“–Phil feels the same way, but won’t say it. So I think if I can convince him to come with us, we could definitely make this happen.”

Theo stared at her, slightly dumbstruck. A small, excited feeling in her stomach fluttered around, hoping the road trip wasn’t just another empty fantasy. She looked a her books, and remembered the countless scholarly responsibilities she had.

“We’d have to do it over break or something.”

Angelica turned her bright gaze onto her friend, “So you’d come?”

“I’d have to.”

“Do you think we can talk Phil into it?”

“Oh my god, what are we even saying…” Theo leaned back in her chair, laughing to herself, “There is no way this could ever happen. My dad thinks school breaks are for studying so hard you surpass the syllabus. And can you imagine the holy-hell James and Junior would raise if they weren’t invited?”

“We’ll invite them and then leave in the night.”

The two girls collapsed into silent laughter, half-way hoping their impossible trip would come to fruition.

Chapter Text

 

Alexander sighed angrily as he scrubbed the tiles in front of his face harder, the powdered bleach mix burning his eyes.  “This is a damned grotto,” he admitted to himself, mimicking his daughter’s description of the new apartment. His knees cracked as he shifted his weight, kneeling in front of a bath tub. He thought he’d spend the day cleaning to keep his mind off of the terrible events of the past month, but nothing seemed to help.

Behind him, a tiny sliver of light streamed in through the bathroom’s only window– one of only four throughout the entire apartment.

“Two thousand dollars a month,” the scrubbing increased, the man gritted his teeth, “and for this.” The bright-eyed man, once a General in the united states army, reduced to cleaning bathrooms, and paying a hefty sum for the privilege.

The apartment was Hamiltonianly spartan: one kitchen, two bedrooms, a bathroom and a depressingly dark living area. The old general spent the better half of his weekend at the local home goods store, trying desperately to re-create a sense of “home” that his wife always managed to produce, effortlessly, and failing. Alexander tried to remember the last time he had to make a life for himself, on his own, without Betsey, and couldn’t.

There was a thought, Alexander cringed. He stood up, and took a look at his handiwork. A small patch of pinkish-brown mold clung stubbornly to the corner across from him. The general shook his head, and rubbed his eyes with the back of his hand, careful not to let the bleach contaminant them. He cleaned himself up and made his way down the dark hallway, to the equally dark living room.

A blinking red light caught his eye; there was a message on his phone.

“Oh fantastic. I can’t wait to see what this could possibly be,” Alexander closed his eyes and looked up to the ceiling dramatically. “Another video, no doubt.”

He made his way to the phone, “What is it this time?”

Hey, I’m staying with Theo tonight. She’s going to help me study.”

Alexander squinted at the text message from his daughter, realizing he’d be spending the evening by himself. He looked around at the sparse apartment once more.

The general and his daughter had been living there for approximately four weeks–and it was a difficult time for both of them. Betsey called nearly every day, to talk to Angelica, who would shoot her father a knowing, pitied glance as she stole away to her room to talk to her mother. This left Alexander to mope about most of the time, his ex-wife acting as though he’d stopped existing and his daughter caught in the middle.

“You don’t have to stay here, Angelica,” Alexander remarked one night several days previous, during a particularly silent meal of Chinese take-out. He twirled his fork half-heartedly through a pile of noodles. His daughter shrugged, swallowed.

“I know. But I’m closer to Theo here.”

“How is school going? I thought you hated the school here.”

“It’s bearable."

Another thirty seconds of silence passed between them, punctuated by Angelica sipping her drink loudly.

"Don’t you miss your siblings?” The general tried again.

“Do you not want me staying here? You can just say it, dad.”

Alexander shook his head, “No. That’s not what I mean. You know you’ll always be welcome here."

The teenage girl nodded to herself.

"Mom says Elizabeth asks about me. Well, tries to. It sounds like she’s saying ‘Anica’, which I think is pretty funny. Mom put her on the phone last week and it sounded like she started smacking it against the table. I could hear mom yelling at her, then she took the phone away. Baby Phil can’t talk, he just drools, but mom makes me talk to him, too.” Angelica tried to fill the silence with nervous chatter, unsure if hearing about his family would make her father comfortable or sad.

The general forced his mind back into the present, where the ever-lingering stench of clorox followed him all the way into the living room. He took inventory of the situation, put hands in his pockets, and stared out the front window into the gloomy, rainy sky.

His thoughts came in waves. Lately, they were mostly of John Laurens.

Nothing was finalized, Alexander mused. His eyes followed the soft charcoal-colored clouds as the rolled across the sky, the rain slowing to a dull drizzle. The general tried to remember how he felt when he got the news, all those years ago, about the death of his friend and lover but couldn’t. There was a thin coating of dishonestly in his reaction back then–tears and silence–Betsey couldn’t know what John really meant to him, it would break her heart.

But she knew, she just didn’t say.

Alexander leaned forward slowly and rested his forehead against the cold glass, closing his eyes.

“How could it all come crashing down like this. Again.” As the words left his mouth, small patches of condensation formed on the glass, then disappeared just as quickly. He felt slightly nauseous as the enormity of his embarrassment hit him again.

“How could you do this to me, John?"

Eyes still closed, he remembered the first time they were together. It was an odd experience for both of them– cramped, quiet, desperate, terrified they’d be discovered–but thoroughly satisfying. For Alexander, it was as natural as the phases of the moon, or day following night. For John, it was new, awkward and releasing.

Neither one of them talked about the context of their relationship after the war. It just wasn’t a possibility.

"I am to be married to Betsey, and you will go back to Martha,” the general spoke out loud again, remembering with distinct clarity his words, and the fallen look on John’s face. John was not as excited for his bride as Alexander was for his.

She doesn’t love me.

Nonsense, John, you will learn to cherish each other.

The general’s forehead felt slightly numb, and he lifted it from the glass. He made his way to the couch, and turned on the television, silently flipping through the channels.

“It’s just not worth it, Alexander,” he said to himself, resting his chin on his hand. The tiny click of the remote button descended into a somewhat comforting rhythm, and a gust of wind outside tore through a nearby flag, the sound of cloth rippling in the breeze.

Starting from nothing, from no-one, with no-one, wouldn’t be so bad. He thought briefly about the resumes he’d have to send out.

“Wouldn’t be the first time.”

He landed on a local channel, waiting for the midday news to start. A commercial began to play and he was suddenly facing the orb-like, vaguely dishonest eyes of Aaron Burr. Seated professionally in a law office looking much like their old one, the suit-clad visage of Burr flickered on the screen in front of him. Alexander felt his face grow red-hot.

“He didn’t.” The general stood up, forgetting his reverie of earlier. "A commercial?“ The commercial ended, and the screen went dark. The into-music of the local news began, and Alexander frowned.

----------


Troup paced nervously back and forth across the small office, furtively glancing at each man. Alexander stared at the black-eyed colonel incredulously, while the latter man smiled serenely.

“What were you thinking?” The general demanded. “Do you have any idea what this could do to us, if the wrong person saw it?”

“It was public access television, General. I hardly think it’s any cause for alarm.” He watched Alexander’s color deepen, and continued. “I merely wanted to see if I could make one.”

Troup cleared his throat, “The why make a commercial at all, if it won’t reach a wide audience? What is the point?”

The general cut in, staring daggers, “The point is he’s a vain idiot who wanted to play movie star for thirty seconds, at the risk of us getting exposed.”

“Now, General,” Aaron began, deceptively calm, “That’s a little harsh coming from someone who put out a Craig’s list ad for sex, don’t you think?”

Bobby muffled a groan and covered his eyes, while the general’s eyes flashed angrily.

“Don’t you dare go there,” he pointed a finger, “It’s not the same thing at all, and you know it.”

The colonel leaned forward, “No, you’re right– your venture was sanctioned by my money-grubbing ex-wife. You kept your scheme within our own little generation. So thank you for that. You’re right, it’s different.”

Alexander laughed mirthlessly, and rolled his eyes, “You stole from her!”

“You don’t know what you’re talking about,” Burr stood quickly, his own cheeks pink. Bobby stepped forward, trying to alleviate the tension.

“I think we’re getting off-topic, here.” He stepped between them, raising his hands. “The topic at hand is this commercial. Burr, you made it without consulting any of us.”

Aaron bit his lip, and the worried Troup continued, “You put the entire firm at risk, here. What if someone recognizes you?”

“He’d have to be memorable for that to happen,” Hamilton cut in scathingly.

“Hamilton, come on,” Bobby spoke up before the red-faced colonel could jibe back.

The general pressed on, pacing as Troup once had, “I mean, the idiocy. Not only was it reckless, it’s damn tacky. Only the lowest of the low advertise their legal services. What happened to getting by on pure merit?”

“Is there a way we can pull it?” Troup asked.

“It’s running one more time, at four am tomorrow.” Burr answered, sitting back in his chair, sulking. The general let out another unpleasant laugh.

“Does Morris know?” Troup asked again.

“No. I don’t know.” Aaron responded, refusing to look at the other two men. “I don’t think it’s tacky.”

Bobby rubbed his eyes, and sat down on a near by sofa. “Well, we do need more clients,” he mumbled helpfully.

“Bobby! You can’t seriously be saying you’re on his side!”

“There are no sides, Hamilton–”

“–Look who you’re talking, to Bob,” Burr cut in from across the room, raising an outstretched palm to the general, “It’s his way or the highway to hell.”

Bobby scratched his head, “I think you may be mixing up your–”

“–Admit what you did was stupid and tacky and reckless, Burr. Just for once, admit that you were wrong. Admit that you’re an awful sneak.” The general crossed his arms and stared defiantly at Aaron. A shadow crossed his eyes that told the latter man this was about more than the commercial.

“If this is about the video, just say it. Stop dancing around the subject. You can't drag this out forever.”

“You had no business keeping that from me!”

“Again, off-topic,” Troup managed to cut in, again. “Why don’t we just see if we can get it pulled? Burr, there’s got to be a way.”

“What? Why do I have to pull it? Nothing is going to happen. I spent good money on that slot.” The colonel responded, slightly petulant.

“What money.” Alexander mumbled, unknown to anyone.

“I think it will bring in more business, even if only a few people saw it,” Aaron remarked definitely. “They will tell their friends. Word of mouth.”

“They why not put an ad in the paper,” Hamilton turned around, speaking louder. Burr stared at him, and blinked. “I’ll tell you why,” the general continued, “Because you think it’s funny to be like this. You think this is all one big joke.”

Aaron blinked again, and Alexander saw the shadow of a smile cross his mouth.

“It is a little bit funny.” Troup admitted quietly. “I mean, you could see the boon mic for heaven’s sake.”

“See,” the colonel indicated towards the fat man,”There’s a fellow who knows good humor when he sees it.”

“So it is a joke to you, then?”

Aaron stood up, and made his way over to the frantic Nevisian. To Alexander's surprise, he put a reassuring hand on each of is tense shoulders, and squeezed.

“General Hamilton, please. Don’t fret. The broadcast won’t leave the Hudson Valley. And the next slot is at four-thirty tomorrow morning. Hardly peak hours.” The black-eyed man stared at his colleague intently, and saw the heavy eyes etched with worry. “I thought it would be an interesting experiment. Loathe as I am to admit it,I don’t think anyone will recognize my face. But we desperately need business.”

The general closed his eyes, “Yes, but there has to be a better way–”

“–I can put an add in the paper, if that will make you feel better.”

From the other side of the room, Troup watched his two partners intently. Timidly, he spoke up, “We can agree that the commercial was quite reckless, Aaron. But–” he held up a finger as the general tried to cut in, “–but we can also agree that perhaps thinking out-of-the-box is what we need right now.”

“I couldn’t have said it better, my dear Bob,” Burr strode over to his other friend, and looked back at the general, who couldn’t hide the vague distrust that still spread out over his face.

Chapter Text

 

“Your mom is not going to want to see me, Angelica,” Theo remarked after several seconds of silence, as the two girls marched their way up to the Albany mansion.

“It’ll be fine!” The other girl responded, brushing her hair from her face. “Don’t tell me we just sat on a train for an hour and a half for you to get cold feet.”

“My dad doesn’t know where I went.” Theo felt her stomach drop.

“Uhg! We’ve been over this like, six times!” Angelica stopped walking and faced her other friend. “I had to listen to you gripe and worry the whole ride, and I’m telling you, he’ll be fine. Look, your story makes sense. You went up to Albany to check out some colleges. We can even actually do that, if it will make you feel better. That way, you’re not lying.”

“He is dead-set on me going to Princeton.” Theo looked away, nervous.

Angelica gripped her hand, “Theo. It’s not unusual for kids to go out of town with their friends for a weekend. We’ll have you back by bedtime on Sunday, I swear.”

“Does your grandfather still live with you guys? Because if he sees me–”

“Grandad isn’t going to do a damn thing,” Angelica set her jaw, and began towards the mansion.

Theo was close behind, “He despises my dad. I’m pretty sure he wants him dead.”

Still gripping her friend’s hand, Angelica tugged harder, “We’re going to talk to Phil about the road trip. We can avoid my Grandad all weekend if you want. He’s probably out golfing anyway.”

“It’s freezing out.”

The Hamilton daughter ignored her friend’s last words and reached the front door of the sprawling, stately home. The quiet, nervous dark-featured girl bit her tongue. It was the first time she’d ever done something like this. She remembered when her father used to leave her alone with her mother, for weeks at a time, and then later with nannies and servants, in their old life–but she never recalled a time she struck out on her own. Least of all without his knowledge.

“Mom? Hello?” Angelica was the first inside, her voice echoing in the expansive foyer. Theo’s eyes adjusted to the artificial lighting, and she looked around.

It had been several lifetimes since she’d been inside the Schuyler mansion. She strained her memory to recall how it looked in their old lives, and couldn’t. She looked up at the sparkling chandelier that hung above them, and glistened off the reflective marble floors. Dual staircases stood in front of her imposingly. On the wall between them the grandfather clock read 9:45pm.

“Maybe everyone’s asleep. You should stop shouting,” Theo said helpfully. “Where’s your bedroom? We can just see everyone in the morning.”

“Phil’s awake. He stays up til, like, four am, playing those dumb video games.”

Angelica started toward the staircase on the left, passing a large drawing room and a pitch-black powder room. The Burr daughter caught a glimpse of a grand piano in a room to her left, and beyond that, what looked like a kitchen. Small LED numbers from the over glared at her like eyes in the dark.  Soft thuds from the girls’ feet on the stairs was the only noise for several seconds.

“Does everyone have their own bedroom?” Theo whispered.

“Sort of. I did, Phil does. Junior and James share one, but they wanted to. It’s the biggest one, and it’s got a bathroom. Which is completely unfair if you ask me. My mom’s is down there,” Angelica stopped at the top of the stairs and pointed down the dark hallway to her right. “Her room’s got a walk-in closet with a window. My mom really isn’t a clothes-horse or anything, so Baby Phil’s crib is in there with her.”

Theo nodded, realizing a second too late it was probably too dark for her friend to notice.

“William’s got his own room, and so does John. They’re both technically supposed to be an office and a guest room, respectively, so they’re kind of small.” Angelica stopped, suddenly embarrassed, “It’s not that big. The house. I mean, it’s big, but when you have to share it between eight kids–”

“–It’s a good house. Perfect for you guys."

The hall in front of them bent to the left, and the two girls were greeted by an illuminated door, slightly ajar, and the sounds of a racing video game from within.

"I knew he’d be awake,” Angelica pressed forward. She reached out, and pushed the door open further.

Phil looked over, and jumped, “Angelica! What the hell!”

“Did we scare you?” The Hamilton daughter stifled a laugh and let herself into her brother’s bedroom. Theo followed her, raising one hand in a greeting, sheepishly.

“Hey, Phil.”

“Oh! Hey Theo! I didn’t see you back there!” He paused the game. “What the hell are you two doing here? When did you–I mean, did you take the train? How did you–”

Angelica helped herself to the mini-fridge by a desk in the corner of the room, cracking open a Pepsi, “Yeah. We took the train in. The city blows.”

Phil laughed, and Theo sensed his nervousness, “You just…up and left? It’s nearly ten pm, Angelica. Dad let you travel this late?”

His sister smiled wordlessly, and Phil understood.

“You didn’t tell him where you were going?”

“I texted him and told him I was staying at Theo’s. He responded and said he had some work at the office he had to finish. I’m not worried.”

“You know mom’s gonna flip.”

“Better to ask forgiveness than permission,” his sister remarked. “Besides, we have something really important to discuss with you.”

Phil gave his full attention to both girls. Theo, suddenly aware she’d been standing awkwardly, made her way to the edge of the unmade bed behind her, and sat. The vague worry on the Hamilton son’s face looked so much like his father’s, and for a second a wave of guilt coursed through Theo’s gut.

“Why couldn’t you just text me? Is everything okay?” Phil asked, brows furrowed.

“Everything is fine,” Theo cut in, reassuring him. “No one’s hurt.”

“You know that we have a long weekend coming up in a few weeks, like after the Christmas holidays I mean,” Angelica began, “And it’s, like, people go out of town and stuff and celebrate the presidents or whatever.”

Finally Phil’s face split into a grin, “Hah, yeah right. Mom’s pretty adamant I go check out some schools next year. Even though I made it pretty clear I want to just do the community college thing. Besides, me and Challz were going to hang out a bunch.”

“What if we went on a road trip, all four of us, if you want.” Angelica cut in. “Bring Challz if you want.”

“What? No way–mom and dad would literally lock us up. Both of us.” Phil’s grin faded.

“But she’ll let you hang out with Challz Adams for a week?” Angelica shot back, incredulous, “Yeah right.”

“She doesn’t know that. He’s coming down to the city for a few days to try and clerk under dad again–”

From the bed, Theo stifled a laugh, “–What? I didn’t think he was serious about that.”

“He’s not a total idiot, you guys. He just made some bad choices.” Phil came to his friend’s defense. “Besides, what the hell kind of road trip do you guys even want to go on? Where, I mean? Who do you want to see?”

“I don’t know, we’ll figure it out along the way.” Angelica responded.

“Do either of you have money? Like for gas and hotels?”

“My dad gives me an allowance,” Theo remarked quietly.

“Yeah, we’ve got money,” Angelica added. “We just need you to drive. Challz can come, too, and he can be a second driver when you get tired.”

“It sounds like you want me and my friend to give up our vacations to be your chauffeurs.”

“Phil, come on,” his sister almost whined, “you didn’t have a single damn plan before me and Theo brought this up. Now all of the sudden you’re some big busy hot-shot. Give me a break.”

Phil rolled his eyes, then covered them, “Can I at least sleep on it? I mean, you guys barge in here in the middle of the night and catch me off guard, for God’s sake.”

“You have to give us an answer tomorrow.” His sister pushed.

“What’s the big deal, anyway. Why does it have to be so soon? Why can’t you both just wait until you can drive?”

Angelica got quiet, and stared at her brother pointedly. Theo felt the atmosphere in the room chill considerably.

“Are you really asking that? Why we’re not waiting?”

Phil looked away, “Nothing’s going to happen.”

“You can’t be sure.”

“Don’t be so macabre.” Phil shifted uncomfortably, then thought for a moment. “Fine. I’ll let you guys know first thing. But you have to let me get some sleep here.”

Angelica threw up her hands, “Alright, alright, we’ll leave.”

Several moments later, the two girls were in Angelica’s old bedroom. It was only sparsely furnished; most of what she owned, Theo reasoned, had been taken into the city to her father’s new apartment. Angelica adjusted the blinds near her bed, closing them, still talking excitedly about their trip.

“He’s going to say yes. I know Phil. He has to act like the leader, but he’ll give in. Plus Challz will be on board one hundred percent. And they do everything together.” The Hamilton daughter reached into a dresser, and pulled out an over-sized tee shirt. “I kind of wish I had something else, but I didn’t have time to pack. Do you need something to sleep in, Theo?”

“Just a tee shirt and shorts, if you’ve got them.”

“I couldn’t decided if I wanted to bring everything to my dad’s or not,” said the other girl, rummaging through a different drawer. “It’s so stupid, being spread out all over the place. Here you go.”

Theo took the pajamas, and stood with them awkwardly while her friend undressed, seemingly unaware. She looked away, blushing.

“Come on, Theo, we’re both girls here.” Angelica reasoned, a small smile on her mouth. The other girl opened her mouth to protest, but was cut off.

“Fine, I’ll look the other way.”

Theo began undressing, “It’s…it’s nothing personal…” she started, her words failing.

“You don’t have to explain, I don’t mind,” Angelica busied herself with a book on the shelf above her bed. “I hate my body, frankly. I’m so flat.”

The Burr daughter was caught off guard, “What? Don’t say that.”

“Well it’s true. When my mom gave me ‘the Talk’ she said she didn’t start getting boobs until she was, like, eighteen or something. Ridiculous. I can’t wait another two years.”

“My dad gave me a book.” Theo responded, getting into the bed. “But it was, you know, crammed in with like six others, all science and anatomy-related so it’d blend in. I think he was hoping I wouldn’t say anything, and just teach myself.”

Angelica laughed, “God. That sounds like something my dad would do. Only he probably wouldn’t be as slick about it. Back in our old lives, I vaguely remember this pamphlet he’d written about–well, it was about this woman. I forget her name. But it was right around the time I started, you know, developing, I guess. And my mom was kind of forced to talk about 'the birds and the bees’ with me, so to speak.”

Theo nodded in the dark, staring up at the ceiling, her chatty friend beside her. She remembered the Reynolds couple vividly, and their frustrated daughter Susan who’d befriended her briefly.

“Everything’s always been really…open in my family,” Angelica continued. “It’s embarrassing sometimes, but…necessary, I guess.”

As tiredness clouded her brain, thicker and thicker with each passing minute, Theo listened to the other girl speak softly about her family into the dark night air, her chirping voice lulling the dark-featured girl to sleep.

Chapter Text

 

It was early the next morning when Betsey felt the first signs of morning sickness course over her body. She woke up to complete darkness, her head swimming. In the pitch black, she searched blindly for her cell phone, using it to dimly light the path in front of her as she made her way to the bathroom. A small sigh came from the large, walk-in closet to her left--she quickly peaked her head in to see Baby Phil sound asleep. Carefully she manuevered towards the bathroom, quietly shut the door, and flicked on the light.

The fluroescent brightness caused her to heave immediately, and the petit brunette steadied herself on the sink counter.

"It wasn't this bad last time," she muttered to herself. Another wave of nausea urged her to head closer to the toilet bowl. She felt a cough rise in her throat, and though she tried to stifle it, she couldn't. In several seconds, she felt the retching rise up in her stomach.

Betsey leaned back on her heels, wiping her mouth with several pieces of toilet paper. She steadied herself as she heard Baby Phil's small cry in the next room, "Oh, of course," she whispered to herself, "It's 4 am, Baby."

Several seconds later found the petite brunette with the youngest Hamilton child in her arms. Bright blue eyes opened and stared back up at her, curious.

"You wanted to see what mommy was doing, didn't you?" She cooed, smiling. "I supposed we're awake now, aren't we. I can't get back to sleep, not after the morning I've had."

Baby Phil opened his mouth and smiled, revealing several tiny teeth.

Betsey gently bounced the eighteen-month old in her arms, singing a made up melody softly. She hoped to have some time to herself in the early morning hours.

"But you can keep me company, Baby." She kissed the child's head, and he giggled. Walking over to the dresser, she absentmindedly clicked the television on, and after hitting the light switch near the door, fully illuminated the room.

"Do you hope it's warmer today, Baby?" Another gummy grin, and Betsey laughed sofly. "Yes, that would be nice. Are you hungry? Don't answer that, I think I already know."

Careful to be quiet, she headed downstairs to the kitchen and heated up a small bottle of milk. Baby Phil made several gurgling sounds, and Betsey laughed again.

"Manners!" She whispered playfully, kissing his head. "Say excuse me."

Once back in the bedroom, she nestled against the headboard, trying to get comfortable with the baby against her chest. Reaching around she found the remote and clicked through the channels until she came across the local news and weather. Her heart sank a little at the sight of more freezing temperatures.

"Spring will come eventually, Baby. We won't get our wish this week."

Baby Phil cooed a response, and Betsey closed her eyes for a moment, leaning her head back.

She let the events of the past month ruminate in her mind: the divorce, the affair, the pregnancy. How on earth was it possible for it all to happen at once? She took stock:
John had been careful to give her space. Another sinking feeling in her gut nagged at her: You need to tell him.

Alexander was taking things rather well, given the circumstances. As if on cue, Baby Phil reached up and gently grabbed a loose brown curl, as if comforting his mother.

The words of Dr Rush ran around her head again, the look of shock on his face when she'd told him the baby wasn't Alexander's. She couldn't place the emotion--it wasn't embarrassment. It was...indignation? Betsey furrowed her brows while the TV flickered softly in front of her.

It was a unique feeling. He'd looked at her as if she were the one losing control of her life, as if she were the one abandoning her family. As if it weren't at all humanly possible she could be intimate with anyone besides Alexander.

Baby Phil cooed again and caressed her face. Betsey looked down and adjusted the bottle to move the air bubbles around.

She liked being a mother. She loved her children. She, at one point, loved her husband deeply. By why, in this era of second chances, should she not be allowed to live dual roles?

The thought flittered around the petite brunette's mind curiously, and she toyed with it. Why not? Why not be both mother and lover? Why not an heiress and philanthropist businesswoman? Suddenly, Morris' face flashed in her mind, his deep, worried wrinkles and his inference that the courts wouldn't take kindly to an undefined woman. The indignation burned again.

The television interrupted her thoughts again, and she looked up to the screen. Like being hit with ice water, the indignation in her chest turned to nerves in her stomach as Burr's haughty face looked back at her. She grabbed the remote again, and turned the volume up slightly to hear what was being said.

"A commercial. Well." She unknowingly echoed her husband's words. "Classy."

Betsey heard the bitterness in her voice, but for the first time didn't care.

She watched the black-eyed man speak about his law firm, advertising a quick, just case and monetary gain. She grinned mirthlessly and shook her head, still staring. The commercial was over in less than thirty seconds; the black screen and Baby Phil's slurp as he finished the bottle caused Betsey to break her stare.

The effect was almost instantaneous. This was the world her husband had chosen: tight-lipped businessmen and dishonest lawyers. Court cases and political treatises. And though he tried, Alexander was never malleable enough to satisfactorily inhabit both worlds. She chewed her lip at the thought, and re-adjusted the child in her arms who was quickly falling back asleep.


----------


Theo woke up first, and started at the ceiling. As soon as she opened her eyes, and gathered her wits about where she was, the sinking feeling hit her. She nervously checked her phone, to see if her father had found out about her lie.

"Oh, god," she whispered, seeing seven unread messages. Next to her, Angelica stirred and mumbled something in her sleep. Theo smiled to herself, trying to stifle a laugh.

It was always awkward, waking up in a place she didn't belong. In her past life she'd been left alone many, many times, but it was always in her own house. She glanced at the cell phone clock again, checking the time. It was nearly eight am. At Richmond Hill, she would have been awake for several hours already, starting her studies and straightening her room. Maybe she would make her father breakfast, and read him the papers. The black-haired girl sat on the edge of the bed and looked around at her friend's room.

About half the furniture was gone; a small dresser and an empty desk lined the wall across from her. A half-way ajar closet, with only a handful of clothes, was to her left. Outside, the sun struggled to peer out from behind some clouds. She stood up, yawned, stretched, and looked outside in dismay at the frosted dew.

"I didn't know you'd gotten up."

Theo turned to see the other girl stirring, and waking up.

"Oh, I didn't mean to wake you," the Burr daughter walked back over to the bed and sat down next to her friend, "I hate laying in bed after I wake up, it makes me feel ansty."

Angelica covered her face, "I could lay here all day, frankly."

"Your bed is so comfortable," Theo smiled and pressed down on the mattress.

"I had some insomnia as a kid so my Grandad bought one of these--what do you call them? Tempurpedic mattresses. It was too big to bring with me to my dad's place. It'd take up half my bedroom." Angelica yawned, and stared up at the other girl.

"Have you been downstairs yet?"

Theo shook her head, no.

"Well, we can't stay up here all day."

"My dad messaged me seven times. I think he may have tried to call. I'm too nervous to check," The black-haired girl admitted. Angelica covered her eyes and laughed.

"Look, he knows you and I are friends, he knows you like to be independent," she swung her legs off the side of the bed and stood up, "If he can't put two and two together, than, well, he's a dummy."

Theo looked at her friend; Angelica grabbed the former girl's phone.

"Yeah, he texted you."

Her heart sank, "What? What did he say?"

"Just like, 'where are you?' Stuff like that."

Theo grabbed her phone and scanned the messages, her pulse racing.

"Better to ask forgiveness than permission," Angelica repeated her mantra, gently grabbed the phone from her friend, who stared at her wide-eyed.

"Let's go downstairs and I'll make you some pancakes."

"Angelica, he's going to ground me for the next year."

Angelica shook her head, opened her bedroom door and headed toward the stairs, Theo close behind. She spoke up, some mirth in her voice.

"If he tries, we'll run away together."


----------


"Theo?" Betsey stared incredulously, and stopped in shock as she entered the kitched, Baby Phil in tow. Angelica started at the sound of her mother's voice, swore under her breath, and dropped the measuring cup filled with powdered pancake mix.

The dark-haired girl turned suddenly and faced Betsey, and smiled nervously, "Hello, Mrs Hamilton. I mean...oh--" She covered her mouth, embarrassed, "Ms. Scuyler."

The petit brunette let a small smile play across her tired features, and she put the baby in a nearby high-chair, "Theo...what a pleasant surprise. Angelica didn't tell me you would be visiting."

The look of confusion on her mother's face made Angelica interject, "Yeah. She stayed the night. It's cool."

"Oh is it?" Betsey put her hands on her hips, feeling as though she were missing a piece of the story. She began to frown slightly, "Angelica, what time did you girls get in last night?"

The Hamilton daughter dragged a cloth across the counter, cleaning up the powder, avoiding her mother's gaze.

"Uh, like...eight," she lied. Theo bit her lip and stared at the floor.

"Really? Because Your brothers and I were watching a movie downstairs at eight pm, and we didn't see you get in."

Angelica blushed, "Well, maybe like nine-ish."

"Angelica."

"I'm sorry, Ms Schuyler," Theo stepped in, and lowered her eyes, "We took the train from the city last night and got in pretty late. Almost eleven. It was my idea."

The petite brunette stared at her curiously for a moment, then back at her daughter.

"You girls know better than to do such a thing," Betsey spoke up warningly. Angelica opened her mouth to speak, but her mother stopped her, "Theo, I can't believe your father would knowingly let you do this."

The Burr daughter felt herself shrink, "He...he doesn't know."

"I wanted to see Phil, you can't just keep us apart," Angelica reasoned.

Betsey stared her daughter down, "That is not what this is about, and do not use that tone with me. If you wanted to see your brother, you should have waited to travel during the day. Do you know how dangerous that was? Does your father know where you are, Angelica? Or did you both sneak off in the middle of the night like criminals?"

Angelica dropped a dish in the sink loudly, "We're not criminals, mom. I'm old enough to travel."

Theo watched as Betsey Schuyler rubbed her eyes, exhausted, "So your fathers are sick with worry right now, am I understanding you correctly?"

Neither girl answered her. Angelica toyed with a fork on the counter, and Theo gazed at the floor.

"Well? I am waiting for an answers, young ladies."

"They are probably sick with worry," Theo muttered, suddenly feeling heavy.

Angelica glanced at her, betrayed. A telephone ring from an adjacent room cut the tension.

"That will be your father, no doubt," Betsey glared at her daughter pointedly, and made her way to the phone.

Chapter Text

 

I just don’t understand how she could have…when would she have the opportunity to–”

“–They’re not children anymore, Colonel,” Hamilton stole a side-long glance at the driver, who was pale with worry. He gripped the wheel tightly and his knuckles turned white. After a moment, the general reached for a pair of sunglasses and placed them on his face.

“These are nice,” he muttered to himself, reaching up for the shade, and flipping open the mirror.

“You’re awfully glib,” Burr shot back, his nerves on edge. “Who knows what kind of terrible, awful things could have happened to them, taking the train in the middle of the night through god knows where–”

The general slammed the shade up, “They are with Betsey. They are fine. There is nothing we can do now so stop ruminating.”

Aaron slammed a palm against the steering wheel, “I taught Theo better than that. She has flagrantly disobeyed me.”

“Says the man making cheap commercials and embarrassing the firm,” Hamilton responded under his breath. The driver shot him a scathing glance, and skirted a merging truck.

“Would you slow down, for Christ’s sake?”

“I am going to ground her until kingdom come,” Burr grumbled. Next to him, the general gave him his full attention.

“Do you really think that is going to help? I mean, do you really think it will prevent her from ever acting out again?”

When Aaron was silent, the general continued.

“The tighter the rein, the more she’ll want to stretch it, Colonel,” he added, furrowing his brows. “I seem to recall Aaron Burr of a similar age doing things much, much worse.”

The colonel weaved through two more cars quickly, and then, “That was different.”

“Was it?”

“I am not having this discussion with you right now. You may allow your brood to run rampant but my daughter has a reputation–”

“–Your ancestry is showing, Reverend.”

“Would you like to walk the rest of the way, Hamilton?”

“I think it is magnificent, this railway system. Positively genius.” The general adjusted the sunglasses again, and stared out his window. He had not slept well for the last few weeks, and was in no mood to argue. “I am rather proud of my children figuring it out on their own. And I trust my daughter to be wise and make smart decisions.”

The colonel took a sharp turn off the highway, “It is not about ‘trusting’ them. It is about distrusting everyone else.”

“Fair point. And I plan on giving Angelica a stern talking to about it.”

Aaron was quiet for several more minutes, and his companion brewed in his own silent thoughts. A small part of him worried incessantly about his two eldest children–a slightly larger part wanted them to live as much as they could before it was, possibly, too late.

Ten silent minutes dragged by, the hum of the engine the only sound between them. Alexander tried to guess what was going on inside the other man’s mind, but couldn’t.

“If you’re nervous about Betsey, stay in the car,” he attempted. Black eyes flicked momentarily in his direction, and the general knew he was on the right track.

“I’m not nervous.”

Hamilton glanced at the clock, “You have approximately one half hour until we get there, and to admit you’re scared of her.”

“I am thinking about what I am going to say to Theo, General. I would rather just be quiet now, thank you,” Aaron shot him another glance, and was dismayed to find a tiny smile playing on the Nevisian’s mouth.

Aaron rolled his eyes, “General Hamilton, please do not misinterpret my silence as–”

“–You are scared of her,” Alexander repeated again, “I knew it.”

The colonel exhaled loudly, and thought for a moment.

“I am not scared of her. We are merely…well, we are in an awkward position.”

A quick jolt of embarrassment hit the Nevisian..

“I will not say anything about the video,” Aaron spoke up, as if reading his mind, “But there are other things…Betsey and I…do not see eye to eye.”

Hamilton let out a short sigh. He added wryly, “Same taste in men, though.”

The shadow of a smile still played on the general’s lips, but Aaron kept his eyes locked on the road.

“I have humiliated her, General. And now I look like a bad parent, letting my daughter run around at all hours,” Aaron spoke more to himself than his companion.  

The general sat quietly for the rest of the trip, thinking about what he was going to say to his ex-wife. The mansion loomed in the distance, and Alexander felt his own nerves creep in. Unwelcome memories came flooding back, and he felt like an outsider once again.

“I think it would be best if you waited in the car,” Hamilton tried.

“Oh, so now you agree with me.” The colonel turned the keys in the ignition, and the engine sighed as it shut down. He turned to face Alexander, and, “If you think it would be less awkward, then I will stay here while you gather the girls.”

Hamilton sighed.

“I suppose you’re right. There is no use in opening old wounds.” He stared at nothing for a moment, then reached out to open the car door. As he stepped out into the brisk, bright air, Aaron studied the large mansion.

He felt as though he were hiding from them, the Schuyers, though a tiny, proud voice told him he needn’t be afraid. A larger voice remembered the reports of Betsey’s distraught state after their duel, and how she seethed with hatred at the man who stole her husband from her.

Muffled greetings from several yards away brought Aaron out of his uncomfortable reverie, and he watched as Hamilton stepped inside his old home.

Once inside, Alexander girded himself for the inevitable questioning as the petite, somewhat tired-looking brunette stared him down.

“Well, Alexander?” Betsey leaned against the railing of the staircase, one hand on her hip, “Would you like to offer an explanation?”

Alexander looked at her helplessly, “Betsey, I am sorry. I had no idea they were going to do this. I was staying late at the office, and when I got home, Angelica was gone. I had no time to stop her.”

“And what was she doing all day?”

“She was supposed to be at the library with Theo,” the general ran a hand sheepishly through his hair, “Again, Betsey, I am sorry. I will keep a better handle on her in the future.”

The Schuyler woman stared at him for a moment, her gaze inscrutable. She dropped her voice when she spoke again.

“I should have never let her stay with you, Alexander,” she pointed at him, “You told me it was beneficial for her, in the city, to have a busy life. Things to keep her occupied. I never would have agreed if I had known you were too busy to keep up with her.”

“That is not fair, Betsey, I am not a neglectful father.”

She stepped closer, “Please lower your voice, they are right upstairs. And I am not saying you are neglectful, I am saying you are easily distracted, just as she is. You have too many projects.”

Alexander stared at the floor, and bit his lip. After a beat, he spoke up, “Things at the firm are stressful.”

“You made the decision to work with those men,” Betsey could not bring herself to say his name, “you must also balance this with your job as a father.”

The general felt himself shrink under his ex-wife’s reproachful gaze, and grew irritated.

“Do not speak to me like I am a bad father, Betsey,” he crossed his arms defensively, “I am not the one who made a pornographic video with your best friend.”

The brunette covered her eyes, sighing, “That has nothing to do with this conversation. And that does not make me a bad mother.”

“I am saying we have both made some bad decisions,” Alexander stepped closer, and dropped his voice to a whisper, “I did not purposefully lose Angelica just to hurt you.”

“I don’t like your implication, Alexander,” Betsey shot back, warningly. “And this is not the proper place to discuss this issue, either. You do not know the whole story.”

“I don’t want to, frankly,” the general responded, somewhat petulantly.

Betsey regarded him for a second, toying with the secret she’d kept for nearly three months, and realized quickly that he’d find out sooner or later. She absentmindedly pulled her over-sized sweater tighter around her swelling midsection.

“Then you shouldn’t have brought it up,” the brunette replied simply. She turned on her heel and made her way to the top of the stairs.

“Angelica, your father is here. Please come out so we can talk to you. Theo, you too,” she added.

The two girls emerged from the bedroom, slowly. Angelica craned her neck over the banister to see the expression on her father’s face.

“Hi dad,” she waved, trying to make light of the situation. Alexander looked at her sternly, silently mulling over Betsey’s words.

“Where is my dad?” Theo’s quiet voice drifted out from behind her friend, nervously.

“He is waiting in the car,” Alexander responded. “Come, girls. I’m taking you home.”

The general shot one last frustrated glance at his ex-wife, who stood silently on the staircase. He searched her face for any sort of giveaway to her thoughts, and could find none. Betsey shifted her weight uncomfortably as she watched the man

Chapter Text

 

The small secret Angelica kept to herself of the upcoming roadtrip gave her some comfort while she danced around her father’s florid temper for the next couple weeks. She hung up a calendar on her bedroom wall and marked down the days until March, and waited for Phil’s inevitable assent. She checked the weather, made sure there would be no snow, and quietly organized a small duffle bag with a few days’ worth of clothes.

She sat with her back against the wall on her bed one evening, idly doodling shapeless flowers, thinking to herself about the past few months and what had occurred, and tried to liken it to her past life. The teenage girl struggled to make sense of her mother’s emotions and why she seemed so cold and distant, lately, but couldn’t. It weighed on her mind--the idea that something had changed, but she couldn’t place what; a delicate tulip turned into an angry snake’s eye in a few quick lines.

Adults, couples, were divorced all the time. The teenager cocked her head to the side and stared at her abstract drawing: flowers and eyes intermingled confusedly and she remembered being twelve and trying to read a book about symbolism in doodles. It didn’t tell her anything she didn’t already know and she promptly forgot about it.

Down the hall she could hear her father talk at the television, his voice muffled. Though her memory failed her constantly he seemed different than the man she knew in her old life: her old father was fearless, proud, playful and gregarious. She turned the page to a blank sheet and set to work sketching a large cross.

This man was worried, haggard and lost. Angelica’s stomach sank. No one seemed to notice, or care.

She reached out to her left and clicked the nightstand lamp on, illuminating her small room and the paper in front of her. She breathed in deeply, studied her drawing for a moment.

She didn’t like to dwell on the negative, but the nagging feeling in her gut told the teenager that she didn’t know the whole story--and it had been this way for as long as she could remember. Now, and then. The winter night outside was dead silent; a cloud slowly rolled across the moon, and the teenage girl wracked her brain for an answer to the madness.

There was one single memory she had from her old life that she remembered vividly. It was a bright spring day, mid-May, and she was riding horseback with Theo. They were alone, and Theo had brought a small picnic basket for them to share. There was a slight breeze; the air was warm and dry and comfortable, and Angelica remembered them both wearing blue. It was unplanned; the teenager smiled to herself.

She added some details to the cross in front of her, furrowed her eyebrows and chewed her lip. That was it; that was the brightest memory she had from the previous life, and she’d grown weary of depending on everyone else to fill in the gaps.

Phil wouldn’t talk about their old lives, and grew uncharacteristically sullen when confronted with it. The teenage girl knew about her father’s death mimicking her brother’s, and knew why her mother refused to speak Burr’s name, but the knowledge stopped there. She tried to reason with herself that they’d done the right thing, and her mother was justified in keeping the details away from her daughter’s ears, but the tiny nagging voice kept her awake at night.

“Angelica?” A firm tap on her bedroom door caused the girl to jump. A thick black line from her jolted hand ruined the cross, and she swore under her breath.

“Yeah, dad?” She answered, placing her sketchbook to the side, annoyed.

“Are you going to come out for dinner?”

“Not if it’s frozen pizza again.”

Outside the bedroom door, Hamilton closed his eyes in frustration. “You’ll eat whatever I make or you’ll go hungry. Open the door.”

His daughter sat stubbornly on her bed, and responded, “Can you just give me like, five dollars and I’ll run to the 7/11?”

“You can’t live off of hot dogs and slushees, Angelica,” her father placed his hand on the brass knob in front of him, “I’m opening this door in ten seconds.”

Before he could act on his promise, Angelica opened the door for him, “You can’t live off of frozen pizza either, and yet here we are.”

She walked past him and into the kitchen, the scent of warm tomato sauce making her stomach grumble. She reluctantly grabbed a few plates from the pantry, and set the table. Her father walked in behind her.

“Is that why you snuck off to your mother’s? For a decent meal? In that case I can forgive you,” Alexander remarked dryly, taking a baking pan out of the oven. He waved a glove hand over it, the smoke stinging his eyes, “Calzone. Not a pizza.”

“For Christ’s sake…” Angelica muttered quietly, sitting down.

“It’s not frozen, either. I made this one myself,” her father sat down across from her at the small table, “Well. Not the dough. But I did follow a recipe.”

“Hooray,” the teenager cut herself a piece.

“Well there’s no reason to be grumpy about it,” Alexander replied to her sarcasm, sticking his own fork into a piece of dough on his plate. He inspected it, concerned, “Although...this looks like it might need to go back in the oven for a bit longer.”

Angelica spat something onto her plate, “I’m pretty sure I just bit into an uncooked tomato.”

Her father sighed, and leaned back in his chair, somewhat defeated. He pushed his plate away and looked at his daughter, “Sorry, Angelica. I tried.”

“It’s fine. I’m not really that hungry anyway.” She was telling the truth; her mind had been pre-occupied all day. She watched as her father stood up and patted his pockets to feel for his wallet.

“Want to walk over to the 7/11?” Hamilton grinned at her sheepishly. “Just don’t tell your mother, I’m begging.”

-----

Theo sat sullenly on the couch, staring at a spot on the floor, while she chafed silently under father’s stern gaze. She briefly reminisced about the car ride back from Albany-- the General’s light-hearted banter, his daughter’s humorous sarcasm, cutting through the tension like a hot metal blade. Her father’s pursed lips and deathly silence.

“I want an explanation, now.” Aaron’s voice rang out through the quiet apartment and he stared at his daughter.

“I told you, I’m sorry.”

“That is not an explanation, Theodosia.”

At the sound of her full name, the girl looked at the other man, noticing with a sinking feeling in her stomach his silently furious countenance. She placed her clammy hands into her lap, and tried to warm them.

“Angelica wanted to visit Phil, I didn’t think it would be that big a deal,” she responded quietly.

“I have explicitly warned you about the dangers of travelling alone, especially on such a long distance, and you have completely ignored my warnings. There are no excuses, here.” Aaron glared at her pointedly.

Theo wracked her brain for an excuse, felt herself shrink embarrassedly beneath her father’s temper. A sudden wave of annoyance passed over her.

“Just a few months ago you let me go look at colleges without you. I mean, I was with some classmates, but I was essentially by myself. I took taxis by myself.” Theo felt the indignation burn in her stomach an ignored her father’s darkening expression.

“Do not argue with me.” His answer was definitive.

The girl blinked once, steadied her shaking hands, “But...it doesn’t add up.”

“Excuse me?”

Theo felt her mouth go dry, but continued, “You let me take taxis here and there, you let me walk to school alone...I don’t understand why this is any different. Plus, I wasn’t even technically alone. Angelica was with me, and--”

“--Enough!”

Aaron’s voice rang out loudly in the empty apartment, and his daughter jumped slightly at the sudden burst of anger. She stared at him, wide-eyed, silently chastising herself for pushing the limits of her father’s temper. Several seconds of uncomfortable silence passed between them while the colonel regarded his daughter.

“This trip was not sanctioned by me, and no indication was given as to your whereabouts for an entire day. A mature person would not act this way.” Aaron raised a finger and pointed at her. Theo looked away again.

“You are grounded until further notice,” the colonel continued. “You will come home directly from school, and I am limiting your cell phone use.”

“That’s a bit counter-intuitive. Wanting me to let you know my whereabouts at all moments of the day but taking my cell phone from me,” Theo remarked before she could stop herself. She felt the cold glare of her furious father.

“Would you like to say that a little louder, Theodosia?”

The girl nervously chewed a hangnail, and stared at the floor. She could not, however, silence her thoughts, which screamed at the unfairness. Theo was quick enough to reason internally that it wasn’t the fact that she traveled alone-- it was to where. And to who.

“Do you have anything further to say? Or have I made myself perfectly plain?” Aaron’s uncharacteristically harsh voice shook her from her thoughts. Theo raised her gaze to him once again, and shook her head no.

“Then go to your room and stay there for the rest of the night. I am done talking to you.”

The teenage girl bit her tongue, frustrated and enraged at the blatant double-standard, and silently made her way down the hall. She felt the walls close in around her like a prison, and entered her bedroom like a cell.

Chapter Text

 

As soon as she saw her sister descend the escalator, Betsey felt her heart leap. Angelica Church looked lazily around the airport, slowly coming down, casually leaning against a designer suitcase. Her sunglasses perched atop her head kept a mass of thick brown hair from her face, while her quick eyes darted this way and that. A broad smile spread across her face as she saw Betsey walking towards her.

“Angie,” the petite brunette smiled, and reached out for a hug as her sister made her way over. She breathed her in, remembered her perfume, and laughed.

“You always smell so good,” Betsey began, feeling a nostalgic emotion well up in her throat at the site of her expat sister.

“That’s your greeting? I haven’t seen you face to face in a year and a half, and that’s all you can say? ‘You smell good’?” Angie wrinkled her nose and laughed, deep from within her chest. “Oh, I’ve missed you, B.”

The elder Schuyler sister stood back and looked at the shorter brunette. Her smile faded slightly as she eyed Betsey.

“You look different, though. Not bad. Just...different.” Angie straightened the sunglasses on her head. In a flash she smiled again and grabbed her sister’s hand, “I’m sure it’s just jet lag, or whatever. Don’t listen to me.”

Betsey felt her hands grow clammy, and ignore it. “Of course. How was your flight?”

Angie rolled her eyes, and adjusted her suitcase so that it stood  behind her, “Awful, as always. Kid behind me was practicing karate on the back of my chair. Do you mind if we get going? I’m exhausted.”

“Oh, of course!” Betsey shook her head and smiled again, and led her sister through the airport and into a waiting taxi.

After some struggle with the suitcase, and two “don’t scratch it”s from Angie, the sisters crammed themselves into the back of the car.

Betsey muttered the address to the driver, and then settled back into the seat. A few seconds passed between them, and the petite brunette knew it wouldn’t last. She braced herself for the conversation.

“So, dad’s house, huh?” Angie began, pulling a pocket mirror out of her purse and fixing her eyeliner.

Betsey sighed, closed her eyes, “I didn’t really tell you everything on the phone.”

The mirror clicked shut, “Yeah, no kidding. How far along are you?”

The shorter sister shot Angie a look, mouth slightly agape, “How did you--can you tell?” She pulled a different oversized sweater tighter around her stomach, and looked down at it.”

Her sister gazed at the pregnant woman intently, “What is going on, B? You know I wouldn’t come flying over if I didn’t think something was wrong, or that you didn’t need help.”

The taxi hit a pothole, and the driver muttered “Sorry”, while the sisters locked their stare.

Betsey studied her sister’s pretty, symmetrical face for a moment, then sighed and looked away.

“A lot has changed, Angie. I didn’t tell you everything on the phone because I wanted to tell you face to face. And frankly, I could use the company.”

---------

The elder Schuyler sister removed the sunglasses from her head, and looked around the old mansion. Nothing had changed since she left for England with her husband nearly ten years previous--at least, not with the mansion itself. Every knick-knack, every portrait, was just as she remembered it always being. The inhabitants, however.

“Hello--?” Angie called out, looking up he stairs. She craned her neck this way and that, her voice echoing in the empty house. “Where are my nieces and nephews?”

“Out with their grandfather,” Betsey maneuvered the suitcase from her sister’s grasp and leaned it against the wall. “I needed a day to myself. Come into the kitchen, I’ll make us some coffee.”

“B, what the hell is up? I didn’t want to say anything more in the cab, but you don’t look well. I mean, besides the fact that you’re pregnant as hell,” Angie was close behind her sister as they made their way down the foyer and into the kitchen. She kept pace, “I mean, it’s your life, do what you want, but I didn’t think you and Alex wanted any more kids after the eight.”

At the sound of her ex husband's name, Betsey bit her lip. She turned away from her sister and opened a cabinet for a can of coffee, and set to work.

Angelica seated herself at the head of the table, “Alright, now you’re scaring me. I don’t care if you’re pregnant, Betsey. I mean, I despised it, and just because I chose not to have--”

“--Angie, just let me explain it.” Betsey turned back from the coffee pot as it began to percolate. She leaned against the counter, and took a deep breath, “You have to swear on your life you won’t say anything to anyone.”

Angie rested her chin in her hands, “Hoo boy, B. What did you do now?”

“It’s not Alexander’s.”

The elder Schuyler sister’s mouth fell open in genuine shock, and several seconds of silence engulfed them while the drips of the coffee filled the air. Betsey kept her gaze on her sister, and covered her mouth, waiting.

“You..oh my god,” Angie finally managed, breaking the stare, “It’s not his?”

The petite brunette made her way slowly to the table, and pulled out a chair. “I just need to get all of this off my chest with minimal judgement, Angie.”

Betsey felt the bright gaze hit her again, while she could do nothing but stare at the woodgrain on the table.

“I mean--well, ok--” Angie faltered, “Ok--I’m assuming this means Alexander doesn’t know?”

The younger sister chewed her lip and covered her face, determined not to let her emotions get the best of her, “I messed up, Angie.”

Angie dropped her voice, even though the house was empty, “I mean, there are ways around this, B. It’s not...well, it’s not the most ethical thing, but I’ve known women who’ve been in the same situation, and they just...let their husbands believe--”

Betsey looked up, and drew a shuddering breath, “Alexander and I haven’t been together in nearly two years. We are officially separated.”

“Oh my God, Betsey,” Angie breathed, and took her sister’s hands in her own, “Why didn’t you tell me sooner? I would have been over here in a heartbeat.”

“I thought I could just...handle it all on my own. You and dad are the only other people who who know,” suddenly, Betsey felt a bitter pang in her chest, “Well, you and Alexander, and Colonel Aaron Burr.”

Angelica withdrew her grasp in shock, “ Him ? Oh, Betsey, how could he? Again ?”

The younger sister placed her hands in her lap, “I should have known. I was so naive.”

Angelica Church watched her sister’s countenance darken, and poured through her own internal monologue. If Betsey knew about her indiscretions with Alexander, she kept it to herself. It was a curious moment. As if reading the elder sister’s mind, Betsey spoke up.

“Angie,” she swallowed, closing her eyes, “I know about you and Alexander. About when we all took the trip to Washington, DC, six years ago.”

“Betsey--”

“--No, listen,” she held up a hand and steeled herself, “I have been preparing myself for this moment. I thought I could ignore his unfaithfulness but I can’t. I spent many years angry at you. He poisoned our relationship. I won’t let him ruin my life anymore.”

Angie covered her eyes, “It was so, so stupid. I was completely out of line and I feel sick because of it. I’m so sorry, B, so regretful--”

“I know. But you deserve more than anyone to know that he is out of my life.”

A minute of silence passed between the two sisters while the coffee pot dripped to completion. In an act of familiarity, Angie reached out and moved a dark brown curl from her sister’s eye. In another instant, a wave of emotion overcame Betsey and she felt tears flood her eyes.

“I’ve been such an idiot,” she muttered, staring into her lap, “Letting him back into my life. But I had to, and I had to give my children that chance. No one understands. They look at me like I’m a dupe.”

Angie rose out of her chair, and kneeled beside her sister, wrapping her arms around the sobbing body.

“Betsey, you’re not an idiot,” she breathed. “You’re not. And fuck anyone who thinks that.”

“I don’t know what I’m going to do with this baby. I’m due in August.”

The elder sister leaned back on her heel and studied the petite brunette, “I don’t want to sound crass, but where is the father?”

A pair of wet black eyes met Angie’s green ones, “Angie, I’ve messed up so bad.”

“Come on, B, I promise it won’t be that bad. I will help you raise the baby, if I have to. John won’t care. I will stay with you for the next eighteen years if I have to. We don’t need the father, if he doesn’t want to have anything to do with it. Screw him.”

“No, it’s not that,” Betsey reached for a napkin and dabbed her nose, “It’s a complicated situation. He doesn’t know about the baby. I’m terrified to tell him.”

Angie stood up, and, keeping her hand on her sister’s shoulder, sat back in her seat, “He--he doesn’t know?”

Betsey shook her head.

“Tell me everything, B.”

The younger sister inhaled another shuddering gasp, closed her eyes for a moment, and then launched into the tale she’d kept to herself for the better part of the past six months.

----------

“My mom wants me to visit this weekend while my aunt’s in town,” Angelica began, hiding her excitement, while she and Theo walked around the park. The latter girl kicked a stone from her path, and scratched her head.

“Did you know she was coming in? I feel like that’s something your mom would plan months in advance.”

“Nope, she just dropped in apparently. At least that’s what Junior is making it sound like. But he’s an idiot and doesn’t pay attention to anything. Mom probably told him weeks ago and he just forgot.”

Theo thought for a moment as the girls continued their slow stroll. A biker flew past them and kicked up several dead leaves in his wake. The dark-eyed girl stared into the distance through the bare trees.

“Well, it makes sense why your mom would want her sister with her. I’m surprised it’s taken her this long to invite her over.”

“I guess,” Angelica countered, “I mean, I love my aunt. But she’s kind of pushy.”

“Oh?”

“She’s going to to try and talk my mom into making me move back to Albany, I bet.”

Theo felt her stomach drop, “Your mom wouldn’t listen, would she?”

“Does it matter? The way your dad’s got you locked up I don’t see you anyway. I might as well be there.”

Angelica stared at the ground under her feet and braced herself against another blast of winter wind. She dug her hands deeper into her pockets as the two teenage girls walked on.

“That’s not really fair, Angelica. I can’t change his mind.”

“You managed to sneak out today to see me, “ The Hamilton daughter reasoned.

“I didn’t sneak. I explicitly told him I was going to the park for exercise.”

Above them, several geese honked into the silent air while their v-formation cruised through the sky. Angelica looked up and studied them for a moment before speaking.

“Did you give anymore thought to the road trip?”

Theo laughed in spite of herself, “Yeah, right, Angelica. Are you serious?”

“I’m completely serious.”

The Burr daughter shook her head and smiled bitterly, “My dad would ship me to some obscure European boarding school run by nuns in eastern Poland where I’d never see you again.”

Angelica crunched a leaf loudly beneath her boot, “You’re so frustrating.”

“I’m frustrating? How am I frustrating?” The dark-eyed girl looked over at her friend in shock. She studied the freckles as they stood out angrily against her reddened cheeks.

“Because you’re just going to do everything he says. You’re not even going to try.”

It was Theo’s turn to dig her hands into her pockets stubbornly, “There’s more to it than that, Angelica. The president’s day long weekend it in four days. That’s not enough time to even plan a decent road trip that I do have permission to go on. Let alone one where I’m sneaking off.”

“Spring break, then. Mid-March.”

“Angelica, listen to me,” the dark-eyed girl stopped walking and grabbed her friend’s shoulder. A bright, angry gaze met hers.

“I can’t do that to my father. I just can’t.”

The other girl stared at Theo for moment.

“He doesn’t own you anymore, Theo.” Angelica felt her face grow hot, and the indignation that was never far from the surface rose inside of her, “Fuck him, and fuck all of them for destroying our lives. I’m not going to let it happen again. I want to live a little bit, and I know you do to.”

Theo stared at the ground, while her friend pushed on, “What is the absolute worse that could happen? I’ll wait.”

Finally, the Burr daughter raised her own gaze, “The worst that could happen is that I betray his trust and lie to him, and damage our relationship.”

Angelica exhaled impatiently and stared at a tree in the distance.

“He’s all I’ve got. And I’m all he has, frankly,” the dark-eyed girl reasoned further.

“You can’t let yourself he solely responsible for him, Theo,” Angelica responded. “And you have me.”

Chapter Text

 

“He’s still trying to sell you that, then?” Monroe asked over a glass of wine, eyeing his old friend. He grinned to himself, then took a sip, “Personally I’d like to see where this goes.”

Thomas sat sullenly quiet, dragging a fork through a pile of green beans on his plate. He shifted in his seat uncomfortably. Next to him, Madison let out a small sigh of impatience.

“He’s still selling it because he’s a desperate man, James,” the little Virginian reasoned. “Callender was desperate and untrustworthy back then, and he’s desperate and untrustworthy now.”

James shrugged, “Still, he’s awfully persistent, visiting Thomas like that. I’m just suggesting that we hear what he has to say, that’s all.”

“You’re letting your bitterness get the best of you. You never used to be like this,” Jemmy reasoned, shaking his head sadly.

“Times have changed I suppose.”

“He seemed more interested in petty embarrassments than actual restitution,” Thomas spoke suddenly, placing his fork onto his plate with a quiet clank. “I haven’t the stomach for it anymore.”

The three old friends sat in contemplative silence for a moment, each mulling over what his next step would be. Jefferson stared at a spot on his dining room floor, chastising himself internally for not cleaning up better before his company arrived. His thoughts were interrupted by Monroe’s stern rebuttal.

“I have been doing a lot of thinking about this situation-- why we’re back, what does it all mean, that sort of thing, and the one thing I know for certain is that everything happens for a reason. This is divine intervention, gentlemen. Events are setting themselves up for something big.”

“I don’t frankly believe in that sort of thing,” Madison responded, swallowing a mouthful of potatoes. “And neither does Dolley. She’ll have none of it. Says she wants to move to Costa Rica and forget this whole thing.”

“Were you not satisfied with the first turn of events?” Jefferson tried again, gazing in James’ direction yet not looking him in the eyes. “Weren’t you content with your two terms? Nearly unanimously elected, if my memory serves me.”

Monroe narrowed his pale eyes bitterly, “Nearly unanimous. That petulant Adams--”

“--That wasn’t his fault,” Madison reasoned, “And besides, Thomas has a point. All three of us here have held the highest office in this country.”

Jefferson studied a fleck of dust that landed on the table near him while Monroe scoffed.

“And so what? You think that saves us from whatever this life has to offer? Andrew Jackson has been incarcerated for the past five years.”

Jemmy raised a hand in protest, “That is an extreme example, and personally the man was a ticking time bomb.”

From the other room, female voices erupted in laughter, causing a stark contrast between the seriousness of the conversation at the dinner table and whatever was being discussed in the living room. Briefly, Thomas heard his own wife’s voice, and smiled to himself. In an instant Madison’s voice cut his reverie short.

“If this is about Elizabeth Hamilton, just come out with it, James.” The tiny Virginian’s practical reasoning caused Monroe to laugh mirthlessly and look away.

“I knew you’d bring that up,” he set his fork down, “the Hamiltons--both of them--went on a war-path to destroy my credibility at every chance. In polite company, in politics. Mrs. Hamilton is haughty and unforgiving just like her husband. She held grudges worse than any man I’ve ever known and If you don’t think she’s put it in her husband’s head to come search me out and ruin my reputation again, you’re living in a fantasy.”

“You realize who’s fault that is, then, don’t you? Callender. ” Madison crossed his arms, “If he hadn’t broken the Reynolds story you wouldn’t be in this situation. And now you want to trust him. I said it before and I’ll say it again--bad idea.”

“What, exactly, are you planning, Mr Monroe?” Thomas’ words came out almost inaudibly, and his two friends turned their gazes towards him as though they just realized he was sitting in the same room.

“I, well--I hadn’t really thought that far yet.” James leaned back in his chair. “Liz has talked about going to New York for vacation. Perhaps I could find time to meet with them.”

“And then?”

“And then I would explain myself, and I would insist that they do the same,” the other pale-eyed Virginian blinked once, then looked away.

James Madison studied them both for a moment as he silently chewed a mouthful of pork. He tried to remember his Virginian friends in their previous generation--soft-spoken and insidious. He relished in his unique position: a southerner who had been educated in New Jersey, worked closely with Hamilton, and yet ended his life as the second president in the Virginian Dynasty, and a tiny, righteous voice told him he had to try harder to put a stop to the fighting.

“Explain yourself,” Jefferson nodded to himself, the faintest sarcasm tinged his voice.

“And if they refuse to listen, I employ Callender to do what he does best.”

Thomas shook his head, “So you have made your decision, then.”

James shrugged, “I should like to see how events play out, and I will discuss it all with Liz, but, yes. I suppose I have.”

----------

“Aunt Angie?” Junior’s voice rang out down the long hallway as he walked down the foyer, closely followed by several of his brothers. William raced past him and flung himself into his aunt’s arms, shrieking.

“Hello, Junior--Hello William,” Angie laughed, picking up the younger Hamilton boy with a loud grunt, “My God, how you’ve grown!”

“I’m five,” William announced proudly, smiling and displaying two missing front teeth.

“How was your flight?” Junior asked cooly, flanked by his slightly younger brother James. “I heard it takes seven hours?”

“About that, yes,” Angie put William down, and kissed her nephews on the forehead, “You two are looking more and more grown up every day.”

Betsey smiled at the scene, her eyes still stinging from the emotional conversation they just had.

“Mom, are you sick?” Another younger Hamilton son appeared, John, at her side.

“Oh, no, John. Allergies I suppose.”

“Angelica’s not here,” William announced loudly, marching into the kitchen next to them and grabbing a bottle of juice out of the fridge. “My dad’s not here either.”

John shot his brother a reproachful look, “William!”

“I know, boys,” Angie replied.

The other sons stood expectantly, awkwardly, unsure of what to say. Junior frowned and broke from the crowd, seating himself in the living room. He pulled out a phone and began a game of solitaire. In another second, James was quick to follow.

“I’m sorry, B, I don’t know what to say,” Angie whispered to her sister, who’s face had fallen. She watched as William and John prattled happily about the day they’d had with their grandfather, following their older two brothers into the living room.

“Elizabeth? Angelica?” A louder, deeper male voice called to them from the foyer. The patriarch of the Schuyler family, Phillip, was the last down the hallway with his two youngest grandchildren in tow.

“Hello, father,” Angie smiled, and hugged the elder Schuyler.

“I take it your flight here was uneventful,” the elder man remarked, mimicking Betsey’s words of earlier.

“Oh, it was fine. Some turbulence, but other than that, nothing.”

Philip looked at his daughters with a more serious cast to his features, “You’re a good sister for staying with her, Angelica.”

The two women grew quiet’ Betsey felt herself grow hot with embarrassment, though she knew her father meant well. Angelica spoke up first.

“Betsey can handle things on her own, I am sure of it. I came to put my own mind at rest.”

Philip Schuyler nodded, seemingly content.

“Tomorrow she and I were thinking about spending the day out in the city, shopping, grabbing lunch. You know how much I love a good girl’s day out.” Angie tried again, lightening the conversation. The shadow that crossed her father’s eyes at the mention of Betsey’s situation lifted slightly.

“I am sure you two will have a lovely time,” the elder man smiled, “Now, if you don’t mind, I have some work to attend to. I will be in my office.”

Chapter Text

 

Morris stared dolefully at the papers before him, brows furrowed, while Troup hovered nervously.

“Well? Is it as bad as we thought?” The round-faced man chewed his lip, leaned against Morris’ desk on one hand, then stood straight again.

“For God’s sake, Troup, nothing’s ever as bad as it seems, now stop hovering so I can concentrate,” Morris grumbled, flipping to another sheet.

“I really think we should wait for Aaron and Alex to get here, so we can look over the notes together,” Troup walked back to his desk, pulled out his own stack of paper, identical to Morris’, and perused them quickly. “We’re bleeding money, here.”

Morris grunted an assent, never taking his eyes off the words.

“They’re not reliable anymore,” Troup continued, shaking his head, “They’re been out more than in for the past few months and our work is reflecting it. We haven’t won a case in...well, frankly, I’ve lost count. We’re losing clients!”

“I can read, Bobby,” the one-legged man adjusted himself in his seat. He inhaled, then put the papers down.

“Then you know how dire this is,” Troup countered again. He walked back over to where his associate sat and plopped himself tiredly into a chair across from the desk.

Morris ran a hand through his hair, “Law firms go under all the time. It isn’t dire.”

“It is when you’re in a situation like ours!”

“Jay managed to get hired at a regular firm, with modern folks, and they don’t ask any questions,” Morris reasoned with finality in his voice. “We’ll have to bite the bullet if the situation calls for it. And that’s that.”

The round-faced man practically pouted, “I can’t believe they’ve ruined things again. I knew this would happen. We had a good run--almost a year.” He finished, sarcastically.

“There’s no need to be so fatalistic, Troup.”

The latter man crossed his arms and stared at the ground.

“I warned him, I warned Alex, that he should be careful. Then when Burr got involved I warned him again, to not let his emotions get the best of him. Now here we are a year later with one a divorcee and another a prostitute! And god knows what else could go wrong after this,” Troup raised the pack of papers in his hand, “God knows where they’re going to go after we go under.”

Morris raised his own hand, while keeping the other pinching between his eyes, “Please, Troup, let me think.”

A rapping on the glass window shook both men from their thoughts. Looking up, Troup saw Hamilton standing in front of the door, indicating they unlock it and let him in.

“Is Burr here?” The third man asked breathlessly as he stepped into the office. Troup stepped briskly to the side to avoid getting run over. “Has he seen this?”

Alexander showed them the same papers they had been looking at, and Morris shot the sputtering fat man a look.

“Dammit, Troup! I thought you said you’d gotten the one in his mailbox!”

“I--well, I must have missed--”

“--What? What do you mean? You two weren’t going to tell me?” Hamilton looked from the seated man to Troup, who turned red.

“We didn’t want you to panic!”

The general let out a mirthless laugh, “Panic? My law firm is going under. Bobby, shut that door.”

Troup acquiesced, holding his tongue at his friend’s brusqueness.

“Burr isn’t here? He hasn’t seen this?”

“I’m sure I grabbed his,” Troup cut in before Morris could. “But no. He’s not here. He has his...therapy business. It’s Tuesday.”

Hamilton blinked once, remembering. Then, “I can’t believe you wanted to keep this from me!”

Morris grunted and pushed himself up, “We thought you had enough on your plate right now, without having to worry about this.”

The general stood in the middle of the room, Troup awkwardly standing with his hand on the door, and the one-legged man propping himself on his desk with both hands. Hamilton looked at both men in turn, eyes widened, expectant.

“You didn’t think I’d find out somehow?”

“We were hoping to find a solution before you did. We have one month to raise become profitable again, or…” Morris’ words trailed off, and he looked at Troup.

The latter man stepped forward carefully, “...Or, we could allow ourselves to be bought out. Absorbed, maybe, into a larger firm.”

Hamilton put a hand to his head, and scanned the paper rapidly. “That can’t be.”

“It is,” Morris’ gruff voice brought the general’s attention to him, “It is happening because we are losing clients. And we are losing clients because you and Burr are unreliable.”

Hamilton blinked once, indignant, “Excuse me?”

Morris pointed to the paper, “That entire letter repeatedly states that we are no longer profitable and that we have lost too many clients to stay afloat. I can count four or five clients that left in the past two months, specifically stating that Burr’s absences and your inattentiveness were the reasons.”

The general wordlessly read the paper again, walked over to an empty seat, and sat down. He leaned back and closed his eyes.

“So we’re really going to lose it, then. All of this.”

“Not necessarily. We can allow ourselves to be bought out.” Troup reasoned, sitting in the seat next to his old friend.

Hamilton sat up straight and opened his eyes, “By who? Who will understand us? And out situation?”

“Morris said Jay works for a small firm just outside the city, and they don’t ask any questions.”

Another unfriendly laugh from the general caused the one-legged man to cut in again.

“It’s a viable option, Hamilton,” Morris glared at him, “And damn your pride for being so scornful of it.”

“My pride!”

“This whole situation is your fault-- don’t give me that look.”

“We’re not getting anywhere by pointing fingers, Morris,” Troup jumped to his friends defense.

Thirty seconds of pensive silence fell between the group, and was finally interrupted by Burr quietly letting himself into the room.

“I wasn’t aware we had a meeting. I went into my own office first and didn’t see General Hamilton, and was suspicious of such good luck,” the dark-eyed man closed the door behind him, ignored the awkward silence, and hung his jacket up.

“We’re going bankrupt,” Hamilton shot back, never taking his eyes off the other man.

“Are we?” The colonel stared incredulously from man to man. Troup stood, and nodded.

“I’m afraid so, Aaron.”

“And why did I not get a letter?”

“Because we wanted to keep this from you and Hamilton until we found a solution,” Morris cut in, “Knowing what we know about the...situation.” He gestured aimlessly between the two men, while Burr stared at him.

“You thought you could just--” the colonel frowned, “--hide the fact that my practice is disappearing.”

“That’s what I was wondering.” Hamilton assented.

“I supposed General Hamilton and I have been rather inattentive, but certainly not to the point of bankruptcy,” Burr concluded.

It was Morris’ turn to let out a joyless laugh. He shook his head and reached for his own hat and cane, and pulled out his cellphone.

“I’m going to make some calls and see what I can do about this. While I’m gone, for God’s sake, get something done .”

----------

Alexander sat with a hand covering his eyes while a crowd of pigeons bobbed around at his feet, pecking at crumbs. He leaned back on the bench, slouching defeatedly. Aaron sat beside him, lazily flicking tiny pieces of bread to the ground.

“It’s all happening too fast. Too fast.” Hamilton muttered, just loud enough for the other man to hear. Two joggers ran past, staring intently in front of them, and several birds scattered.

Burr looked up, and stared at a lake in the distance, feeling the early spring sunlight on his face, “We have been too inattentive. Morris has a point.”

“I never thought I would be in this situation. The practice is all I’ve got left.”

The colonel sat quietly for a moment, and stared at the feasting birds.

“Morris has connections. He will find a way.”

“And we we be in debt to a large corporation who doesn’t understand us and our ways at all. Bought and sold like it’s nothing, at the mercy of strangers,” the general responded. He watched as a pigeon walked up to his shoe, and ate a small crumb off of it.

Burr handed him a morsel of the stale bread, and the general placed a few crumbs in his hand. Leaning down, he held it out to the circle of birds who briefly scattered, then, overcoming their fear, walked up to the outstretched palm and ate directly from it. Hamilton smiled in spite of himself and stayed very still.

“I love pigeons,” he mumbled. “Brave city birds.”

The dark-eyed man to his left gazed at him for a moment, a warm affection swelling in his chest.

“They don’t come up to me, General. It appears you are the chosen one.”

“The bird-king of Manhattan. How lovely,” Hamilton grinned wider and tried to keep still. Watching as the last of the bread was eaten, he pulled his hand back and wiped it on his pants.

The colonel pulled a small pack of wet-wipes from his pocket.

“You can’t be too careful,” he said, grabbing the general’s hand before the latter man could dissent. He took the wipe, and cleaned his palm intently.

“You are being ridiculous,” Hamilton laughed.

“Do you know the diseases these birds carry? What happens when you bite your nails later, and contract some horrendous sickness?” The dark-eyed man continued to carefully wipe every finger. “No, no, we mustn’t have that.”

Another park patron walked briskly past them, and it was Hamilton’s turn to stare at the other man. After a beat, he spoke.

“How was your meeting this morning? With--oh, I forget her name--”

“--Doctor Blood,” Burr responded, tossing the wipe into a nearby trashcan. He leaned back on the bench and crossed his arms. “It went...predictably.”

“That’s rather cryptic.”

“I don’t know what she wants me to say, frankly. She says she is proud of me for reigning in my... rencontres, ” Burr added with an overly-emphasized French accent. He glanced briefly at the man to his left, then back out at the lake. The general didn’t seem to notice. He continued, “It seems I am to live a life of constant vigilance, now.”

“Perhaps it is a good thing, being more aware,” Hamilton replied, staring at the same bright spot on the water, while several ducks floated lazily by. “It all seems to connect.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, I suppose I was referring to the financial trouble the firm is in. And what Morris said.”

Burr  chuckled darkly, “I don’t think this is all our fault.”

“We had a lot to do with it, Colonel” Hamilton replied, bringing his stare from the lake to his companion, “The odd hours, the fighting, the absences. Morris has a point.”

The colonel let out a small sigh of begrudging assent.

“I think the vigilance will be a good trait, for both of us to adopt.” The General finished his thought, and swallowed a lump of pride the had collected in his throat.

The colonel looked at him, “The both of us? Did I just hear Mr. Hamilton take responsibility for our indiscretions?”

“I thought about writing an op-ed in the New York Post,” the general responded wryly.

“There’s the man I know.”

“Your disinfecting wipe dried out my hand,” Hamilton outstretched his palm in front of the other man, inspecting it. “See? Just there. On my thumb. Dry skin.”

Burr grabbed the general’s hand again, and brought it closer to his face. He turned it over several times, and made a face.

“Better dry skin than the plague.” His grip tightened, and Hamilton felt the familiar flip in his stomach.

“The plague, for God’s sake, Colonel,” he said, bringing his hand back.

For a moment, the two men stared out in front of them quietly, listening to the sound of the birds, and the muffled conversation of other park patrons. Hamilton adjusted himself on the bench and carefully moved closer, undetected. A few seconds more passed between them.

“Angelica is asking why she can’t see Theo.”

At the change of subject, Burr blinked and shook himself from his thoughts, “Oh?”

“She told me Theo told her that she’s grounded indefinitely,” Hamilton let a small smile play on his features as he watched his companion’s darken. “Colonel Burr, you are too harsh.”

“Theo knows what she did was unacceptable,” he responded straightening his back, and turning to face the general.

“She is not a soldier in your troops, Sir,” Hamilton pressed further. “And my daughter needs her friend.”

The dark-eyed man turned and gave his full attention to his companion, “Are you telling me how to raise my own child?”

Hamilton placed a hand on his chest, “I wouldn’t dream of it.”

The colonel gave him an inscrutable look, then turned to look back at the lake.

“She terrifies me, General. She is growing too fast.”

“I know the feeling well.”

“Soon she will be in college, away from me, and then I will be alone,” Aaron swallowed some emotion that had inconveniently sprung up inside of him, and avoided the other man’s gaze.

“Then you should make her time with you more enjoyable, and perhaps not pass such harsh punishment for such small indiscretions,” Hamilton softened his voice. “Remember how her father acted at age sixteen.”

The colonel closed his eyes and laughed darkly, “Oh heavens. I’d rather not.”

“I am speaking on behalf of my own daughter--perhaps you could find it in your heart to allow the Accused a bit of leniency. Perhaps she is eligible for parole.”

Burr kept a small smile affixed to his mouth, and responded