Mr Thomas Jefferson, Esq.
The honor of Your presence is requested at a dinner at the White House, Washington D.C., on Sunday September 18th, 1803, at seven in the evening.
The invitation is for the recipient only.
Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton
First Lady of the United States of America
Thomas stared at the invitation. This had to be some sort of jest. Truly, Mrs Hamilton could not have invited her husband's political nemesis to dinner. What was she thinking?
(The lack of a title was taunting him from the page, three simple letters summarizing every one of his failures in the past decade, all of the failures that originated from no one else but Mrs Hamilton's husband's tenacity.)
Thomas snorted. This was why one did not let women be in charge. They believed that every situation was solvable, the poor naïve creatures! No, ultimately, the decision making ought to be left to men; they had a firmer grasp on reality and what was feasibly possible. There were exceptions, of course, such as Hamilton and that gigalo of his, but two people could hardly be representative of an entire sex.
Beside him, Sally fidgeted. “Sir, if that is all—?” she asked nervously, clasping her hands over the visible bulge in her stomach.
Thomas waved a hand dismissively. “Yes, that would be all for now. You may leave.”
Sally scuttled off, fumbling with the doorknob for a second before opening the door and exiting with another sharp bow.
Thomas groaned. Slaves. Honestly, they were quite dumb; Thomas could not imagine why some people — Mrs Hamilton and her husband among them — thought that it was a good idea to free them. Even if one disregarded the problems innate in the compensation of their owners, there was also the question of where they would live. People would hardly accept them as their neighbours. No, they would need a separate area entirely, if they were to stay at all. Maybe even a separate state.
And, if Sally Hemings was anything to go by, they would need supervision for even the simplest of tasks — even opening the door seemed to pose a challenge for some of them.
Thomas dragged a hand through his hair in frustration, inadvertently loosening a few strands of hair. This was futile; it brought him no closer to figuring out why the First Lady was requesting his presence at a dinner. Did she not remember the literal bloodbath that occurred the last time Thomas sat down with Hamilton and Laurens?
Still, he had received a formal invitation to a dinner at the White House. One did not decline such a summons, even a man as influential and learned as Thomas Jefferson of Monticello.
“Is there nothing I can do to convince you to attend, Mr Madison?”
“I fail to see how my presence is at all relevant to the topic at hand,” Madison admitted softly. “I do not have any biological children, and the sons I have claimed as mine through the marriage to my wife have wives with no relation to your family, ma’am.”
Eliza smiled widely. “Your very words and your mindset, and the mere fact that you ask this question, are the reason why your presence is required,” she replied blithely. “You are a grounding anchor, calming when everyone else is infuriated, and I have no doubt that we will find ourselves in need of such a person over the course of this evening.”
“Why are you hosting such a dinner, ma’am, if you know that there will be nothing but hostilities among the attendees?”
Eliza sighed, suddenly looking much more weary. “I must do it,” she said slowly, “because our first family reunion cannot be at a wedding. Given the absence of one of the two most problematic individuals, I can see no better opportunity than this.”
Madison was silent for a moment. “And you wish me to attend as a chaperone?” he asked finally.
Eliza chuckled. “That would not have been my choice of words,” she admitted, “but that is essentially correct.”
Madison turned it over. He conceded that it was a once-in-a-lifetime chance to gain the favour of the most powerful woman in the nation, not to mention a golden opportunity to dig into the metaphorical mine of secrets within the White House.
Forbye, Madison had to admit that he was curious as to the First Lady's plans. Eliza Schuyler Hamilton was a woman oft underestimated, to the detriment of anyone who at whom her fury was aimed. She was not a person Madison wished to alienate, for many reasons, and she was currently extending what seemed to be an olive branch. Madison would be a fool not to take it.
Last but not least, someone had to keep Thomas from making a complete fool of himself, as he was wont to do whenever the Hamiltons were involved; this job often befell Madison, as, it seemed, it would this time as well. would this time.
Eliza approached Aaron Burr in the evening the same day.
“Aaron,” she said sweetly, “you are free on the afternoon of September 18th, are you not?”
Burr stilled. For all that Eliza was far from as wild as her husband, and he often praised her sensibility, there was something in the tone of her voice that gave him pause. Her tone brought back memories of Burr’s first meeting with Hamilton.
“Pardon me, are you Aaron Burr, sir?”
“That depends, who’s asking?”
Burr had been hesitant to answer the young man’s question back then, and Eliza’s words, echoing her husband in tone if not literatim, did little to put his mind at ease.
“That depends,” he slowly replied. “What have you in mind?”
Eliza’s lips curled up into the hint of a smile. “I believe that I begin to see what Alexander found so frustrating about you at first,” she admitted. At first? Burr wanted to request clarification; alas, Eliza carried on before Burr could get a word in edgewise. “I am planning a small social gathering. The two of us, our children, and one or two more, depending on whether they will deign to show up.”
“Your husband is not going to be in attendance?” Burr and in surprise. He rarely saw Eliza without Hamilton by her side. Burr truly did not know how he found the time; he himself barely had the time to exchange more than a simple hello with his daughter, and he was not even president. From what he glimpsed the few times he had to work in Hamilton’s stead, the man's workload did not allow him for much leisure, let alone the constant company he seemed to keep his wife. It almost created the impression of Hamilton needing to make up for something.
Then again, if Burr kept in mind the fact Hamilton had not one but two lovers, his need to prove his affection for his wife became understandable. This was the man who, when Burr had received a letter from Dr Cooper claiming that Hamilton had talked ill of Burr's reputation, replied by saying that it was ‘evident that the phrase “still more despicable” admits of infinite shades from very light to very dark’, then continued by berating Burr for being unspecific with his charges. The man was by no means the normal standard for one to be held by.
Eliza pursed her lips into a thin line. “Why do people assume that I cannot do anything without my husband present?” she unexpectedly snapped.
Burr took a step back, startled. “Pardon me, milady, I meant no offense.”
She sighed. “I know you did not. Forgive me. I am simply angered by the fact that people disregard me unless I am at my husband's side. And, correct me if I am mistaken, but I believe that I have on numerous occasions requested for you to call me Eliza, Aaron.”
“Of course, Eliza,” Burr inclined his head. “You are not wrong; I simply feel that, taking our respective positions into consideration, I ought not to—”
“Aaron.” Eliza’s voice was sharp. “For how long have we known each other?”
“For close to three decades,” Burr answered after a moment’s pause.
“Have I not earned the privilege of being able to be called by my first name by a friend whom I have known for over twenty years?” Eliza pressed.
Something caught in Burr’s throat, and any words he might have prepared in reply froze in his tongue. Was he choking? He felt like he might be.
“I was not aware that you considered me a friend,” he confessed at last, measuring every word and careful not to reveal too much. His voice was more raspy than he would have wished.
Eliza’s face softened. “Aaron, of course I consider you my friend!” she exclaimed, and before Burr could blink, his face was obscured by dark hair as thin arms enveloped him in a tight hug.
Burr returned Eliza’s hug awkwardly, his arms resting around Eliza’s shoulders hesitantly, as though he was afraid of breaking her.
“Am I to take that as an acceptance of my invitation?” Eliza’s words were muffled by Burr’s overcoat, but Burr could still hear them.
Burr shook his head. “I never said I was accepting,” he pointed out.
He felt, rather than saw, Eliza pull away. She composed herself, stepping back to once again create a respectable distance between them. “Theo is going to attend,” she tempted.
There was a short pause. “Who else?” Burr eventually asked.
“The older children, bar Frances,” Eliza answered readily. Almost too readily, the back of Burr’s mind helpfully pointed out.
Burr’s suspicions grew. “And?” he prompted.
Eliza sighed. “James Madison,” she admitted softly.
That was not so terrible, all things considered. There were worse people one could spend an evening with than James Madison, Burr reflected. The man was smart, witty, and knew the value of silence almost as well as Burr himself.
Burr blinked. “I do not want to know. Will there be anyone else?”
This pause was longer than the previous one. “I wish that I could say that I cannot comprehend your motives, but I have not fallen into the habit of lying to friends.”
“Except to Alexander.”
“Hamilton is a special case.”
A snort. “Of course he is. You do realize why I have to do this, do you not?”
“You wish to speak frankly with Jefferson once and for all,” Burr said slowly, “without Hamilton there to instigate fights, and to create some measure of peace between your families, however small, for Philip and Lucy's sake, so long as Jefferson will refrain from his being his usual unnecessarily cruel self.”
Eliza nodded. “I could not have phrased it better,” she praised. “I shall see you at seven on Sunday, then, Aaron.”
“I had not yet agreed to—” Burr began protesting, but stopped as he realized that Eliza Schuyler Hamilton was nowhere to be seen. The only thing keeping him from swearing as profusely as he remembered Mulligan doing during the war was his carefully-maintained reputation, although even that had almost not been enough.
Was it too much to ask for not to be coerced into spending several hours in the company of Thomas Jefferson?
“Please come in, Mr Jefferson,” Eliza inclined her head. “May I take your coat?” she asked politely, more out of courtesy than out of a genuine want to be reduced to a valet.
Jefferson silently doffed his overcoat and handed it to Eliza, before striding off without so much as a backward glance. Stepping up from behind Jefferson, Madison offered Eliza a consolidating look. He hung up his coat beside Jefferson’s, thanking Eliza quietly.
When Eliza and Madison made their way to the living room, they came across a lively discussion already in motion—Jefferson and Angelica were seated opposite each other, energetically arguing. To Eliza’s relief, there was not yet any blood. Although removing Alexander and John from the equation had greatly decreased the chances of the gathering ending in physical violence, it had not completely eradicated it. Eliza knew her own sister and children too well to pretend otherwise.
Burr looked around.
There was himself, of course; Eliza Hamilton, their hostess, and Angelica Church, Eliza’s older sister and closest confidante, as well as the only woman to date to match Hamilton and Jefferson in terms of wits; Burr’s own daughter, Theodosia, and her lover, Angelica; Philip, the Hamiltons’ firstborn son; Lucy Jefferson, Jefferson’s daughter and Philip’s fiancée; and Madison, one of the only two beings Burr knew who were above such petty necessities as physical pleasures.
What a truly mismatched company they were.
At least Hamilton and his paramour were absent. Thank Lord for small mercies.
Eliza guided everyone to their rightful seat with an efficiency that bespoke countless years of practice, although it did make Madison wonder what types of parties the Hamiltons typically hosted. He would never have taken Elizabeth Schuyler for the type to arrange outlandish parties, and Hamilton would never throw anything but—if he did at all, that was, as preoccupied as the man always seemed with his work, prioritizing it, if the rumours were to be believed, over even his own family and well-being.
The dinner began, to Burr's surprise, on a calm note. Even Jefferson seemed to focus on the food rather than the company, although Burr did not know whether that was out of respect for his daughter or a curiosity regarding the dishes.
“Where is your husband, if I may ask?” Jefferson asked suddenly, his voice faux-light.
Eliza smiled politely. “Away on presidential business, I’m afraid,” she answered diplomatically.
“And Mr Laurens?”
“The senator is likewise occupied with a previously scheduled appointment and is unable to attend this dinner.”
“And would that ‘previously scheduled appointment’, by any chance, include Hamilton?” Jefferson asked smoothly.
“I fail to see how that concerns you, Mr Jefferson,” Eliza said sharply.
A smirk played on Jefferson’s lips. “Pardon my manners, Mrs Hamilton. I was simply curious as to why your husband and his concubine are unable to attend a dinner at which they are the main subject.”
“I have not invited you to disparage my husband’s reputation.”
“I hardly need to do that; Hamilton does an outstanding job without my help.”
“Don't you dare speak of my brother-in-law that way,” Angelica hissed through gritted teeth.
Eliza raised a hand. “Calm yourself, Angelica. We are here to find common ground, not to squabble like children.”
An uncomfortable silence ensued.
“How is everyone faring, milady?” Burr asked at length, the awkwardness in his voice practically palpable.
“They are faring well, thank you for inquiring,” Eliza smiled. “I do wonder however, Aaron—was it not almost yesterday that I once again asked you to call me Eliza? Will you ever do me the honour of complying with my wishes?” She paused. “Theo, dear, will you pass the potatoes?”
Theo passed the potatoes obligingly, biting down a smile as she exchanged glances with Angie.
The blissful silence was cut short by a snort from Jefferson. “It was hard to imagine that a dinner at the White House could ever be so quiet,” he murmured. Eliza detected a slight note of bitterness in his voice at the mention of their residence—as if Jefferson still felt that Hamilton had tricked his way into a victory and robbed him of his rightful position. “Then again, I expect that it is due to the lack of the presences of Hamilton and Laurens.”
“Thomas,” Madison warned quietly. “Please. We are trying to have a pleasant evening.”
“No, let the man speak.” Angie said suddenly. “After all, mother, are we not here to talk about the metaphorical elephant in the room?”
Madison chuckled. “I have said many things about Hamilton,” he remarked, “but never have I called him an elephant. His stature is… rather small, though I am by no means the person to discuss a person’s height.”
“Angelica, I hardly think it is appro—” Eliza began, but was interrupted.
“Angie’s correct. Let us talk about Mr Hamilton and Mr Laurens.” Theodosia gripped her utensils tighter, then seemed to relax almost forcibly. "Mr Jefferson is not going to let us have any other conversation until this obsession of his is addressed."
For a split second, Jefferson faltered, which Angelica took advantage of. Before the man was able to launch a counterattack, she cut in. “For a person who claims to despise the very thought, you seem very interested in the mechanics behind sodomy, Thomas,” she intoned dryly. “Is there anything you wish to share with us?"
Jefferson flushed at the implication. “I would never even consider sleeping with another man,” he scoffed.
“Yet you have no qualms about taking a woman against her will,” Angelica challenged.
Angie stilled, shoulders tense, and Theo reached for her hand under the table, their fingers interlacing. She sent her a reassuring look, before turning her attention back to Jefferson.
“What are you blathering about, woman?” Jefferson’s eyes narrowed.
Angelica snorted. “Do not delude yourself into thinking that I do not know of the sister of your late wife.”
“Angelica,” Eliza shot her a warning glare, “this was supposed to be a pleasant discussion.”
“And it was, until Mr Jefferson decided to bring up aberrant sexual habits,” Angelica glowered in Jefferson's direction.
Madison cleared his throat. “Charming though this discussion may be, I’m afraid I shall have to request a change in subject matter.”
Eliza gave him a grateful look, then tilted her head. “Now, I have heard rumours about a certain bill you are trying to pass through the House. Is there any credence to these rumours?” she asked shrewdly.
Every head turned to Madison. Even Angelica seemed interested. “If you are referring to the rumours that have reached my ears, I am interested in an answer as well.”
Madison's mouth drew into a thin line. “My integrity prohibits me from commenting on any debates on the House floor beyond what is already known. These are, as you are undoubtedly aware, confidential. The only people who have access to the information are the people who are the ones directly involved in its discussion. In other words, the information is strictly confidential.”
Angelica raised an eyebrow. “Unless the Constitution has changed in the time that I have been absent from our country, I believe it dictates that any and all hearings are to be held publicly unless proof has been presented that necessitates a closed session.”
A small smile danced on the corners of Madison's lips. “I see that your familiarity with our legislature has not been overstated, Mrs Church. You are correct in that there needs to be strong evidence that an open session would be detrimental to an objective and honest discussion, but I believe that, in this case, such proof has been provided with an almost gratuitous meticulousness. In light of that, I cannot reveal anything more until such a time as the Congress deems it safe enough.”
“Can you not disclose the topic, at least?” Theo pressed. Even Jefferson looked intrigued, and Burr intuited that Madison had not discussed Congress business with his closest ally.
Madison shook his head. “'Tis the very topic that is subject to the clarification.” The congressman would not reveal more, no matter how much Angelica tried to provoke him into slipping up.
Lucy rolled her eyes, speaking up for the first time since sitting down. “Leave the man in peace,” she snapped. “If he feels obligated to keep his secrets, I, for one, will not pressure him into betraying the confidence of his co-workers.”
Theo snorted. “You have clearly never been to the Congress,” she said dubiously. “If you ask father or Mr Laurens, I am certain they would allow you to accompany them.”
The servants cut off further discussion by bringing in the dessert.
Predictably, the silence was cut short by Jefferson. “How does it even work, though?”
Burr put down his utensils. “How does what work?” he asked slowly, though he had a sneaking suspicion about what Jefferson was talking about.
Jefferson frowned. “You know fully well what I refer to.”
“I think I would like some confirmation before offering an explanation,” Burr said evenly. “I would not like to offer an erroneous one, after all.”
Jefferson's nostrils flared. “You are trying to goad me,” he accused.
“I am not trying to do anything,” Burr said blandly. "Moreover, unless my memory is failing me, you were the one to breach this subject.”
Jefferson harrumphed. “I am referring to the practice of buggery.”
Angie was hard-pressed to stifle a grin. “That was not difficult, now was it, sir? Although I do find your formulation quite limiting. After all,” she smirked suddenly, “sexual intercourse with members of your presence gender is not limited to—” she spoke enthusiastically, and Burr was rapidly reminded of her father expounding upon the economical and cultural benefits of international trade, the same passion in his voice. Like father, like daughter.
“Angelica!” Eliza exclaimed indignantly. “I doubt that Mr Jefferson was interested in that level of detail.”
Lucy swallowed. “Father, I do not appreciate your words, or your tone, and I am not alone in this.”
“No, by all means, please continue,” Jefferson declared. “At least one person in this godforsaken household deigns to answer my questions.”
Philip gripped the edge of the table, torn between impressing his future father-in-law and defending his family's reputation; he was held back by Lucy, although she, too, glared at her father balefully, as though ashamed of him. Angelica's eyes flashed dangerously, and she opened her mouth to speak, but Theodosia spoke first. “Do you truly wish for specifics, sir?” she snapped. Burr was more than a little taken aback by her attitude. It seemed that the Hamiltonian tendency to share more information than prudence, or, indeed, common sense would dictate was infectious. “You are persistent. I am beginning to doubt your claims that your interest is of a purely clinical nature. But, if you insist, I can explain the general workings of sodomy. Of course, I cannot go into detail about how intercourse occurs between two men, but as for women, it does involve vaginal stimulation using fingers and mouth.”
“Theodosia!” Burr barked. “That is enough. There are things that a father simply does not need to know about his daughter.”
Eliza sighed. She rubbed her temples, fighting off a headache. “Any and all attempts at derailing this discussion are clearly doomed to be unsuccessful,” she muttered in what sounded like capitulation. “I only request that you do not bring up Leviticus again, or I will not be held responsible for my actions,” she warned, cutting Jefferson a sharp glance.
Jefferson ignored her innuendo. Turning to Angie, he tapped his fingers against the tabletop. “Even disregarding every physical aspect that makes sodomy too abominable to even consider—”
“Yet you keep coming back to the subject,” Philip unexpectedly pointed out.
“One aspect of this continues to evade me: why would you choose to accept this curse?” Jefferson pressed, ignoring Philip’s words. “It goes against all laws written by God and man. You throw yourself into eternal damnation, and for what? For a few years of physical pleasure, which you could just as well have with someone of the opposite sex.”
The only warning Jefferson received was an ever-so-slight tightening of Burr’s hands.
“It is love,” Burr unexpectedly lashed out, startling everyone. “Love is love, and ‘tis a blessing no matter what form it takes. Which part of that is impossible for you to understand? Truly, Jefferson, rumours would have me believe you intelligent, not intentionally ignorant. Would the Lord have blessed us with this emotion if He wanted us to deny it? Did He not love all His children? What kind of a father would create a child only to then tell them that they are to deny what makes them them? People are not created evil, and yet I will argue that the choice of which people one is attracted to is not a choice at all. Nobody would willingly choose to be ostracized by society.”
Through his impromptu monologue, Jefferson had been staring at Burr as though he had grown horns, or a devil’s tail perhaps—a more appropriate idea, given what he was defending. Madison was staring at Burr with scrutiny and not a little of renewed interest.
Eliza was hard-pressed to stifled a smile. “Alexander would have been proud of you,” she told Burr.
Burr’s smile evaporated as he recalled what his initial reaction had been.
“I have no desire to hear any explanations. You know fully well—both of you—that the sort of activity you were engaging in isn't merely unlawful, it is wrong in the eyes of God.”
“Is it really, though? There are stories of people only being attracted to their own sex, are there not? There are actual living, breathing, working people who live their lives like that.”
“Those are not the kinds of people you should strive to be, Theodosia.”
“I doubt that,” Burr’s words were bitter.
“When father found out about Angie and myself,” Theo spoke, taking it upon herself to fill in Madison and the Jeffersons, “he was not, how shall I put it, in the most understanding of moods.”
“Frances described our conversation as ‘a strange stand-off at a duel neither party actually desires’,” Angie added with a snort.
“What changed your mind?” Theo asked her father curiously. “I never quite dared to ask.”
Burr sighed. He pushed away the cutlery, lest he indulge in Washington’s old habits and begin using them as drumsticks. “Partially, it had been the subsequent conversation with Mrs Sch—Eliza, her esteemed husband, and Mr Laurens,” he conceded, “but it had also been something I had overheard on my way from the kitchen. I do not think you had meant to speak so loudly,” he addressed his daughter, “but, as I exited the kitchen, I heard you say that you suffered, having been forced, by circumstances and societal expectations, to hide your relationship from me. As a parent, discovering that one is the cause of their child’s misfortune is the single worst feeling in the world. It pained me that my own daughter had to resort to such evasive techniques simply to be able to be with the person she loved.” He chose not to mention Frances Laurens’ visit at his house. He doubted that anyone knew about it; if they did, he would not be telling them anything new, and if they did not, Burr did not want to betray Miss Laurens’ trust in him. True, she did not explicitly forbid him from talking about it, but Burr could sense it when people did not want something uncovered for the public’s critical eyes.
“Speaking of personal failings,” Jefferson spoke, meeting Burr's eyes unabashedly. “Your husband’s sodomitical romance wasn't the only thing I found in his papers,” he drawled, and Eliza could practically hear the smirk in his voice. “I would quite a few exchanges between your husband and a certain Mr Tench Coxe, the topics of which are daring monetary enterprises. Now, how should your husband find the money to be able to afford to sponsor these ventures? I, for one, know that my pay as Secretary of State was equal to that of Hamilton’s as Secretary of the Treasury; I can furthermore reveal that it was by no means the kind of money required for these kinds of investments. Either your husband took a great loan, or,” Jefferson smirked, “how shall I put it? Ah, yes: embezzlement. Moreover, I happen to have in my possession some very interesting letters between your husband and George Hammond, the British ambassador. It is my belief that your husband has been attempting to collude with a foreign power while holding the office of the Secretary of the Treasury. Unless memory fails me, that qualifies as treason. And finally, in my study are some letters which, I inside, would be of particular interest to your son. They are between yourself and Mr Laurens, and their very nature is quite intimate. Almost makes a man wonder,” he drawled, “what you're up to. Adding to that the likeness between your son and the senator is striking, and I must admit that I have my suspicions concerning the paternity of your firstborn son and my future son-in-law. I believe that I deserve to know whom my daughter is marrying,” Jefferson concluded smugly, then leaned back in his chair, arms crossed.
“Mother?” Philip asked haltingly, his words ringing in the echoing silence. “Is it true? The things Mr Jefferson said about you and John?” he glanced uneasily between his mother and his fiancée's father.
“No, Philip,” Eliza shook her head, adopting a low tone of voice as she tended to do when angry. Eliza was never angry. When her voice sunk, Alexander and John had both learned to run for cover. Jefferson was about to learn the lesson the hard way. “Mr Jefferson spreads such lies solely for his sick enjoyment. He derives pleasure out of other people's suffering. I can only be glad that his daughter did not inherit that trait. Now, as for your accusations. I have to be honest: never in my life have I heard something so completely ignorant, rude, and so very unbecoming of a gentleman, let alone of the former governor of Virginia,” Eliza continued softly, her words venomous. “One would almost think that you strive to be as ignorant as the people you profess to despise for it.”
Jefferson's month drew into a scowl, before, unexpectedly, a light smile emerged. From having periodically worked with the man, Burr knew that Jefferson looked to think of himself as a kind, understanding, forgiving man, and it was probably this self-image that stopped him from entering a vicious discourse with Eliza. Unlike Madison, who was cautious when circumstances called for it, and they nearly always did, Jefferson was much too similar to Hamilton when it came to confrontations.
“I attempt to always keep an open mind,” Jefferson said smoothly. “If I gave you an impression to the contrary,” Angie snorted at that, “I sincerely apologize. It was not my intention.”
“Instead of arguing about the morality of homosexual relations,” Madison proposed tiredly in an attempt at defusing the conflict before any truly irreparable damage could be done, “can you not bond over the fact that both of your children chose a Hamilton as their life partner?”
Burr and Jefferson exchanged horrified glances as the meaning behind Madison’s words hit them in full force.
“Hamilton,” Jefferson groaned.
Philip shrugged. “He is not so bad,” he reasoned, “once you get to know him.”
“And move past his little quirks,” Lucy added.
“Like leaving pieces of half-written essays over every possible surface in the house,” Angie sighed.
“Or finishing the pot of coffee without telling anyone,” Philip said again.
“Or the way he is incapable of turning off his work, or separating his professional life from his private one,” Theo interjected.
“Or the way he prioritizes work over family,” Angie scowled, “and spends every second of his leisure time pouring over some document or other.”
“The way he snaps at anyone whenever he hits a writer's block.”
“Or the way he bites every quill in the house until his face is stained with ink.”
Eliza watched her children with growing amusement, while Angelica’s narrowed eyes were fixed on Jefferson’s pensive face. She could not read his feelings from his expression, and it infuriated her.
“Really,” Philip said, “once you learn to ignore those, father is quite likeable.”
“He teaches me French,” Lucy added.
“I have already taught you French,” Jefferson retorted heatedly.
Lucy shook her head. “You have taught me the grammar and the structure of the language; Mr Hamilton teaches me its melody, its tone, its flow. He has said that it does not matter if you know all the words in the world, or have a vocabulary the size of Thomas Paine; if you have not found the rhythm of a language, you cannot speak it well. Only once you find, can you call yourself fluent.” She took a breath. “He converses with me in French, and, French being his native tongue, is more fluent than you, despite your ambassadorship. Have you not always said that I deserve the best of tutors?”
“Hamilton is far from the best.”
“He is better than you,” Lucy snapped, “though you may be willfully blind to the fact.”
Recognizing the telltale signs of another conflict coming to a boil, Madison intervened. ”Hamilton is always so full of energy, that, at least, one cannot deny,” he said with a head shake. ”Honestly, I do not know how he can keep it up.”
”I know,” Eliza agreed. ”He is a candle, burning brighter than the rest of us,” she said with a sigh. ”It is simply—” she hesitated. ”I sometimes wonder if he isn't burning too brightly—if he is not burning himself out, so to speak. John and I, we try to make sure that he's not overexerting himself, that he is not running himself into the ground, but I'm not sure we always succeed. You've met Alexander.”
”Unfortunately,” Jefferson said drily. “Does the man ever take holidays?”
Eliza did not answer, lost in her thoughts. Laurens and Eliza had forced Alexander to take a holiday all of once—during which time Hamilton had driven Burr up the wall with his attempts at sneaking in and working anyway; Eliza and Laurens eventually had to physically enforce the break Hamilton. It had not been a relaxing time for anyone involved—if anything, it had been more stressful than if Alexander had not taken a break in the first place. They came to a unanimous decision that the topic of Alexander’s presence on vacations was forbidden in their household.
“I shall take the lack of an answer as an affirmative in itself,” Madison said perceptively.
“Quite unlike General Washington,” Jefferson added, a dark glint in his eyes. “Which, speaking of, does your husband holding the highest office in the land not interfere with the fact that the Constitution clearly states that the office of presidency is not to be inherited but to be voted upon by the citizens of this country?”
“It was,” Eliza pointed out. “You are merely bitter that the people chose my husband instead of you.”
“There is no precedent for this,” Madison admitted, cutting short whatever retort Jefferson was preparing. “Then again, have we not, in creating this very country, disregarded any precedents?”
Jefferson’s eyes flashed with anger. “Whose side are you on, Mr Madison?” he asked in a dangerous voice.
Madison smiled cryptically. “I am not on anyone’s side, per se. I say what I believe in, and I have had a revelation or two since the election.”
Jefferson’s temper flared. “And what change of heart caused you to support a man like Hamilton?”
Madison leaned back, folding his hands in his lap, fingers entwined. “I have not said that I support him,” he pointed out. “It would be more accurate to say that I begin to understand his point of view, and where he is coming from. It does not mean that I will defect to his side, or whatever else is coursing through your mind.”
“I believe,” Eliza cut in, noting the way Jefferson’s eyes again narrowed into slits, “that it is time we call it a night. It has been a most eventful and informative evening.” She stood up, indicating that the dinner was over.
Jefferson’s attention shifted to Eliza. “So it has,” he agreed, copying Eliza’s movements. “For now, I rest my case, for take heed, Lady Hamilton: I will be watching you, your husband, and his… friend,” he said with distaste.
Eliza inclined her head. “I have come to expect nothing else from you, Mr. Jefferson,” she commented easily, voice stern.
Jefferson made as if to leave, walking towards the hall where his overcoat was still hanging, then turned back to the table. “Mr Madison,” he called out. “I am leaving. Will you do me the pleasure of escorting me home?”
Madison swallowed a sigh. He stood up. “Of course, Mr Jefferson,” he said with resignation. To Eliza, he murmured quietly, “Thank you for the invitation. I enjoyed this evening, or as much as I could, considering present company. I hope that we can make it a recurring event; though your husband may be my political opponent, it does not prevent us from retaining a pleasant acquaintance at the very least. I have heard from someone that political parties were not a good idea. For all that I disagree with the man, because we need organized groups with the same interests working towards a common goal, I can admit that we need to bridge the ever-widening gap between my party and the president's.”
Eliza smiled. She offered her hand. “It would be a pleasure.”
“Madison?” Jefferson’s voice echoed from the hall.
This time, Madison did not smother the sigh that escaped him. “I will be right with you, Thomas,” he replied loudly enough for Jefferson to hear.
“Go,” Eliza recommended. “I do not want any casualties tonight, and I fear it might come to that if Angelica and Theo remain in the same room as your friend.”
Madison gave her another smile before trailing after Jefferson.
The taller Virginian did not speak as he donned his coat, and Madison saw no need to break the silence.
Stepping outside, Jefferson leaned on the baluster of the porch. He heaved a dramatic sigh. “This was quite an eventful evening,” he said, stepping aside to letting Madison exit the building.
Madison tilted his head. “That is one way to describe it,” he concurred, taking up his place at Jefferson’s side.
Jefferson put a hand on Madison’s shoulder, squeezing it, revelling in the warmth permeating through the layers of clothes Madison was wearing. He felt a shiver run through Madison’s body, and frowned. Surely it was not this cold outside? Then again, Madison has always been particularly sensitive to the caprices of the American climate.
“It is disgusting, is it not?” It seemed that Jefferson was not ready to let go of the subject of Hamilton's love life quite yet.
Madison grimaced. “I fail to see how further discussion will change anything,” he said evasively.
Jefferson huffed. “You have to admit that it is not exactly normal though,” he challenged.
“Thomas,” Madison sighed. “I know the value you place in honesty, so I shall be frank with you: the idea of laying with a woman repulses me just as much as the idea of laying with a man. You see why I cannot be of much help in this discussion.”
Jefferson jerked away his hand from Madison’s shoulder, as though burned. His eyes widened. “Are you—”
“No,” Madison cut his friend off brusquely. He busied himself with brushing off his sleeve, delaying his answer for as long as possible while he thought about the best way to phrase it. “I do not desire a man, but neither do I desire a woman—not the way you seem to, if the insight I received from this conversation is accurate.”
Jefferson shook his head. “You may simply be confused,” he argued. “You have not yet tried everything, or you have not—”
"Met the right woman?" Madison countered. "I will tolerate insults on my character, but, Thomas, our friendship will not save you if you slight my wife or my devotion to her."
Jefferson inclined his head, conveying understanding.
“I know myself,” Madison continued. “I know my body and its needs. The gratification derived from sexual intercourse is not one of them.”
“You may yet discover them,” Jefferson disputed.
“I may,” Madison conceded, “or I may not. But keep in mind that I have lived for more than half of a century, without once experiencing any need to—” he unexpectedly flushed. He cleared his throat. “It does not matter,” he continued. “And stop looking at me with pity, for I do not need it. I have not lost anything, nor am I missing anything. ‘Man delights me not; no, nor woman neither.’ ”
“Hamlet, Act 2, Scene 2,” Jefferson automatically referenced the quote.
Madison nodded, as if the quote was self-explanatory. “Exactly.”
“But— how can you—” Jefferson fumbled for words, genuinely flabbergasted. “'Tis a essential part of being human.”
Madison’s lips twisted into something resembling a smile. “Evidently not,” he replied curtly.
“I do not—” Jefferson started, then stopped. He swallowed. “I cannot pretend to understand,” he admitted at length, “but I am not willing to lose my closest friend over something as petty as abstinence. After all, are the most saint of people not celibate?” Jefferson attempted a smile. “This makes you positively holy. Besides, anything that differentiates you from Hamilton cannot be a bad thing.”
Madison snorted. He did not reply.
“The place has a quiet air to it, is it not, without Hamilton in attendance?” Jefferson said after a moment’s silence. He did not know why they were still standing on the Hamiltons’ porch. All he knew was that he did not want to leave, did not want to break the moment between himself and Madison just quite yet. He bit his lip. “Almost peaceful.”
“That is hardly the word I’d use. ‘Unsettling’, on the other hand…” Madison trailed off with a grimace. “It feels like a I stepped onto a land mine. ‘Tis a ticking clock waiting to go off the second I make any sudden move.”
“If your feelings are such, why have you not declined Mrs Hamilton’s invitation?” Jefferson wondered.
Madison could not contain the snort that welled up from within his throat. “Someone has to keep you from murdering the Hamiltons—and vice versa.”
“And this someone is you?” Jefferson sniffed.
Madison allowed himself a small smirk. “We are all alive after all, are we not?”
“And that,” spoke Angelica Church, exiting the house and stepping up to the two men, “should suffice as evidence of the Lord’s existence, because ‘twas nothing short of a miracle.”
Madison chuckled, a faint smile playing on his lips. “Wiser words have never been spoken.”