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The Liberty Behind Deliberation

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Alexander Hamilton was scared.

With nowhere to go, what felt like at least three broken ribs, and nothing but a threadbare jacket on a cold January night in Virginia, how could he not be?

This was the third night in this month that this had happened, but was so much colder than the others that Alex realised he had to do something other than lie on the pavement and wait for morning to arrive. With snow settling around him, he knew he needed to get somewhere warm if he wanted to avoid dying from hypothermia at the ripe old age of 17.

Alex considered his options: he knew Laf’s was his best bet- the Washingtons had always been supportive (despite his reluctance to accept any kind of assistance from a parental figure) and his friend would likely let him stay without asking too many questions- but the mansion was so far away that Alex knew he’d probably collapse from either pain or exhaustion (or a fun mixture of the two) before he arrived.

The same could be said for John’s and the Schuylers’- both residences were so far from Alex’s run down, grimy street that they felt like alternate universes. Herc’s was closer, but Alex knew he was bound to ask questions he just couldn’t deal with right now, too weary to satisfy his friend’s protective instincts as the mother hen of the group.

That left him with Burr and Madison- he barely knew either boy, only acquainted through class or extracurriculars in which they rarely spoke, so neither of them would be likely to accommodate him in this state- 

Unless-

He was sure he knew the way. He and John had been before, having stolen alcohol from a bustling party before heading over to the park for an eventful Summer’s night. It couldn’t be that far, probably a 20 minute walk at most (he could manage that, right?). 

Hating every second of it, Alex stumbled out of the alleyway and made his way to Thomas Jefferson’s house.

———

When Thomas Jefferson opened the door at 2am on a Sunday night, he expected to see one of his sisters (probably Lucy, she’d been getting into more trouble recently) just back from a party, or his dad having returned from some office party, or maybe even some deranged political campaigner or religious preacher who couldn’t tell the fucking time (having just been rudely awakened at two in the morning, how could he be expected to think straight?).

The last person he expected to see staring up at him was Alexander Hamilton.

Thomas could do nothing but stare blankly for a few seconds, unable to even comprehend what was happening until Alexander started to speak.

”I-“

”What the hell, Hamilton?” Thomas hissed angrily, all traces of his previous drowsiness banished because Alexander fucking Hamilton was hereshivering on his doorstep in the middle of the night.

Alex looked down and choked on a sigh, unable to meet Thomas’ eyes, before beginning a tentative explanation. ”Look, I know it’s late, and you were probably asleep before I got here, and we kind of hate each other which makes this even worse and oh God, I really messed up by coming here, but please just let me explain-“

”Jesus Christ Hamilton, slow down. What are you-“

And that was when Thomas really looked at Alexander and knew that something was wrong. Time seemed to slow as he took in the smaller boy’s violent shivering, the way he was holding himself as though everything hurt, the fear etched into his face and the utter weariness in his eyes that had nothing to do with lack of sleep. Alexander started to speak again but was silenced by Thomas, who was at a complete loss as to what to do.

”Just let me-“

”Alexander... what? Why are you here? What’s- is something- why are you here?”

”Please, just let me explain,” Alex pleaded wearily. “I know this is a weird situation and I really wouldn’t be here if I had any other option, but I just need somewhere to stay for one night. I promise I’ll be out of here in the morning, I can sleep on the floor or the couch or something and you won’t have to speak to me again, just- please- let me stay here for one night.”

And Thomas could’ve said no. He could’ve turned Hamilton away, made up some excuse about how he already had someone staying round and there was no space, could’ve even been downright rude to the small, shaking boy and just told him to piss off, but something about the way Hamilton had literally begged Thomas to let him stay stopped him. Something about his defeated tone (Hamilton, defeated?), his slumped shoulders and the way his voice cracked on the plea showing just how desperate he truly was had Thomas rooted to the spot. He stared at the Caribbean boy for a moment, and sighed.

”Ok.”

 

Chapter Text

With Hamilton sleeping on the couch in the living room downstairs, Thomas contemplated what he had just seen.  

He thought about seeing his enemy, the boy with whom he fought with practically every other day (whether verbally or physically), broken and beaten and begging on his doorstep.

And while Thomas Jefferson could be abrasive, and combative, and even downright cruel at times, one thing he was absolutely not was oblivious.

Which was why he was lying in bed at 5am on a Sunday, unable to fall asleep, because how the hell was he supposed to reconcile the Hamilton he saw last night- weary, frightened, broken- with Alexander Hamilton, the epitome of stubbornness and wittiness and independence and everything else that made him almost formidable? What could explain what had happened to his enemy besides the one thing Thomas was trying so hard not to think about?

 

Because it was one thing to suggest that Thomas had needed to practically carry Hamilton into the house, to hear him gasp in pain with every step, almost cry out when he hit the couch, just because of the actions of some random stranger, but another thing entirely to suggest that maybe something was really fucking wrong and he had to get Hamilton out-

But how could he do that?

Thomas supposed he could talk to Hamilton’s friends, let them know what was going on, but could he really break Hamilton’s trust like that (trust? Really Thomas? The boy you’ve been punching and shouting at practically every other day?)? And besides, couldn’t he be endangering the boy just by telling anyone (well you’d sure be endangering him by just leaving him there), couldn’t he be left in a worse situation (what could be worse than this?) than he was already?

So Thomas Jefferson tossed and turned, never coming up with an answer, until finally falling asleep.

———

“Get up, we’re leaving for school.” Upon hearing Hamilton’s voice, Thomas almost jumped out of bed, forgetting last night’s events until they came crashing back to him and-

“What the fuck?” Thomas spat, voice rough from sleep but still hopefully conveying how fucking ridiculous it was that Hamilton was even considering school right now.

Hamilton raised an eyebrow at him in the only response Thomas knew he was going to get, and huffed while turning into the corridor to leave.

Thomas followed after him, decidedly ignoring Hamilton’s flinch as he grabbed the smaller boy’s arm to stop him (and when did Hamilton get so thin?). “You can’t possibly think I can let you go into school right now,” Thomas hissed, because what the hell did Hamilton think he was doing?

”Let me?” Hamilton questioned, incredulity soaking his words. “It’s not like I need your permission to-“

Thomas sputtered, cutting him off. “Have you even seen yourself? You have a black eye, you’re limping- I have no idea what the hell happened to you last night but it’s not something you can just brush off! You have to- I don’t know- just fucking- you need to rest, you need to actually eat something, to just- you can’t go to school!”

Hamilton’s eyes closed off, his expression becoming defensive before he turned around, effectively bringing the conversation to a close before tying his shoes, readying himself to leave.

Thomas stood in the doorway for a moment before realising what was happening, and making his way over to the other boy.

”Fine. If you don’t want my help or whatever that’s fine, just... let me make you breakfast or something. We don’t need to leave until like half an hour, and you look really thin, and even though I hate you, I can’t just throw you out. Just... I won’t ask questions if you don’t want me to, I swear, and although I hate this I just really need to know you’ve at least eaten.”

And while Hamilton could’ve turned and left right then, or taken the piss out of Jefferson’s protectiveness (Jefferson? Protective? Over him?), he just couldn’t in that moment. Reluctantly, he nodded at the taller boy, and followed him to the kitchen.

———

Jefferson and Hamilton walked to school in silence, Hamilton ignoring Jefferson’s concerned gaze as he winced at every step (because last night really had been worse than most) and could barely focus on his surroundings. The tense silence continued throughout the journey, neither boy willing to break it (what the hell could they say anyway?).

Just as they reached the school and Hamilton breathed a sigh of relief (free from both Jefferson’s newfound protectiveness and the pain of walking), Jefferson pulled the other boy aside, ignoring Hamilton’s indignant glare.

”So I know I said I wouldn’t ask questions, but if I don’t ask I’m just gonna be freaked out all day and no offence, the last person I wanna be freaked out over is you-“

Hamilton rolled his eyes, cutting off Jefferson’s rambling. ”Get on with it.”

”Ok, Ok, I was just... Look. Are you, like, safe? I mean at home or whatever, are you safe?” Jefferson looked up at Hamilton to see an unreadable expression pass over his face. The other boy raised one eyebrow sceptically before scoffing and walking through the school doors.

Jefferson sighed, and entered the school a minute later. He hadn’t expected much of an answer anyway.

 

Chapter Text

Sighing, Alexander entered the classroom and, walking with his head down, made a beeline for his desk. Having been a little preoccupied over the weekend, a last minute attempt at his forgotten homework would not only let him get his forgotten work done, but also allow him to remain unnoticed and avoid any uncomfortable questions. 

Unfortunately, his friends had other ideas.

”Alexander!” Laf looked up and saw him, grinning as they practically erupted out of their chair to greet Alex. John and Herc followed, chuckling affectionately at their overenthusiastic friend. “It has been so long! How was your weekend, mon ami?”

Staring down at his shoes, Alex huffed out a half-hearted laugh before replying. “Hey Laf. It’s only been two days, and my weekend was fine.”

Alex looked up to see mild concern on his friends’ faces, not realising why until he though over what he had just said (Alexander non-stop Hamilton ‘didn’t do much’ over the weekend? Way to not attract attention, Alex). When their frowns deepened, he realised he’d made another mistake. 

He’d looked up.

John paused before reaching forward and gently stroking the angry bruise on Alex’s face, the action contrasting with the anger and confusion in his eyes. ”Alex, you... you have a black eye.” Unable to meet his distressed gaze, Alex shrugged and once again stared down at his shoes.

Herc spoke up this time, brow furrowed, his voice cutting through the tension within the group. “Hey, man, where did that come from? You- you know we’re always here for you, right?”

”Yeah, course I know you guys are here for me. It was just a fight, really. You know how I am.”

Squirming under their multiple sceptical gazes, Alex heard John begin with what likely would’ve been another interrogation before being interrupted by a familiar voice.

”Ah, my favourite group of weirdos. How’s the revolutionary set doing?” Angelica appeared behind Herc, stopping the conversation in its tracks (saved by the bell, Alex thought sarcastically).

Eliza followed closely behind Angelica, shooting Alex a warm but inquisitive look (stop forgetting about that black eye, Alex), and as the two came and perched on nearby tables he noticed something.

”Hey, where’s Peggy? She ill or something?”

At the collective worried glare he received (and honestly, he’d had enough of those in the last five minutes to last a lifetime), Alex cursed his seeming inability to just pull it together.

“She has gone on an exchange to France,” Laf told him, a phrase that would usually have elicited a smug scoff from them but today barely cause any reaction. “Are you sure you’re alright, mon petit lion? It is unlike you to forget such things.”

Alex was about to reply that he was fine, there was nothing to worry about (which honestly wasn’t that far from the truth anyway, things could be a hell of a lot worse) but was thankfully interrupted by the teacher’s entrance.

The group pulled apart, each member finding separate chairs but unsettled after the sudden change in focus, their gazes flitting between the teacher and each other.

So that went well.

———

Alex’s first class was English. Normally his favourite subject, on any other day he would have been impatient to get to the classroom and begin the lesson. But not today.

Today, the only thing Alex was thinking about was the fact that Thomas Jefferson was in his English class. In the seat right behind him.

From the beginning of the lesson Alex could feel Thomas’ eyes on the back of his head, and wanted nothing more than to turn around and yell at, or curse, or do anything to the other boy to avoid being the subject of yet another questioning stare. He stayed quiet, however, using all of his willpower to keep his gaze fixed down (eyes on your work, Alex) rather than reacting. Until the teacher decided it was time to switch things up.

”Alright class, time for a paired activity. Choose your partners and read the final passage together. Person A reads Lodovico and Cassio, person B reads Othello and Gratiano. Go.”

And at that, Thomas raced to Alexander’s desk and sat down beside him, earning a few confused looks (because weren’t Hamilton and Jefferson enemies?) from both the teacher and multiple students. 

“So. Hamilton. Alexander. Person A or B?”

Alex regarded Jefferson sceptically. “Um, person A I guess? What’re you doing, Jefferson?”

Jefferson continued as though as normal, face blank. “Just doing the activity, Hamilton. Let’s go.”

They read the parts briefly, an awkward tension settling between the two before Thomas, still looking down at the book, asked the question Alex had been dreading.

”So, Hamilton. What was last night about?” His tone was neutral, his eyes on the text and his voice quiet in an attempt not to draw any attention from the teacher, but Alex could hear the fear behind his words.

”Look, Jefferson, I- I appreciate what you did, but not now, ok? Don’t worry. Just-“

Jefferson looked up, anger and concern evident in his expression. “I have the right to be worried after seeing you last night!” He hissed, voice still low. “That’s not something I can just forget. I know you’re not fine, whatever you want to tell your friends-“

”Really, Jefferson? If you were eavesdropping on my conversation, you should’ve heard that it was just a fight. Just an argument outside school over something minor.”

”It didn’t sound convincing when you told them, and it doesn’t now.  Why were you so upset? I’ve never seen you that shaken up when we’ve come to blows, and God knows we do that often enough. Why were you so secretive? You barely even-“

Alex tried to cut him off, picking up the book again, but Thomas ploughed through the interruption.

”You didn’t tell me anything last night. If it was just a fight, what would you have had to hide? And you said you had nowhere to go. What was that about?” Thomas met Alex’s eyes defiantly, daring him to try and evade the questions. 

Alex looked up at him, expression so helpless for a moment that Thomas couldn’t help but feel a little guilty, before settling his face into a neutral mask and speaking.

”O Spartan dog, More fell than anguish, hunger, or the sea, Look on the tragic lodging...,” 

Oh. Othello.

Well that was certainly one way to deflect.

———

After the school day had ended (and God it had felt long), James Madison and Thomas Jefferson sat just outside the main building, talking in hushed tones.

”Thomas,” James started, concern for his friend evident, “I know you well. And I know that you don’t spend that long staring at someone unless you have a crush on them or are worried about them. And I’m pretty fucking sure you don’t have a crush on Hamilton, so what’s going on?”

So he wanted to talk about the English lesson.

Thomas met his friend’s eyes before looking down, unsure of what to say. “I wasn’t going to tell anyone, I mean it’s probably kind of personal stuff, right? But I’ve been worrying all day, and what if I just never do anything and-“

”Ok, I’m gonna need you to slow down. I won’t tell anyone, you know that, I just know something’s been on your mind all day, and I think you need to talk about it.” 

James Madison was a godsend

“Alright- Ok. So last night I was just in bed when at like, 2am, I heard someone at the door. So I got up to see who it was and it was Hamilton-“

James almost choked on a breath in surprise, his eyes wide. “Wait, what?”

”Yeah I know, that was pretty much what I was thinking. Anyway, he looked pretty rough, like worse than he does today, and I obviously asked him why he was there, and he started saying this stuff about how he needed to stay, and he had nowhere else to go (which was weird because like, he does actually have friends), and he was literally pleading with me. It was actually pretty scary.”

“Yeah, I can imagine. If Hamilton was anything other than rude to me I’d be scared too.”

”He was really hurt. Like, badly hurt. So I let him sleep on the couch and we went to school this morning and I asked him if he was safe at home-“

”Wait a second Thomas,” James took a moment to process what his friend had just said. “You’re suggesting that... a guardian did this or something? I thought you said it was just a fight? Are you... sure?”

”He told me it was a fight. Said the same thing to his friends but it doesn’t sound right. He was so upset, he said he had nowhere to go, and he’s impulsive but he isn’t downright stupid.” 

James rushed to calm Thomas. “Look, I know this is frightening and you’re worried. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t too. But how can you be sure he was lying? Hamilton’s reckless, he gets into fights all the time, and you could just be misreading his responses. He’s a pretty defensive guy, I doubt he’d give anything away to you.”

Thomas considered this, and as much as he wanted to see reason (because of course James was right, this was Hamilton, he was always fine), he couldn’t shake the feeling that something was off. However, seeing this, James’ voice interrupted his worrying.

“Hey, you’re worried, but Hamilton will be ok. He always is. Now let’s go and finish that Parks and Rec episode at your house.”

And although Thomas knew he shouldn’t have, he agreed and left with James, leaving his thoughts of a small Caribbean boy behind him.

 

 

For a few weeks, all was well.