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A Philadelphia Christmas

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When General Washington and his aides arrive at the Philadelphia home of Joseph Reed, newly appointed President of Pennsylvania’s Supreme Executive Council, Laurens’ father stands in the hall speaking to two other men of the Continental Congress. Reed’s wife greets the large number of them at the door, Lady Washington speaking for her husband and all the aides with fondness and thanks. Laurens allows his eyes to circle around the entry way, one room on either side with the doors open. The house is narrower than the one his father rents where they currently lodge; at least half the size though it is three stories tall to perhaps compensate for this disadvantage.

Reed appears then from behind the stairs on the left of the short hall. “General Washington.” He bows briefly and gestures to the house as a whole. “Happy Christmas Advent and welcome.”

“And to you, sir,” General Washington replies.

A pair of servants flank their party, taking cloaks and hats. Laurens takes Hamilton’s hat from him and passes it off with his own to the man nearer them.

“I had never thought to spend an advent at the home of Joseph Reed,” Hamilton whispers.

Laurens smiles discreetly. “I had not thought to see Reed again in any respect.”

Hamilton chuckles as Meade tugs at Hamilton’s cloak for him to remove it. “We should never be so lucky.”

“John.”

Laurens turns his head at the sound of his father’s voice. Laurens stands up straight almost without thought then breaks from the cluster of aides at his father’s beckoning.

“Gentlemen,” H. Laurens says, “might I introduce my son, Lieutenant Colonel John Laurens of His Excellency’s office.”

Laurens bows his head. Both men appear to be an age closer to his father than his own, though certainly still some years younger, each wearing a simple white wig. Laurens suspects them to be of New England from their more somber dress.

“My colleagues in the Congress,” H. Laurens explains. “General William Whipple of New Hampshire and Samuel Holten of Massachusetts.”

“A pleasure,” Laurens replies, grasping both hands behind his back.

“I understand you have been with the army since the fall of ‘77,” Holten says.

“Yes, sir, August.”

“There have been several large actions since then, what I heard of Germantown...” He makes a noise like ‘ha’ then shakes his head. “And of Monmouth…” Holten taps his finger on the edge of the glass in his hand. “It must be fortunate to be a member of the General’s staff and avoid most of the direct fighting.”

Laurens raises his eyebrows. “That is certainly not always the case.”

“Yes,” H. Laurens beings before Laurens may continue. “My son is of a rather rash and patriotic temperament that often leads by the sword instead of position.” H. Laurens glances at Laurens and Laurens feels the censure like a battle wound. “But John would prefer to serve this way and fulfill his duty.”

Laurens wonders if his father refers to Laurens’ behaviors upon the field or if he still thinks on Laurens’ recent duel, likely both. “It is the duty of every able-bodied citizen to serve his country to the best and fullest of his abilities,” Laurens says, keeping his eyes on the two Congressmen. “Being young, as I am, and the army always in need of such men, there is no better way to serve.”

General Whipple smiles and takes a sip of the punch in his hand. “Well said, Lieutenant.”

Before any of their new quartet can speak again, the sound of the door opening behind them steals attention. Laurens glances back to see a new man walk through the door, gray hair of his own looking older even than Laurens’ father with an olive tint to his skin, but with a smile that could knock back women and men alike with its attention.

“Mis humildes disculpas,” he says as he bows to Reed first then sweeps his eyes around the men and women in the hall. “I had, eh, meaning to be on time but…” He sighs. “Your city cause some confusion.”

“Not at all,” Reed says, shaking the man’s hand. “The General and his officers only just arrived themselves.”

Reed begins to introduce the man to General and Lady Washington. Laurens catches Hamilton’s eye where he stands close to Harrison. Hamilton raises his eyebrows with a quirk of his lips.

“Don Miralles.” Laurens turns back to General Whipple. The man takes another drink from his glass.

“From Cuba.”

“Cuba?” Laurens asks. “Spain has declared neutrality.”

General Whipple only nods. “They have.”

Laurens need not ask more to understand the tone of General Whipple’s unrevealing words. Before further introductions of their new arrival may spread toward Laurens, however, a tall servant slides up to Reed to whisper in his ear.

“Gentleman,” Reed turns about then walks toward the room to right of the house entrance. “Dinner is ready, if you please take your seats about the table.”

H. Laurens holds out his empty glass until one of the servants takes it from him. He then shifts around and slides his hand over the crook of Laurens’ arm, leaning some of his weight against Laurens.

“My joints ache in the early evenings here. I blame this cold northern climate.”

“You work yourself too hard, father,” Laurens says quietly as Reed leads Lady Washington into the dining room ahead of them.

“Ah, if it be this duty you blame,” H. Laurens says, “I think with your behavior, your joints shall bear worse than mine when you reach my age.”

Laurens cannot decide if his father’s remark to be humor or censure.

“One can only hope Laurens’ frequent activity with the war will keep him young enough that his joints may never catch up to cause him pain.” Laurens turns with some surprise at Hamilton’s voice upon his other side.

H. Laurens turns his head toward Hamilton but only shakes it once before encouraging Laurens to walk forward with him. “Wishful thinking often comes to naught, but let us sit now.”

Laurens swallows, feeling tension in his shoulders at having his father on his left and Hamilton on his right. Every moment the two men spend within sight of each other makes Laurens’ stomach churn. He is not ashamed of his feelings for Hamilton, yet he would also not advertise them to those who might harm Hamilton. Henry Laurens would certainly be a harm.

Still, Laurens feels pleasure through the tension at having Hamilton near him, Hamilton finding even such a small way to be Laurens’ champion.

Within the cramped dining room, Reed stands near his seat at the foot of the table while Lady Washington takes her seat to his right. The table appears to have two leaves added to allow for the large party of guests. Reed is just barely able to stand beside his seat without tipping over into the window bay the table takes up so much of the room.

Around Lady Washington, Harrison claims the seat to her right and Holten across from her, both men still standing.

“Should intersperse, I’d say, with so little women,” Laurens hears Tilghman quip to Hamilton as he steps to the seat beside Holten.

Laurens’ father walks to the place of honor at Mrs. Reed’s right and does not let go of Laurens’ arm as he walks. It appears they shall be sitting beside each other. Laurens casts a glance at Hamilton, hoping perhaps that he might keep the other man near but General Whipple, who walked in ahead of them, slides up to Tilghman saying something and ostensibly claiming the seat between Tilghman and now Laurens. Hamilton frowns slightly back at Laurens. Laurens bites the edge of his lip but there is nothing to be done.

General Washington enters the dining room last with Mrs. Reed and Don Miralles just before them. The General sees Mrs. Reed to her seat then takes the remaining corner spot beside her with Don Miralles near jumping to the chair beside the General. Hamilton slides around to the opposite side of the table to take the last middle seat, on a diagonal from Laurens and still within Laurens’ acceptable speaking sphere. Mrs. Reed finally seats herself and the men are permitted to sit down.

“Thank you all for coming to our Christmas advent dinner,” Mrs. Reed says to the assembled table as the servants walk silently around, pouring wine into their waiting glasses. “It is a pleasure to have members of Congress as well as our military present at the start of the Christmas season.”

“We would not have any lesser men,” Reed adds.

Laurens wonders if the comment is meant as a compliment because it sounds more to him like a boast of Reed’s table than anything humble. Hamilton catches Laurens’ eye and smiles slowly; Laurens suppresses a disdainful grimace.

“We are especially glad to have General and Lady Washington among us,” Reed says, a wide smile on his face Laurens suspects is partially a shield. “We are fortunate you were here in Philadelphia instead of at headquarters with the grand army.”

General Washington nods. “I am at the Congress’ mercy and happy my presence led to such an invitation.”

“I should never chance offense by not inviting you, General,” Reed quips, a twist to his lips.
Laurens’ eyes widen.

“But of course, we are also delighted to have the honor of Henry Laurens, president of Congress,” Mrs. Reed says. “Our house is full of men of distinction this night.” Her eyes shift onto Laurens. “Even your son, Lieutenant Colonel Laurens.”

Laurens shakes his head. “I am certainly not a level with any of those mentioned but am honored to be present.”

“You do yourself a disservice,” Mrs. Reed says with a kind smile.

“I do not, madam, but I thank you.”

“Perhaps one day,” H. Laurens says.

Laurens looks down at this plate, a reflection from two of the candles in the center of the table waving across the white, polished service. When Laurens pulls his chin up again, Hamilton watches him.
Conversation starts around the table as the servants bring out the first course of goose and turkey. Laurens hears Lady Washington engaging Reed about his new position in Pennsylvania. Laurens rather wishes he was close enough to ask Reed about his support of General Lee prior to the Monmouth engagement. Reed appears to have weathered the political storm, but Laurens would enjoy seeing him squirm.

“Lieutenant Colonel?” Laurens turns to General Whipple beside him. He gives Laurens an appraising look, his teeth almost bared, then he takes a large gulp of his wine before putting the glass back on the table. “I understand you to be a proponent of the abolition of slavery.”

Laurens sits up straighter, surprised at the choice of topic here at a Christmas table. “That is true.”

“I find this odd given your father’s ownership of a plantation and many slaves himself.”

Laurens resists the urge to turn his head and see if his father listens. “Many men own slaves yet are still disapproving of the practice as a whole.” General Whipple raises his eyebrows clearly dissatisfied with Laurens’ evasive answer. Laurens cocks his head and says, “I am also able to have a difference of opinion with my father.”

“Your father’s livelihood, indeed your own, falls upon the backs of those men he holds in bondage. Would it not behoove you to have them remain so?”

Laurens frowns. “Many a man is able to have men given a fair wage for their work and still profit himself. The same could occur at Mepkin.”

“You would prefer to take this property of your father’s, these black men, away for their own fortunate alone?”

“Why do you ask me these questions, sir?” Laurens asks, his voice terse despite himself. “You seem to trend toward something. I would ask you reach it now.”

General Whipple picks up his fork to attend to the cut of goose now upon his plate. “I have heard of your black regiment plan from your father.” Laurens’ eyes shift to the side briefly, but he does not turn his head. “I know it not to have been put into any practice yet nor presented to Congress, but I think it an idea of great merit.”

“You do?”

“Indeed, we need more men to fight this war, even with the support of France. Why not those already on our shores?”

Laurens touches the end of his fork but does not pick it up. “You think the Congress likely to approve such a plan were it put to them?”

“I think,” General Whipple says, turning his full attention back to Laurens away from his meat, “a man cannot fight a war for his own freedom with one hand while denying the same to another man with his other.”

Laurens clicks his tongue. “Should such a measure be presented to Congress would you be in support?”

“I think I have just said as much.” General Whipple grins at Laurens, picking up his cup of punch beside his wine. “When should you bring the measure to us?”

Laurens smiles. “As soon as my duty should allow.”

“Canada, yes!” Laurens jerks toward Reed’s sudden outburst. “One failure does not mean it an impossible task.”

“You do not think it a distraction from the protection of those shores under our alliance now?” Lady Washington asks.

“It would make for a fine prize,” Holten remarks.

“It should increase holdings against England,” Reed retorts. “And the Canadians should be glad to join us.”

“I think General Arnold would disagree,” Tilghman comments.

“Should you think them receptive to us now?” Hamilton asks, the whole table harkening to Reed’s conversation. “Quebec and Montreal rebuffed us and should only remember our forces as one of attack.”

“That is not so,” Reed retorts, that expression Laurens remembers from many mornings with the man, the same upon his face, of thinking himself always right. “They languish under the British just as we.”

“Yet the British defended their lands against us, they may not see rebellion from the crown the same as we or they would have joined us then,” Hamilton says.

“Perhaps they have had time to think better. It has been years since Generals Montgomery and Arnold fought there,” Reed continues.

Holten nods. “Such plentiful trapping land, despite its cold, would be a loss the British would not tolerate and could be to our advantage to spread out their forces.”

“And our own as well, we having less to begin with,” Harrison counters. “Such a venture would require raising more troops and we struggle with this at present.”

“We have the French now,” Reed says, raising his eyebrows. “Have you forgotten?”

“I think you forget how much of the army here needs this French support,” Laurens says, an edge to his tone he cannot remove. “Perhaps you have been away from the front lines too long.”

“I have well enough a memory,” Reed says tersely and Laurens frowns back at him. Reed juts his chin toward the General. “What of you, General Washington?”

General Washington looks blandly back at Reed. “I will make all my thoughts known when the Congress deliberates.”

“It feels much that we deliberate now,” Tilghman quips.

“The army’s opinion is important in such matters,” Holten says. “Why not hear so here?”

“I think most of us make plain our thoughts,” Laurens says darkly.

“Defeatist thoughts,” Reed retorts.

Hamilton sits up straighter with his jaw clenched. “Realistic, sir.”

“The country is vastly loyalist,” General Whipple says toward Reed, holding out his wine glass like some pointer in his hand. “It would be a challenge to bring them to our side.”

“By arms or diplomacy?” Holten asks. “Would the pen work better?”

“They might write their own declaration perhaps,” Lady Washington says, “but perhaps they are not ready for such a leap as we.”

“Arms speak louder than pens,” Reed says. “If Canada should bend, we should have more troops.”

“Do you think to impress them into such service?” Laurens says hotly, Reed’s expression somehow still smug. “If they are not receptive to your delusions?”

“I think this a topic which would be better discussed upon the Congressional floor.” H. Laurens speaks sharp and sudden, causing all others at the table to turn toward him. He picks up his wine glass, casting a firm glance at Laurens before eyeing the rest of the table. “We shall vote on the measure in only a few days. I would prefer conversation of more cheer and less business, would not you all?”

“Indeed,” Mrs. Reed says, a tight smile on her face. “It is the first day of Christmas and we have much more to eat. So much heated talking leaves this fine fowl upon my table and I cannot have that.”

“We should never wish to dishonor your table,” General Washington says.

“Especially with the added length,” Tilghman quips, tapping the crack where two leaves meet.

Mrs. Reed and Lady Washington both laugh merrily, breaking any remaining tension. General Whipple turns to Tilghman, saying something about the construction of tables while Holten engages Lady Washington and Reed on a topic of what sounds like children. Laurens looks toward Hamilton, hoping to find a way to speak with him but Don Miralles speaks close to Hamilton’s ear in place of Laurens.

“You should do better to guard your opinions, John.”

Laurens turns to his father beside him, the older man’s voice low. “You disagree?”

“I think you must consider to whom you speak regardless of the situation.” H. Laurens purses his lips in a manner Laurens’ recognizes well from many a lecture in his youth. “You should not offend any gentleman of government because of the nature or delivery of your opinion.”

“I am no politician.”

“You might be yet.”

Laurens’ jaw clenches. “I am a soldier and soldiers cannot afford to quibble.”

“I should think you more ignorant than I know you are if you believe the ranks of the army do not ‘quibble’ as you say. Politics and the army are well entwined, you know this.”

“Yes, father, I do.” Laurens looks down at the turkey on his plate, under the press of his fork. Along the upper edge of his vision he sees Hamilton’s hand, gesturing to Don Miralles beside him. Laurens pulls his head up again and turns toward his father. “It may be prudent to toe such a line, but I think it ingenuous and weak willed to hide my opinion upon a matter which I feel strongly. I would rather my position known.”

H. Laurens turns his head more toward Laurens, a brief expression of surprise over his features. “You might make your opinion known without offense.”

“I offended no one.”

“You understand me,” H. Laurens hisses, his voice pitching low again.

Laurens glances to Mrs. Reed and General Washington’s animatedly engaged in their own conservation, snippets of ‘upon the water’ and ‘in this season the view’ which likely relates to General Washington’s Mount Vernon if Laurens imagines correctly. They pay no attention to the father and son nearest them.

“This war shall end one day and then a soldier you will no longer be. Where should you think yourself then? You are my son and men have long memories in politics. You cannot throw your words around like a child.”

“I had no such intent.” Laurens reaches out and picks up his glass of wine to find a reason not to stare down his father.

“I do not speak only of now. I know your nature.” His hand brushes Laurens’ arm, his voice pitching down into nearly a whisper. “I would only wish to shield you and ensure your future be laid with the opportunities it deserves.”

Laurens smiles to himself which he hides in a sip of his wine. He turns back to H. Laurens beside him. “Thank you, father.”

Laurens’ father nods. “So, mind my words and keep your own with less contention.”

Laurens breathes in deeply and only nods back this time.

 

The meal continues without any additional heated discussions among the table members or, specifically, any asinine debates from Reed which might raise Laurens’ ire once more. They all enjoy another course of beef, followed by some minced pies and a final dessert of brandied peaches. Tilghman and General Whipple seem slightly worse for the wear with their rounds of punch and brandy but not into a disparaging state. Harrison leads a spirited conversation about raising daughters compared to sons, which less of the table can engage with actively, but all listen to, if only for the clear pleasure upon Lady Washington’s face.

At the conclusion of dinner, Mrs. Reed suggests retiring to the parlor for more brandy and possibly some carols if any of the men could be induced to sing. Lady Washington expresses an interest in seeing what sheet music they may have, confessing herself missing opportunities to play an instrument.
Several of the men express a need for the necessities after such a sumptuous meal. Thus, Laurens takes the opportunity to slip away toward the back of the house through the narrow hall. Knowing Reed to be a man of vanity in most regards, Laurens strongly suspects the house to be in possession of a back garden of some kind. Laurens is not disappointed.

“Cozy,” Laurens admits as he closes door behind him.

The back garden is sparse with the winter season but larger than Laurens expected being several yards in length and as wide as the house. It is surrounded by a wooden fence which abuts the neighbor’s house on the left side. The right lies upon a corner. The garden itself bears a rectangular path created by low hedges and a lane bisecting the middle with a central fountain. No water fills the fountain at present, but the statue of a cherub still stands waiting to perch upon water at its feet.

Lauren steps off the porch and walks along the right most path, his one hand held out as if he might brush the leaves, but his hand does not reach down far enough with his height. Laurens cuts into the middle, stopping in front of the bare fountain. He breathes in and out slowly, his exhales a ghostly sight before him in the moonlight. He tries to think of nothing – no words in his head, no duties to choose between, no expectations to be reminded of. He thinks of a bed at Valley Forge he misses as if it a home.

“Laurens?”

Laurens smiles to himself before he turns his head to the figure standing on the slight back veranda. He knew Hamilton would find him. He walks down the left path this time and back up to the rear of the house. He stands at the base of the three stairs and looks up at Hamilton. “Hello.”

“Hello.” Hamilton wraps his arm around one of the poles flanking either side of the stairs. “Do you hide out here?”

Laurens glances at the garden behind him then back to Hamilton. “I breathe out here.”

“Then breathe with me,” Hamilton says, gesturing to the space beside him at the top of the stairs.

Laurens smiles once more and rises up the steps. He turns about beside Hamilton to look out at the garden. His hand near Hamilton’s twitches in want but he does not take Hamilton’s hand. Hamilton’s shoulder bumps gently against Laurens’ as they stand near. It feels like an embrace with such tension still around Laurens.

“Reed seems more pompous than since we last saw him,” Laurens says after a brief silence.

“Hardly a surprise as he has been made president of something.”

“I think I should fear for Pennsylvania.”

Hamilton laughs. “Is fearing this dinner party not enough?”

Laurens shakes his head. “We have managed most of it.”

“And it is Christmas.”

Laurens looks down at Hamilton. “It is.”

Hamilton’s fingers pinch the end of Laurens' lapel. “Our first together.”

“What should that signify?”

“I think it should signify a year together.” Hamilton’s eyes turn up toward Laurens. “More than a year of happiness.”

Laurens nods. “And battles and sickness.”

“Battles we survived and sickness we conquered.” Laurens makes a ‘hmm’ noise. Then Hamilton’s fingers touch the back of Laurens’ hand. “Do not let your father’s expectations lessen the accomplished, dutiful man you are, the man I know and care for.”

Laurens’ jaw clenches. “He does not attempt to lessen me.”

“He does not lift you up either.” Laurens looks sharply at Hamilton, but Hamilton does not shrink from Laurens’ gaze. “I do not insult him, I state facts.”

“I care very much for my father.”

Hamilton shakes his head. “That does not change his actions.”

“You do not understand.”

“I do.”

Laurens looks away. “I am his eldest son. He wishes the best of me, for and from me.”

“The best is relative, is it not?” Laurens glances at Hamilton once more. “Could not a position in General Washington’s office be the best of the army? Could not your service, your blood spilt, be the best a man can give for his country?” Hamilton’s voice comes heated despite its hush now. “Could not your simple desire to give him all you could despite your own wants be a best? If he thinks you not best now, then I think him wrong.”

“Hamilton…”

Hamilton huffs then turns away. “I would apologize, but I cannot.” Only his eyes shift toward Laurens. “It pains me to see the expressions his words and condemnations put upon your face.”

Laurens’ lips pinch. “He is not often wrong.”

Hamilton puts his hand on Laurens’ cheek. “That is untrue!”

Laurens turns his head away from Hamilton’s touch. “What would you have me say, Hamilton?”

“I would have you recall the man you are when not under his censure.”

Laurens stares out at the darkness of the garden before them, no breeze but the chill of winter making Laurens’ hands stiff now – his father’s voice in his ears.

“Let us speak of something sweeter,” Hamilton says. Laurens turns back to him. Hamilton curls himself around the pole near them so much of his body hangs off the back of the porch, only his feet on either side of the pole and his hands wrapped tight keeping him there. “What of Christmas now, near a fortnight of visits and dinners before us in this city.”

Laurens nods. “Goose and brandy.”

“I think more of the beef.”

“Ah, have you been denied such when I was absent?”

“Hmm, yes, without you present the army did not think we needing as much meat to fill our bellies.”

Laurens smirks. “Did they think to have you survive on, fish?”

Hamilton shifts around to the other side of the pole, still smiling at Laurens. “Bread and small beer only, rum if we should drill well enough.”

Laurens chuckles. “Worse than Valley Forge even.”

“A terror.”

“What else might you wish for with this Christmas season?” Laurens asks.

Hamilton purses his lips. “A man beside me in a warm bed.”

“Yes?” Laurens whispers.

Hamilton slides around the pole again, shifting most of his person back onto the porch. “Blond hair upon the pillow when I open my eyes?”

“Yes?”

Hamilton slips his hands off the pole and dances his fingertips over one cuff of Laurens’ coat. “Kisses in the night, hands on my skin.”

“Hamilton…” Laurens’ fingers reach up to try and catch the tips of Hamilton’s as he drags it away, over Laurens’ lapel and merely a ghost of touch across Laurens’ waistcoat.

“A strong man to lay me down…” Hamilton’s eyes look so dark and his voice like wine Laurens wants to reach for, swaying forward. “A stiff man to… touch me more, to strip me bare.”

Laurens gasps harsh and loud, his body responding indiscreetly toward just what Hamilton describes. Laurens sucks in a deep breath. “Hamilton, you cannot tease me so, not here.”

Hamilton smiles wide and sly, not sorry a bit and far too pleased. “In Reed’s house? Would that not be a triumph of some kind?”

Laurens tries to focus on his breath and not the images Hamilton conjures in his memory and wants. “What, here in the cold?”

“Oh no, my dear, inside, of course.” Hamilton cocks his head. “Where Reed might notice one chair shifted and wonder at the cause.”

Laurens laughs taking another step back from Hamilton’s purr. “Yes, and us caught out and thrown into the street.”

“Perhaps his desk then? It should not shift under our weight.”

“Dear God, Hamilton,” Laurens moans, “we must return inside soon and you would have me in a state unfit to be seen.”

Hamilton smiles, softer now. “You are always fit to be seen, at least by me.” Laurens huffs in frustrated amusement. Hamilton curls his arms across his chest. “And I think in a better mood now, I hope?”

Laurens nods, feeling himself calmer and less ready to show Hamilton the truth of his lascivious teasing. “Yes.”

Hamilton cocks his head. “What of a kiss then, a Christmas kiss?”

Laurens sighs unhappily. “We cannot, not here, not…” Not with the General and his father inside.

Hamilton smiles. “I should have caught you beneath the mistletoe. Then you should not be able to refuse or risk such terrible luck for the next year.”

“Do not torture me Hamilton,” Laurens pleads. “You know I should want to, very much.”

Hamilton slides his fingers over Laurens’. He rubs his thumb slowly over the back of Laurens’ hand. “Yes, I know.”

Laurens tightens his fingers around Hamilton’s, feels the imprint of where a quill would sit against Hamilton’s third finger, focuses on the movement of Hamilton’s thumb over his skin. He thinks perhaps he could dare a kiss despite all the danger behind him, give himself that one small thing when all of Hamilton’s other words and wishes for them both are barred now.

Suddenly the back-door swings open and Tilghman’s head appears. He turns to them just as Hamilton drops their hands. “Did you lose your way from the privy? Hiding instead?”

“Not hiding,” Laurens croaks.

Tilghman makes a disbelieving noise then he steps out onto the porch. “It shall do you no good, Hamilton in particular. The General and Harrison have just offered you up in tribute as the singer of our office. You cannot avoid performance now.”

“I did not expect to.”

“I think you should not escape unscathed either Laurens.” Tilghman points at Laurens. “Your father will likely offer you up in place of himself.”

Laurens shakes his head. “He knows I have little voice and you underestimate his abilities.”

“We shall see, won’t we?” Tilghman takes a few steps backward and gestures with both hands at the back door. “Come along, Colonels.”

He then twists around, opens the door and steps inside. Laurens and Hamilton glance at each other with matching expressions of pleasant resignation. Hamilton reaches out and presses Laurens’ hand. It makes Laurens remember Valley Forge, kissing in the snow by the barn, the two of them wrapped around each other in the cold of their room. As Hamilton pulls back and grasps the door instead, Laurens’ expression falls. He wonders, were they too lax back then, too ready to let their passions rule their actions so many nights? Was it more dangerous to risk as much as they did then or should it be more so in this city, in his father’s house?

"Laurens?" Hamilton asks and holds out his free hand.

Laurens takes Hamilton's hand pushing back the worry, the concern, not with Hamilton still beside him, ready to fight for him, not when Laurens has such a man as his.