Burr visibly recoils when he walks into Alexander’s office. Alexander would normally be offended, but in this case he thinks Burr’s reaction is fair. He will admit that he probably looks... not great.
“What’s wrong with you? Do you feel alright?” Burr sounds accusatory, hovering in the doorway with a stack of papers in his hands. He looks like he’s afraid if he fully crosses the threshold he’ll be infected immediately and irreversibly. Alexander takes a moment to resent this, because, yeah, he’s sick, but it’s not like he chose to metamorphize into the disgusting walking contaminant that he’s become.
“Yes, Burr, I feel amazing,” Alexander replies, and his voice comes out as a mucus-logged rasp. “Are you going to give me those papers are not?”
Burr shakes his head but takes the fateful step into the office like a man going to the gallows and approaches Alexander’s desk. “I swear to God, Alexander, if I catch what you have because I’m breathing your disgusting air...”
He drops the stack of papers on the desk with loud, resounding thunk.
Alexander tries to roll his eyes but finds that doing so makes him unbearably dizzy. “You’ll be fine,” he says. “Probably.” Alexander groans. His temples are throbbing. “God, I feel like I’m going to kick-it old school and die in office.”
“That’s reassuring,” Burr says. Then, narrowing his eyes suspiciously, he says, “Does your wife know that you’re here?”
“Fuck you for asking that,” Alexander says, pointing a weak finger at Burr. Burr is right to ask that, obviously, because his wife doesn’t know that he’s here and when Eliza left the house this morning Alexander said that he wasn’t going to go into work, but Burr shouldn’t be able to guess that. So, fuck him. “Of course she knows I’m here.”
“Right,” Burr says, looking thoroughly unconvinced. Alexander sneezes and Burr leans back without trying to seem like he’s leaning back. Subtle, Alexander thinks. “Anyway,” Burr says, “if your brain is still cogent enough to answer, what do we want the line to be on this Montez bill? The press corp is going to be all over me about it.”
“Downplay the amendments, talk up the positive aspects. Closing the gap in Medicare coverage, providing preventative initiatives, that sort of thing.” Alexander coughs into his elbow, hard enough that Burr looks mildly concerned. “Shouldn’t you be talking to the Health and Human Services people about this?”
“Shouldn’t you be submitting yourself for study down at the CDC?” Burr shoots back. “Anyway, you could be on death’s door, which you very well may be, and you would still be more useful than anyone in that department.”
“Aw, Burr, I didn’t know you cared,” Alexander says, reaching for one of the files on his desk and finding that getting his arm to work is a lot harder than he remembers it being.
Burr scoffs, turning to leave, but then pauses at the door and looks back at Alexander. “You look awful, Alexander. You should really go home and get some sleep.”
“I’ll sleep when I’m dead,” Alexander reassures him. “Which should be in about an hour.”
Alexander’s prediction of an imminent death does seem likely to come true, though, admittedly, not the way he expected it to. Instead of dying from tuberculosis or whatever 18th century disease he’s currently suffering from, he’ll be dead at the hands of his irate wife, who is standing in his office with her arms crossed over her chest and a scowl on her usually sunny face.
“How did you know I was here?” Alexander asks her from where he has his head pillowed on his arms. He’d been trying to read the latest growth figures but his vision had blurred, so he is attempting to ascertain if this position helps him see any better. It doesn’t. “It was Burr, wasn’t it,” Alexander says weakly. "Oh, by the way, how did your meeting with the fundraising committee go?"
“Yes, it was,” Eliza replies, her lips pursed. “He called to let me know that you were in your office groaning like the living dead.” She points an accusatory finger at him. “Alexander Hamilton, you said you were going to stay home and rest. And the meeting when well, thank you for asking, but don't think you're going to change the subject.”
“Ah,” Alexander says, lifting his head, and wincing slightly at the way that any motion makes his sinuses throb. “That's good. About the meeting, I mean. And I said that I wouldn’t come in while I felt so badly. But I felt better!” He grimaces, very aware that the chances of her buying this story are on par with the chances of him running a marathon today. So, absolutely zero.
“You’re going to work yourself into an early grave.”
“Honestly,” Alexander says, and has to pause for an extended coughing fit. “Honestly,” he repeats, “death would be a huge relief right now.”
“And that’s why you need to go home,” Alexander hears Burr say. He looks up to see the man leaning against his doorjamb. “No one here wants to deal with the possibility of you croaking right there at your desk.”
“Thank you for calling me, Aaron,” Eliza says, turning to look at Burr. “I would’ve hated to become a widow in my twenties because this one,” she jabs a finger at Alexander, "died of pneumonia."
“You’re welcome,” Burr responds. “Just, please, take him home before he contaminates the entire building and we have to burn it down.”
“I think it might be too late for that,” Alexander says, then sneezes into his elbow.
“Spectacular,” Burr says darkly. “So I’ll just pencil myself in for a bout of typhus later this week. By the way, you dad’s here.”
“Oh, fuck yo - Mr. President,” Alexander says, sheepish, as he smothers a cough. “How can I help you, sir?” he croaks.
President Washington brushes past Burr and steps into Alexander’s office without saying a word. He takes a moment to survey the scene before him: Eliza, standing in front of the desk glaring at Alexander, her concern evident behind her rigid posture. Alexander himself, seated behind his desk and deathly pale save for the fever high in his cheeks, his eyes glassy and unfocused.
“Alexander,” Washington says in his deep, slow voice. “I see that reports of your imminent demise have not been greatly exaggerated.”
“I’m fine, sir, really,” Alexander says, trying his best to focus on the president. It’s rather hard when there’s three of him and they all keep swaying. “It’s just a cold.”
“I think it's pronounced ‘living death,’” Burr says from the doorway. Alexander can’t even get up the energy to glare at him.
“Yes, that’s probably more accurate, Mr. Burr,” Washington says, still looking at his indisposed Treasury Secretary. “Alexander, you need to go home. You look like a corpse.”
“Thank you, sir,” Alexander says. “I’ll put that into my compliment bank.”
Washington, who Alexander can tell is barely containing the urge to roll his eyes, turns to Eliza. “Hello, Eliza. How are you?”
“I’m fine, Mr. President,” Eliza replies. “Alexander, on the other hand...” she says, shaking her head and fixing her husband with a long stare. He has the good grace to look sheepish under his deathly pallor.
“Yes, I see,” Washington, says, a hint of a smile playing around his mouth. “Well, I’m banning him from all government buildings until he recovers.”
“Sir, you can’t do that!” Alexander moans, letting his head fall to his desk.
“I’m pretty sure he can,” Eliza says, and Alexander hears Burr laugh from the doorway.
“You’re to stay home until you’ve been... resuscitated, at the very least,” Washington says. “I mean, my God, Alexander.”
“Alright, fine,” Alexander croaks. “If you’re all going to conspire against me, I guess I have no choice but to abandon my essential work for the good of the nation so that I can go home to nap,” Alexander says, trying to rise from his seat and finding his feet unsteady. He realizes that this rather undercuts his argument, and he doesn’t protest when Eliza comes around the desk and puts his arm over her shoulders. Eliza is small but surprisingly sturdy, and she doesn’t wobble when Alexander relaxes against her with a sigh.
“I’m glad this is all settled,” Washington says with a nod. “I expect I’ll see you sometime later in the week, Alexander.”
“Tomorrow, sir,” Alexander says, trying to get the words out without coughing.
“No,” Eliza says.
“No?” Alexander asks, turning to look at her with pleading eyes.
“No,” she repeats firmly, and begins walking him slowly around the desk.
“Absolutely not,” Burr echoes. “We’re going to need at least a couple of days to disinfect this place. I can almost see the bacteria,” he says with a grimace.
“Well, I wish you a speedy recovery, Alexander,” Washington says, clasping his hands behind his back.
And that’s about the last thing Alexander remembers.
Alexander wakes groggy and over-warm, still too tired to open his eyes. He surmises that he’s in his own bed, because he recognizes the feel of the sheets and the sound of the whirring fan that always seems like it’s going to vibrate right off the ceiling. He feels a cool, familiar hand on his forehead, stroking his hair out of his face. “Betsey,” he whispers, and he can hear the smile in her voice when she says, “You’re finally awake.”
Alexander slowly open his eyes to find that the world beyond the apartment windows has gone dark and still. “How long was I asleep?” he asks, his voice raspy.
“About seven hours,” Eliza tells him, her hand cupping his cheek. “It’s almost nine o’clock.”
“Wow,” Alexander says, closing his eyes again. “I don’t think I’ve slept that many uninterrupted hours since... ever, maybe.”
“Do you feel any better?” Eliza asks him.
“Lousy,” Alexander says honestly. “I really should’ve stayed home today, huh?”
He cracks his eyes to see Eliza glaring down at him and feels a stab of guilt. “And it only took you passing out in the taxi on the way home for you realize it.” She tugs at his hair gently. “My days of speaking truth to power will see no end, I guess.”
Alexander laughs, and then immediately regrets it when he starts coughing. “I really did think I was feeling better,” he says once he’s recovered, “if that helps at all.”
“Not really,” Eliza tells him. “Your idea of ‘better’ doesn’t always intersect with the reality of a situation.”
“Well, when I decided to leave this morning I hadn’t hacked up a lung, in like, five minutes,” Alexander jokes. “So I figured I was good to go.”
Eliza rolls her eyes, but can’t quite keep the indulgent smile off of her face. “What am I going to do with you?” she asks, pinching his cheek.
“Keep me from becoming another dead, bloated corpse, gone too soon from this mortal coil,” Alexander tells her. “Through sickness and health and all that.”
“If only I had known what I was getting into,” Eliza says, shaking her head. “Oh, but you’ll be happy to know that everyone is very invested in your well-being. I’ve answered about forty concerned text messages.”
“Forty?” Alexander says.
“Well, most of them were from Angelica,” Eliza says with a shrug. “She keeps sending recipes for macrobiotic food and links to websites about total wellness.”
“She’s so helpful,” Alexander says, his small laugh devolving into another cough fit.
“Aaron Burr asked after you, actually," Eliza says.
“Yeah. He said to ask you not to die," she says, her face expressionless, "but that if you felt that you absolutely had to make your way to the great beyond, which he would understand, to make sure that the new growth numbers were on his desk in time for tomorrow's press conference."
Alexander is quiet for a moment, then begins to shake his head while Eliza fails to stifle her laughter. “I’m gonna haunt him, I swear,” Alexander says. “Remind me on my deathbed, Eliza. Say, ‘Alexander, I am reminding you that you once pledged to haunt Aaron Burr upon the occasion of your death.’ And I’ll say, “Thank you, honey, for bringing this important mission back to my attention.’ I will die happy, knowing that I am about to ascend to a spiritual realm where I, free from the bonds of mortality, can fuck with Aaron Burr for the rest of his life.”
Eliza laughs and rises from her seat on the side of the bed. “I’ll keep that in mind,” she says, and leans down to kiss his forehead. “I’m going to get you some hot tea. I’ll be right back, okay?”
“Okay,” Alexander agrees. Then, calling to her retreating back, he says, “But please do remember that me-haunting-Burr thing, okay? I’m committed to it!” He raises his voice too loudly, causing him to violently cough again, but he hears Eliza laughing at she walks into the kitchen.
So it’s not all bad.