Actions

Work Header

it feels more like a memory

Chapter Text

“Pardon me, are you Aaron Burr, sir?”

Aaron freezes. It’s an unpleasant evening, the air thick with fog and a cold drizzle descending from the heavens. He’s wearing a large coat, a scarf, and a hat, and he wasn’t expecting to be recognized in the street; otherwise he would have taken a carriage instead of walking.

(He hates it, hates taking carriages, hates how much his movements are regulated “for his own good and safety,” but he understands the logic behind it and necessity of it. Many say there has not been someone like him, someone with his ability, since Joan of Arc. And with the colonies on the brink of revolution, the British are hyperaware of this comparison.)

He could lie. He could say no, be on his way, the words are on the tip of his tongue, but a seer is never allowed to lie. Mandates that his grandfather drilled into him over and over, when you can see the future, when your words carry the sort of weight that they do, you cannot lie.

He settles for obfuscating.

“That depends, who’s asking?”

The tiny, raggedly, clearly underfed little bastard in front of him grins and sticks his hand out from an oversized and ill-fitting coat.

“Alexander Hamilton! I’m at your service, sir!”

Aaron looks at the hand and doesn’t take it. His hands are safely in his pocket, but he’d taken off his gloves, and he is not particularly in the mood to feel the single most consequential juncture of a stranger’s life.

Alexander is still grinning at him, and the moment is stretching on, and he refuses to put his hand down, and Aaron has about half a second before this staring contest verges beyond the mere impolite and into the territory of heavy, awkward weight and scattered excuses—and before he can think better of it, Aaron takes Alexander’s hand.

It happens in an instant. Alexander is a lot older—late forties, Aaron would guess—and standing in far nicer clothes. He’s wearing glasses. He’s pointing a pistol at Aaron.

This is new, Aaron is usually only a witness to his visions, not a participant in them. He steps backward, takes a bird’s eye view, and sees himself standing in the spot Alexander is staring at—that Alexander is aiming a pistol at. His older self raises his own pistol. He hears distantly a man counting to ten, sees Alexander steadily raise his arm towards the sky, sees the sunlight glint off of the pistol at the last moment. He hears two shots in rapid succession, hears his older self’s cry of, “WAIT,” sees Alexander crumple to the ground as his older self runs forward, and then it all fades, Aaron blinks, and the young, innocent Alexander is grinning and pumping his hand up and down in the cold, dreary night, staring at Aaron like Aaron’s just made his whole day.

“I heard your name at Princeton—“

And here it comes, the ‘am I going to find my true love’ or ‘where will I find success’ or ‘will I be rich’ or ‘will I be important’ or ‘will I live a long and happy life,’ all of the tiny, trifling things that people want to know. It never changes, the packaging, the phrasing, sure, but one way or another, they all want—

“I was seeking an accelerated course of study when I got sort of our of sorts with a buddy of yours—“

Aaron freezes.

What?

“—punched him, it’s a blur, sir, he handles the financials?”

“You punched the bursar?” Aaron blurts out.

“Yes!” He almost sounds proud. “I wanted to do what you did, graduate in two and—“

And Aaron feels relief pour through him. Alexander Hamilton, tiny, precious little Alexander Hamilton, who knew his name, who found him on the street, wanted to talk to him about his college education, his studies, about admission and the dumb bursar (Aaron would know, they turned him down when he was eleven, but he showed them a year later).

Someone actually wanted to talk to him, they didn’t want something from him.

Alexander takes a pause for breath, and Aaron jumps in: “Can I buy you a drink?”

Alexander swallows. “That would be nice.”

And Aaron can’t help but notice how thin he looks, how easily he could be snapped in half, how hungry his eyes are. Not a hunger that can ever be sated, Aaron thinks, and nearly shivers despite himself.

He can help with the cold and physical hunger, though. The nearest tavern he can think of is the Queen’s Head, which funnily enough is practically owned by the Sons of Liberty. It’s run by the more mature ones, though, people who are at least understanding of his circumstances and pester him far less than rabble in other bars might.

He sets the pace, Alexander follows, brings up the war, starts babbling all his hopes and dreams and ambitions and doesn’t seem to mind that Aaron is just listening, that Aaron barely contributes more to the conversation than a smile and a nod. Aaron is still dizzy with the relief, with how pleasant it is to let the words wash over him, with the fact that there is no expectation for him to talk.

When they get to the tavern, Aaron smiles at the man behind the bar, goes for his usual table hidden deep in one of the corners, out of the way of the usual diners. They save it for him; he frequents this place more often than he would like to admit. The owner, Samuel Fraunces, is an astute and reasonable man, and respected Aaron’s need for privacy whenever he was in public. While the tavern is not particularly crowded tonight, considering how it was adjacent to Coenties Slip and thus the waterfront, it was usually teeming, so the luxury of a table in the back is nice.

They have hearty food and good beer, that is all Aaron cares about. He doesn’t miss Alexander’s hesitation as he orders two meals, how Alexander gulps down half the first glass of beer when it arrives and seems to nearly choke on it, how all of his movements have become sharper and twitchier. He briefly wonders when the last time Alexander ate was, whether the wealth of affording a nice meal like this is making him uncomfortable. Aaron himself has well gotten over the twinge of guilt that comes with taking charity; despite his comfortable position and his trust fund, many people insist on the honor of treating a seer, and will not accept money or no for an answer.

Everyone always wants something.

He wonders what Alexander thinks he wants from him, wonders what’s going through the young man’s head.

The food arrives and Alexander dives into it, and in an attempt to keep him from choking via attempting to talk and inhale food at the same time, Aaron begins to fill the silence. First somewhat stiltedly, as he is not used to just talking for talking’s sake, but he is beginning to study law and there are many subjects that are intellectually fascinating but not politically polarized, which means that he can speak about them with free reign. The English Commonlaw was a work of genius clobbered together over the years, full of rich history and precedent and Aaron is just starting to learn the true depths of it, and he says as much. He comments that perhaps Alexander might want to become a lawyer too—he certainly likes talking enough. Alexander grins at that one.

They finish their meal, they’re working on their second glasses of beer, the conversation has turned from law to politics to revolution, and Aaron is still enjoying it despite deflecting the implicit questions looming every single time Alexander lets him talk—and that’s when the door bursts open and three rather drunk idiots stumble in.

Hercules Mulligan, a textile importer, and ardent Son of Liberty. John Laurens, son of rich landowner and member of the Provisional Congress Henry Laurens. And a new face, someone propped up between the two of them and speaking garbled English in a heavy French accent, and Aaron nearly closes his eyes and begins to pray as they stumble towards the back, but they thankfully, thankfully, thankfully they sit at an adjacent table. Alexander gives them a curious glance, and for a brief moment Aaron thinks they’re safe, and then Laurens’ eyes land on them.

“If it ain’t the prodigy of Princeton college!”

He elbows the French man and Mulligan, and now all three of them are staring at Aaron and Alexander. “Aaron Burr!” Mulligan exclaims. Laurens is laughing, but his eyes are hard, and Aaron is very aware that not many of the younger Sons of Liberty are as understanding about his unique set of circumstances, the balance that he must strike, and that his night is potentially about to take a turn for the unpleasant.

Aaron gives them all a curt nod but doesn’t say anything. Laurens keeps pushing.

“Come on, drop us some knowledge! It’s Monsieur Lafayette’s first night here in the colonies, give ‘em something to remember!”

Aaron raises an eyebrow.

“Come on, Burr!” Mulligan shouts, or perhaps says but it too drunk to have any control over his own volume. The tavern is quieting, everyone is staring.

“I merely have the advice to offer of perhaps talk a bit less loudly, especially about the subjects you seem so prone to shouting about,” Aaron finally says. “I, for one, intend to finish my meal and go home unharassed tonight.”

Laurens catches on immediately and won’t let it go. “Burr, the Revolution’s imminent, what the fuck are you stalling for?”

And then Alexander, sweet Alexander, is staring back and forth between the two men and comprehension is blooming on his face and he stands up and maybe is a bit drunker than he expects because his chair scrapes and nearly falls over and looks him directly in the eyes and says, “If you stand for nothing, Burr, what do you fall for?”

Aaron is frozen for a beat as a strange mixture of shame and humiliation and fury wash over him, then he stands abruptly and pushes his chair into the table. “All I see is death,” he says, his tone brokes finality, and perhaps he is speaking a bit too loudly as well because the entire tavern falls silent and the words seem to grow and echo in his mind and take on a weight of their own, and he is terrified that they are going to be repeated from every corner tomorrow, spoken as if they are prophecy, when all they are is truth: his abilities seem to be limited to seeing the deaths of people, and usually only when his skin brushes their skin.

He cannot stand the silence, he cannot stand the stillness; he breaks it, storms out without bothering to look back. The meal and drinks will be put on his tab, although he doubts Fraunces will make him pay for it when he hears what happened. Alexander will get along with those three well enough, he couldn’t shut up about the Revolution, it was Revolution this and Revolution that and suddenly all of Alexander’s unending stream of words seems stifling and he needs fresh air and to be gone. He’s outside and in what is now a light rain before he can properly pull his scarf hand hat on and has just finished wrestling his outer garments into their proper places, his legs moving ever-forward the whole time, when a hand slips into his and tugs him to a stop.

His breath catches for a moment, but no new vision hits him, so it must be someone that he’s already touched. He turns around, but he knows who it is before his eyes catch sight of them: Alexander Hamilton, standing there is the rain, gazing at him with an expression of understanding and what almost looks like pity.

“I’m sorry, that was a bit out of line, I didn’t mean to push,” Alexander says. “I just—how can you stand it, staying neutral?”

“I’ve lived longer than most seers of recorded history,” Aaron points out. “And no one is particularly trying to kill me yet.”

“The Revolution really is imminent,” Alexander says. “They’ll come for you eventually, the British, the Continental army, it won’t matter, someone either won’t trust you or won’t trust the enemy not to snatch you up. So why don’t you choose, before someone chooses for you?”

“I don’t want to get dragged into this mess,” Aaron says. “I will not be able to offer either side what they would demand of me. And I do not intend to become a target. I do not think war will be particularly pleasant, for me, for anyone.”

“You won’t have a choice!” Alexander says. “Don’t you think what’s happening is—is wrong, don’t you believe—“ and the expression of betrayal is plastered across is face again, such an innocent, unhidden anguish, like the very idea of Burr not wanting to take a position is breaking his heart, and Aaron hears himself hissing, “Yes, I think the current situation is a mess, yes, I think the the British have long since passed the point of no return with the current occupation of Boston and the Coercive Acts and honestly empires fall and the British empire is reaching past its prime, yes, I think that not only will these colonies fight for revolution but will possibly even win it, and might not even tear themselves apart in the process, and honestly, I hope that it happens, because then maybe everyone will stop bothering me and I can live my life in peace as a perfectly normal citizen and practice law and have some smidgeon of control over my own life.

There is silence, and Aaron’s throat feels constricted. “My life hasn’t been my own since I was confirmed as a…confirmed at the age of four. Every word that I say carries weight, every glance that I give, the people that I associate with, the opinions that I voice, they’re all dissected and analyzed and remembered. They have power. So I’m careful before I open my mouth.”

Which is ironic for him to say, considering he’s just spilled more of his soul to a total stranger than he’s ever said in earnest to anyone in his life. In fact, he’s probably spoken more words tonight than he has in the past month combined.

Alexander takes his hand again and squeezes it. “Well then, I’ll fight. I’ll fight so that you can be free, Mister Burr, sir.”

Aaron almost bursts out laughing, because that’s the sort of line that a terrible, unscrupulous flirt would use on a maiden to woo her, only Aaron can see in Alexander’s eyes that he is completely sincere.

“Mulligan—Hercules Mulligan, back at the bar, his family has rooms that they are leasing, if you go and talk at those three long enough, I expect before long you’ll have a place to live. They’re near King’s College, which, while not Princeton, also does not happen to have a bursar that you punched,” Aaron says. “While we’re sitting around waiting for the revolution to happen, you might as well get started on an education. I’d say to stay out of trouble, but—“

Alexanders grins. “I promise I’ll only get into trouble if the other person really, really deserves it.”

“No you won’t,” Aaron says. “But you won’t get yourself killed, at least, not before you see all your great revolutionary convictions come into fruition.”

“Good to know,” Alexander says, and there’s a glint of mischief in his eyes and Aaron’s heart sinks knowing exactly how much of a bad idea it was to tell him that.

“Go on, get out of the rain, join your friends, get drunk and talk about revolution, be young and stupid and enjoy yourself,” Aaron says. “We’ll run into each other soon again.”

Alexander puts his hands on his hips and grins cockily. “Because you’ve seen it?”

“Because you’re far too stubborn to leave me alone, especially since you know where I live now,” Aaron says.

“You live here?” Alexander asks.

“Just down the street,” Aaron says. And he nearly, nearly, nearly invites Alexander to just come with him, stay the night in his guest room, nearly convinces himself that there won’t be questions the next morning, that if any of the thousands of eyes on him noticed and reported Alexander to the British that he’d be in trouble, that questions would be raised about whether or not he was a spy, that he would be placed under house arrest and that Alexander would be dragged off and most likely killed.

(Well. Not after just one night. But Aaron also doesn’t need to be a seer to know that if he lets Alexander stay over, he’ll have a hard time ever say no to him again, can already picture the late nights that will be spent in lighthearted conversation or somewhat more heated debate or Alexander hunched over a table scrawling while candles burn low and Aaron fetches them both tea and a small plate of biscuits, and it feels so real that for a moment Aaron thinks it is, thinks that it’s another vision instead of him just longing, longing, longing for it to be real.)

“Well,” Alexander says. “I probably shouldn’t keep you.”

And then he smiles and turns to go back to the bar and Aaron stands in the middle of the street for a solid minute, watching his form disappearing, as a pang hits him: he’s going to kill this man, he’s going to extinguish this fire, almost as sure as it’s been written in stone, he is going to be the one who kills Alexander Hamilton.

He’s almost grateful, in a stupid, selfish way. Because it means that Alexander’s going to be safe, it means that no one else is going to touch him, it means that he won’t have to worry about the idiot getting himself killed. And he can always just decide not to shoot him, and as long as Aaron doesn’t want to shoot him, well, Hamilton won’t get shot.

Still, it’s a strange mixture of fire and guilt that is smoldering in his belly as he turns to go back home.

~~~~

Alexander will not, for the life of him, shut up.

He moves in with the Mulligans. Aaron still ends up eating dinner with him a fair amount at the Queen’s Head, if only because it means that he knows that Hamilton is eating, but he has to be more and more careful about it, considering how loud Alexander is getting. And how noticed. A British officer—Aaron’s stopped learning their names, as the rotation changes once a week, slams a pamphlet entitled Farmer Refuted on the table in front of him one morning and asks him in a fairly accusatory tone wasn’t it that friend of his that wrote this?

Aaron, his aplomb intact, just raises an eyebrow and says that he’s never seen this pamphlet before, but, scanning it, well, you have to admit that it’s fairly funny.

The officer does not seem particularly amused. But British officers rarely seem amused at anything he does these days, his every twitch is being regarded with the utmost suspicion, and Alexander’s voice is getting under his skin more and more and more, wouldn’t he rather choose before someone chooses for him? He wonders sometimes if he uses his abilities as an excuse, or if he’s merely spoiled, that he waits for the few and far between flashes of insight he has before making decisions because he alone has the luxury of every once in a while knowing with complete certainty that he will end up on the right side. He doesn’t understand for a moment how Alexander does it, how he throws himself into things with such passion and surety, how no matter how high the stakes, Alexander seems to always win. He would be terrified for Alexander’s life, if he didn’t know that Alexander’s life was safe and sound and entirely in his hands.

I’m not standing still, I’m just lying in wait, Aaron reminds himself.

~~~

He can’t wait much longer; news of the battles of Lexington and Concord arrive, and he has one of his rare flashes of insight that the British are coming for him, and he sneaks out of his house to go and enlist in the Continental Army. They send him to Quebec, decide that it is safer to keep him out of the way than risk his capture. He is grateful. He wears his gloves constantly, and manages to avoid most skin-on-skin contact, and so he doesn’t have to experience most of the men around him’s deaths.

He shakes General Montgomery’s hand when they meet, sees that he is going to be killed by a grapeshot from a cannon in a snowstorm on an attack of Montreal. As they place the city under siege, he grows nervous, on December 30th, when a snowstorm strikes, he tells Montgomery. Montgomery stares into the distance for a few minutes, then replies that he will still go forward with the attack, prepares orders for Colonel Arnold to take over, but he cannot throw away this battle that they might win just to attempt to preserve his own life. He sends Aaron on the fastest horse he has to get out of there, to re-join Washington’s forces down in the states and wait for re-assignment, because the possibility of Aaron’s capture is far more important than the certainty of him dying.

For the first time, Aaron feels actively guilty about his gift, and actively useless, and he hates it.

They lose the battle, many are killed, many more are captured, and Aaron alone makes it safely back to Washington’s forces.

~~~

“Your Excellency.”

“Who are you?”

“Aaron Burr, sir.”

Washington visibly stiffens; he must recognize his name. Of course he recognizes his name, there’s no one in the colonies who wouldn’t.

Aaron presses on. “Permission to state my case?”

“As you were.”

“Sir, I was a captain under General Montgomery until he caught a bullet in the neck in Quebec, and well—“ Washington keeps staring at him and he feels uncharacteristically nervous. “I have some questions, a couple of suggestions, I could…”

Could what? Shake men’s hands to see where they die and use that to get glimpses of where battles would happen and how bad they look, help inform strategy at the price of his own albeit twisted sense of morality and honesty, use his abilities to help them cheat?

What would Alexander do? What would Alexander say if he could see him here, offering, prostituting his own gifts, and for what? Out of a sense of shame that Montgomery saved him? Out of the frustration that he can do nothing?

Washington is still staring at him, the silence is stretching on, until finally the general speaks. “I will be frank with you, Mister Burr, I am aware of the extent of your abilities, and your history of equivocation. It makes me question your motives as to what precisely you are offering.”

“I respected General Montgomery a lot, sir, and I watched him march into battle with knowledge of his own death—“ and Washington’s eyes suddenly harden and Aaron knows that he’s said the wrong thing, even as he presses on, “—and I do not want a single sacrifice of this war to be in vain or to be unnecessarily made.”

“Your Excellency, you wanted to see me?”

Aaron’s heart nearly stops, Alexander is right there, holding one of the flaps of the tent open, hovering on the threshold.

Washington smiles, and looks a lot less cold.

“Hamilton, come in. Have you met Burr?”

“We keep meeting,” Aaron says, and Alexander says it at exactly the same time, and then grins at him, and Aaron can’t help but grin back.

(It only occurs to him later that perhaps Alexander is remembering the first time they met, when Aaron told him that they would run into each other again, that Alexander really did take his words to mean more than Aaron meant them to. Aaron doesn’t care, he’s more than happy to keep running into him.)

“Burr?”

“Sir?”

“Close the door on your way out.”

And Aaron is not sure whether he feels relief or disappointment that it seems like he really won’t be doing the insanity that he just offered to do, that he really won’t watch death after death after death just to try to give a bit more hope in this seemingly unwindable war.

~~~

Aaron eventually gets promoted to Lieutenant Colonel, and he shakes the hands of every single one of his men, taking careful note of every possible glimmer of information he can get about upcoming skirmishes and attempting to ignore all of his deaths. A very large number of them die long after the war; some happily, surrounded by their families, some drunk and alone and cursing their lives, some in more pressing circumstances, but they make it through the war. It gives him confidence. He has to rely on his own skills, his own observations, and he gives orders as any other man would, and not because he is a seer. It only stings a little bit that almost everyone will view his success as coming from those other abilities, and not who he is as a person.

He becomes a national hero, even though Washington refuses to commend him for any of his efforts. He tries not to let that get a rise out of him. He tries to think of how proud Alexander undoubtedly is that not only has he chosen a side, but he has wholeheartedly devoted himself to it. Some say that the fact that he is known to be fighting for the Revolution is doing more to turn wavering Loyalists to the cause than anything else; the fact that America’s seer has chosen America imbues everyone with the hope that they can and will win this war. Aaron becomes the de-facto leader of Colonel William Malcolm's Additional Continental Regiment, and successfully fights off more British nighttime raids than he can count. He helps put down mutiny at Valley Forge.

Things go well until the summer, when Charles Lee makes a stupid mistake and an even stupider attack on General Charles Cornwallis’ rear guard and Aaron’s regiment rushes to help, and Aaron begins to recognize the location, recognize the land and the shadows and the sunlight and the very smell of the air, and he freezes and before he can shout anything and the heat and the memories of death replay over and over again as screams ring through the air and he’s fairly sure that he collapses, and all he can think about is how terribly he failed as he prays that someone will kill him before he can get captured.

The next thing he knows, he’s waking up in a medical tent and Alexander is standing over him. He blinks, but Alexander doesn’t seem to have noticed that he’s awake, so he stays very still, hoping that he’ll just leave. A half hour passes, and he doesn’t.

“Don’t you have duties to attend to?” Aaron finally croaks.

Alexander’s full attention is focused solely on him at once like a spotlight. “I am,” he says. “The entire Continental Army is rather worried about the fact that we may have just killed our seer.”

“I survive the war,” Aaron says.

“Well none of us have any way of knowing that!” Alexander’s eyes flash, and he opens his mouth, ready to launch into an angry tirade. Aaron cuts him off.

“Well, now you do.”

Alexander doesn’t even esteem that with a reply, he just turns on his heel and stomps out. Aaron can’t blame him for that, he got the information that he came for. Other aides-de-camp visit him and check up on him, and soon he is well enough to move back to his own tent.

John Laurens challenges Charles Lee to a duel. Lee immediately, secretly, under the cover of night, comes and visits Aaron to ask whether or not he’ll win. Aaron is too tired to turn him away, so takes his hand, and tells him that he won’t die in the duel.

Alexander must hear somehow, because he marches into Aaron’s tent the next day, absolutely furious, not even demanding to know what Aaron saw, just pissed that Aaron would use his abilities for something so petty, and even worse, to help the enemy. Aaron nearly snorts at that—Charles Lee isn’t their enemy, he’s an idiot who made some mistakes but that doesn’t mean he should be strung up for it—

“How many men died because Lee was inexperienced and ruinous?” Alexander shouts at him.

Aaron sighs. So he’s not going to be able to talk Alexander out of this, and honestly, he’s not sure if he even should. But he’s himself, so he has to try. “Okay,” he says. “So you’re doing this? Has there not been enough bloodshed already? Has there not been—”

And then he nearly doubles over and throws up, because all he can see is men dying on a battlefield, on a thousand different battlefields, and he can’t pick apart the ones that are his memories from the ones that are other people’s memories to the ones that haven’t even happened yet, and he probably would be on the ground if not for the fact that suddenly Alexander’s holding him up.

“He did this to you,” Alexander said, his voice angry and low and rough, and Aaron nearly has to bite his tongue to keep himself from hysterics.

“I did this to myself, Alexander,” he says. “I shook every single one of my soldiers’ hands to try to—to try—“ and the memories of deaths are nearly overwhelming him again.

Alexander is staring at him with wide eyes. “You didn’t.”

“I did.”

“How could you—“ Aaron feels his whole body go numb. “How could you do that to yourself?” Alexander’s voice breaks at the end of it, and Aaron is almost guilty for the giddy relief that rushes through him.

“Not many people are aware of the significance of shaking my hand,” Aaron says. (He had confided in Alexander back before the war, back when they were friends who sometimes got dinner together, because Alexander was curious and unafraid to ask why Aaron wore gloves all the time and in general just avoided touching people. Alexander had thankfully not asked what he’d seen when they’d shaken hands for the first time.) “Besides, would you have done any differently?”

Alexander looks like he is caught between wanting to protest, and the fact that Aaron is unequivocally right.

“Aaron, will you promise me something?” he finally says.

“It depends on what you ask,” Aaron replies.

That draws a chuckle. “Don’t—don’t ever do this to yourself again.”

“I’m not sure if I can,” Aaron admits. “Some days are fine, some days I can barely walk, I don’t think I’m going to be of much use any longer.”

Alexander’s eyes widen even further, and Aaron is struck by the fact that he probably just said the exact wrong thing to say, that this is a distraction and a worry that General Washington’s chief aide-de-camp doesn’t need.

The next week, he goes to Washington, expresses his concerns that his health will keep him from being an effective member of the Continental Army. He retires, and Washington assigns him intelligence missions instead, ones that he eagerly takes. He makes his way back home.

~~~

Charles Lee and his second, Evan Edwards, show up for the duel. John Laurens shoots Lee in the side. As per Aaron’s prediction, Lee doesn’t die.

Aaron tries not to feel a rush of triumph and relief when he hears that Washington explodes at Hamilton, orders him home to his new wife, that Hamilton too will be stuck safely out of the way of all the horror and bloodshed of war. It doesn’t even seem to matter that he knows Hamilton will survive this all, knows that Hamilton will live until the roots of his hair begin to show marks of grey, it’s hard not to be restless when he knows that Alexander is in harm’s way every day.

~~~

Of course, Alexander doesn’t stay out of the war for long; he comes back, is even appointed his own command. But the surety was nice while it lasted.

~~~

The war ends. Aaron too falls in love somewhere along the way and settles down. Her name is Theodosia, she was married to a British officer, but she has supported the colonies and their independence from the inception of the idea. As such, she is a genius diplomat, navigating high society, conducting herself with upmost grace and controlled manner. Aaron can empathize like almost no one else. She is ten years his senior, but that does not seem to matter. He had exchanged letters with her every day, visited her in New Jersey, tried to ignore the fact that he knew she was going to die painfully of some incurable illness and he knew not when.

They get married in 1782. Aaron can still barely believe that the war is over, they’ve survived, they’ve won. They move from Philadelphia back to New York. Aaron sets up a small legal practice. Alexander takes his advice and becomes a lawyer, which he finds very amusing, as Alexander will speak for hours on end in court. Sometimes to the jury's extreme chagrin. They work right next to each other, they confer on every other case, it seems. Aaron gets his nights of conversation and debate and Alexander refusing to go home because there’s one more thing he needs to write. It’s pleasant. No one pressures him to make grand sweeping predictions, it’s like the whole world seems to think that he’s done enough.

(He really did contribute a fair amount even after he retired from the army; his intelligence was put to good use, and he even got dragged into the fighting once more, rallied a group of Yale students in New Haven and successfully drove the British off. America is proud of him and what he’s done and now that the war is over, everyone’s too giddy on their success to want to bother the seer. It’s the greatest blessing he could have asked for.)

I’ll fight so that you can be free, Mister Burr, sir, Hamilton had once said for him. He’d fought for himself to be free, and he was proud of it, just a little.

Chapter Text

Theodosia has his eyes.

She is born in June of 1783, he stands by his wife’s bedside, holding her hand the whole time, and when Theo is delivered the moment her young lungs fill with air she begins to cry. Theodosia cradles the baby to her chest, and looks at Aaron, weakly offers forth the bundle.

Aaron feels the words stick in his throat. “I can’t,” he says, and he is fairly certain that is the moment that his heart breaks and his whole world shatters, and nothing will ever be the same again.

His wife nods. “Of course,” she says. As soon as she is able, she makes him close-fitting gloves, gossamer-thin, ones that go all the way up to his elbows, and he can wear shirts with long sleeves and high collars and have the gloves pulled up all the way and hold his child.

Theo smiles and clings to his shirt and gurgles, and it’s all he can do not to break into tears. This beautiful little bundle of life, he brought her into the world. He’s never wanted more strongly to make a difference, because this is the world that his daughter is going to grow up in. She looks at him and she is his whole world.

And when she wraps her little fingers around his cloth-covered one, when she reaches for him and he can feel the warmth and the life through the silk but he can’t touch her, he can never touch her, he’ll never be able to hold her hand or brush tears from her cheeks or hug her without the worry that something will slip and she’ll graze against him—he’ll never be able to hold his own daughter

He can’t stand it. He needs to leave the house.

~~~~

Alexander’s son, Philip, had been born nearly a year and a half ago. Three weeks after Theodosia’s birth, he finds himself at Alexander’s doorstep.

Alexander answers the door before he can even knock. “Burr!” he exclaims, and looks like he wants to pull Aaron into a hug. “Your office has been closed for weeks now, I’ve been terrified that something’s happened!”

“Who is it?” comes a voice from deeper in the house.

“Don’t worry, Betsey, it’s just Aaron,” Alex shouts. Then he turns back to Aaron. “Come in, can I get you a drink?”

Aaron’s hands are trembling. Alexander must have noticed, because he’s rushing him into the house, leading him to a sitting room, directing him into a chair. It’s a relief to sit. Alexander’s gone, presumably towards the kitchen, before he can blink.

“Alexander?” There’s someone standing in the doorway, with a toddler balanced on her hip. Eliza Hamilton, Aaron supposes, and her son Philip. She’s small, just like Alexander, dark-haired, and she seems very put together despite the child trying to grab and pull at anything he can reach with sticky hands—her hair, her clothes, the furniture, it doesn’t seem to matter.

“I believe he went to fetch us drinks,” Aaron hears himself say.

Eliza starts as she notices him in the armchair, and Philip begins crying at the sudden movement, until she starts bouncing him gently. “He’s nearly getting too big for this,” Eliza explains. “Do you have any children, Mister Burr?”

Aaron just stares at her blankly.

“I’m sorry, I meant not to impose familiarity,” she says. “Alexander speaks of you often, and speaks very highly of you, I have begun to feel as if I know you myself.”

“No offense has been taken, Mrs. Hamilton,” Aaron says. “I have a lot on my mind. My wife just had a daughter, and I…”

“You’re escaping the house for the night?” She grins. “I can’t blame you, taking care of young ones can be very tiring.”

“She means the world to me,” Aaron says. “Both of them do, both of my Theodosias, I love them very much, I just need to—“

“—breathe,” Eliza finishes for him. “It’s alright, I understand. You’re welcome in our guest room if you and Alexander stay up talking too late, god knows you’ve done the same for him often enough.”

“Thank you, Mrs. Hamilton,” he says.

She laughs. “Of course. And it is a pleasure to put a face to the name, Mister Burr. Now if you might excuse me, it is well past Philip’s bedtime.”

He sits in silence for another few minutes. Alexander finally bursts back into the room, a flurry of movement and a whirlwind of words about how he couldn’t find a certain type of whiskey and so they would have to make due with this one and Aaron throws back the glass he is offered like it’s a shot and it’s only as the alcohol burns its way down his throat that he actually starts to feel real and solid and like he is sitting in this room.

“I was really worried about you,” Alexander says. “Eliza had to talk me out of marching over to your house and asking what happened quite a few times. I was nearly about to anyway.”

“My wife—“ Aaron says. Alexander is leaning forward, looks ready to catch him. “My wife—I—we—“

“No one’s died, have they?” There’s genuine worry in Alexander’s voice, and Aaron remembers when the news came of Laurens’ death last August, how inconsolable Alexander had been, and how helpless Aaron had felt all over again. If only he’d shaken Laurens’ hand, if only he’d known, maybe he could have done something. Instead, Alexander had thrown himself into his work, and Aaron had taken to taking care of him, making him eat, staying late at the offices to make sure that he’d get home to get at least some semblance of sleep. Theodosia, in turn, had taken to making two lunches for him every day; it became her pet project, to see if she could make food that Aaron could later coax Alexander into eating.

Theodosia was truly the most beautiful, brilliant, perfect, and understanding woman in the world. Aaron couldn’t thank the fates more that she was in his life.

“No,” he says. “No one’s died. Theodosia—gave birth. We have a child.”

Alexander laughs, a little too loudly. “You have a child. You have a child! Oh, congratulations, Burr!”

Aaron just looks at him. “Alexander, I can’t—I can’t hold her, I can’t—“

The smile drops off of Alexander’s face immediately. “Oh god, Aaron, I’m so sorry, I didn’t even think.”

“You’re the only one—the only one who—Theodosia knows, she understands, and somehow that makes it even worse and I can’t—“ He breaks off as a sob threatens to tear itself from his throat.

Alexander is scrambling to pour him another drink, and makes a noise of impatience, the bottle and glass apparently not cooperating fast enough for him, because he puts them down and rushes to Aaron’s side and puts both of his hands on Aaron’s.

Aaron doesn’t see anything, of course, this is not the first time Alexander has touched him, but it plays in his mind’s eye all the same, the glint from the pistol, the word WAIT tearing itself from his chest. He can’t hold it in any longer, he breaks down sobbing. Alexander pulls him forward, and he half-falls out of the chair into Alexander’s arms and they both sink to the ground and he is crying like a madman into the Alexander’s shoulder. Alexander just holds him, rubbing small circles into his back until the storm has passed.

“I’m so sorry,” Alexander whispers.

Aaron leans back against the leg of the chair. Alexander’s hand is still in his; they sit side by side. “Theodosia made me special gloves, so that I can still pick her up,” he says.

“That’s genius,” Alexander says.

“She’s…she’s something else,” Aaron says.

“You’ve touched her,” Alexander says. Aaron stiffens. “You’ve touched me.”

“I don’t know when she dies, only that it’s of an illness of her stomach and that she doesn’t look nearly old enough,” Aaron says. “And you—you don’t die for a long time either.” Not nearly long enough.

“I’ve never seemed to be able to die,” Alexander says. “Not when my mother died, not when the hurricane came, not when my cousin left me to fend for myself. Not during the war, even when people were falling left and right around me. I’ve always been—ready, you know? I’ve imagined it so much it feels more like a memory, in every possible way, in my sleep or a bullet or something dreary like sickness or some sort of terrible accident—“ He laughs. “I never thought I’d live past twenty. And then I did. And then Philip was here and it was a lot harder for me to think about death. Not when there’s so much in life.

“I can’t ever stop seeing it,” Aaron says.

“That doesn’t matter,” Alexander says. “Because she’ll see the other side of it, she’ll grow up as a free citizen of a free nation. We did it, Aaron, we won the war. We can build them a whole new world.”

The guilt begins eating away at Aaron’s stomach again, about how he’s dropped out of the public eye. He knows that Alexander doesn’t mean it like that, but he still feels it, the restlessness, how there’s more that he could be doing. He wonders if this is how Alexander feels all the time. Alexander, who with this pen, his mind, and his sheer determination did more for the war effort than almost anyone else Aaron can think of. But he’s sure that Alexander doesn’t do it out of the same sense of guilt that he has, and he is struck by how utterly incomprehensible Alexander seems in that moment.

The alcohol has loosened his tongue enough that it seems like a very good idea to ask.

“Why do you do it?”

“Do what?”

Aaron gestures indiscriminately with his hands. “Write like you’re running out of time. Throw yourself into things like the very hounds of hell are on your heels. Take on so much. How do you do it? Why do you do it?”

Alexander is silent for a minute. “I guess I want to build something that outlives me,” he says. “I want to matter. I know that I’ll never escape death in the end, no one does, but if I could build myself a legacy, then maybe I won’t be forgotten. And maybe, just maybe, that would—be enough.”

In hindsight, Aaron probably should have known—someone as smart as Alexander, as ambitious as Alexander, who has lost as much as Alexander, would want the closest thing he could get to immortality. Aaron already has that; no one will forget his name, no seer’s name has ever been forgotten, and the fact that he’s served in the war, was a part of a turning point of history, means that America will always remember him as their seer, their founding seer. The thought makes him uncomfortable, as uncomfortable as he had been studying all the great seers of the past—Joan, Cassandra, John the Baptist. They’d become stories, not people. He wondered sometimes what his story would be, how history would paint him. But he didn’t agonize over it.

“It won’t be enough,” he says. “But you’ll do it anyway, you’ll be remembered, you’ll have your legacy, you’re too stubborn not to.”

Alexander laughs. “I hope so. The things you say certainly have a habit of coming true.”

Aaron glares at him. “You know that I have absolutely no way of knowing whether or not most things I say will actually come true.”

“It doesn’t matter,” Alexander says. “Most of them come true anyways. Maybe you have more power than you think you do.”

“I don’t want it,” Aaron says. “I don’t want any of this power, or anything that comes with it.”

“Do you really think you’d be satisfied without it?” Alexander asks.

“I’d certainly be a lot happier,” Aaron says.

Alexander scooches closer, so that they’re side by side, and lays his head on Aaron’s shoulder. “Aaron, look at where we are,” he says. “And look at where we started. Two kids just trying to survive under occupation and tyranny, and now we’re two free men living in a free nation. I know that I don’t deserve even to presume—“ Aaron makes a little noise. “—but hear me out. If I could spare you this life, trade it for my own, I’d do it in an instant.”

“You don’t know what you’re offering,” Aaron says.

“I don’t pretend to know,” Alexander says. “I can’t even imagine the challenges you’re facing, what you face every single day. I just know—that you would smile, and that would be enough.”

That does make Aaron smile, although it’s getting dark, and he doubts Alexander can see it. “You are a hopeless romantic sap,” he says.

“And you love it,” Alexander shoots back.

Aaron is struck by how true that is. He does love it, he does love Hamilton, with his grand notions and furious ambitions and non-stop pace and the heart that he wears on his sleeve if you can see past the flurries of words and fits of passion he hides it behind. And here they were, just as broken and hopeful as each other, sitting on the floor of Alexander’s living room, the two of them up against the world.

He wonders how he’ll survive it. He wonders what he’ll say, afterwards. ’My friend Hamilton, whom I shot.’

“I want to do it,” he says. “I want to make the world better. I want to make it safe and sound for her. I want to be around for her. Do you think that she’ll understand why I can never hold her hand?”

“If this child has even a fragment of your mind, she’ll understand. She’ll do more than understand. She’ll be incredible.”

Aaron sighs, and for the first time that night his body relaxes. He lets himself lean on Alexander.

“Thank you.”

“Of course.”

They sit in silence for who-knows-how-long, until Aaron hears a bell toll once in the distance.

“It’s one in the morning,” he says.

“So it is,” Alexander says. Then, after a moment, “You can stay, if you’d like.”

Aaron probably should refuse, should go back home to Theodosia, he’d left with barely a word, but the thought of facing the cold streets alone, and his dark house, is too much for him.

“That would be…” he says.

That’s enough for Alexander; he stands, offers Aaron a hand, pulls him up, and leads the way to a clean bed that’s waiting. And it’s not until Aaron is safely tucked in and half-asleep that Alexander leaves.

~~~

The next morning Aaron finds himself wanting to linger, but he pushes that away, pushes away the offer for breakfast, tries to straighten the rather rumpled clothes that he has slept in, puts on his coat, and heads back home. Theodosia doesn’t ask him for an explanation, but he gives one regardless: “I was at Hamilton’s, he…he understands my gift, I needed to talk to someone.” She kisses him on the cheek and tells him that it is fine, that she understands, that she is glad that he has Hamilton to talk to.

She truly is the best wife, the best woman, that he could possibly ask for.

~~~

In 1784, he is asked to serve in the New York State Assembly. He is terrified, and he wants to turn it down. He can’t see the future the way everyone believes he can, the way everyone treats him like he can. But he thinks of Alexander, and he thinks of his daughter, and he accepts the position.

He keeps quiet, he is overly cautious, he is very careful not to show any leanings towards one side or another. The only time he acts decisively is when John Jay approaches him with a bill he had drafted to abolish slavery in the state.

Aaron supports this bill like he has supported nothing before in his life: immediately and with an unequivocal certainty. The Manumission Society that John Jay is head of starts a petition, and Aaron voices his support for it. A lot of the big names in New York sign it, and pledge their backing for gradual emancipation. It becomes the talk of the town, so to speak, all state legislators sans one agree that some form of gradual emancipation ought to be instituted. But their words are just words, and nothing is happening.

Aaron wants the bill to be stronger. He tells John Jay as such, adds an amendment for immediate abolition.

It’s voted down in 1785. No one can agree on what civil rights should be given to slaves when they’re freed. No one can agree on anything. Aaron stays up night after night, staring at the ceiling while Theodosia sleeps peacefully next to him, thinking of how easy it would be to use his power. Not his abilities, his power. Say that he saw something terrible, say the the slaves need to be freed or war and death and ruin will come to the nation.

Seers can’t lie. Seers don’t have the luxury to lie. Lying is the worst sin you can commit, Aaron, his grandfather told him.

So he keeps his mouth shut, and he watches the bill fail. When his term expires in 1785, he does not run for re-election.

~~~

It’s comfortable, being a lawyer. He doesn’t love the work, but he does love the routine. The detached intellectual challenge of constructing his arguments, the fact that they’re always talking about the past, not the future. He’s not Aaron Burr, seer, in the courtroom; he’s Aaron Burr, esquire. He comes home to his wife and daughter every night. He begins overseeing her education. She learns French and Latin and Greek and piano and horsemanship like any young man would. He can’t help but dote on her, she’s brilliant, smarter than him, he thinks. He hangs a portrait of Mary Wollstonecraft in his living room so that Theodosia could grow up thinking that women could be just as great as men. She holds his hand, squeezes his fingers tight despite his gloves. She likes more than anything to climb up on his chest and press her ear to his shirt and listen to his heartbeat; he gladly lets her, every single night. And he promises, every time, to make the world safe and sound for her. To leave it a better place than he found it.

Alexander, of course, is single-mindedly passionate about every single case he takes, will wax on for hours about the innocence of his clients or the importance of precedent or how utterly vital whatever pronunciation the judge and jury makes will be. It’s almost overwhelming, but Aaron can’t resent him for it, for all the nights that he stays at the office too late because Alexander won’t go home and sleep, for the feverish excitement that burns in Alexander’s eyes. It’s just who Alexander is, and he accepts it, and tries to balance it with what he likes to believe is his voice of reason. Alexander listens. Sometimes.

And he can’t imagine it being any different, can’t imagine a life he’d rather live.

~~~

He’s invited to the Constitutional Convention.

Of course he’s invited to the Constitutional Convention. He’s America’s seer, and the colonies desperately need guidance, the Articles of Confederation are falling apart. Of course they would turn to him. Even as he reads the letter, he feels the fear, the disgust, rearing its ugly head in his mind. At how much he could do, how much he could say, how much he could shape the future of the nation.

He confesses it all to Theodosia, how much he hates himself for indulging the temptation, how he’s not sure how he can stand watching men squabble like fools the way they did in the State Assembly and see all the things that are most important traded away. He doesn’t know if he’ll be able to stop himself. If he’s there, if he’s in the room where it happens, he’s not sure if he’ll be able to stop himself from forswearing his own honor to get what he wants.

“Then don’t go,” Theodosia says.

“What about our daughter?” he whispers back. “What about building a world where she can—“

“What about you?” Theodosia asks. “And whether or not you’ll ever be able to look her in the eye again. Aaron, don’t do this to yourself, don’t destroy yourself like this.”

Aaron, will you promise me something? Don’t ever do this to yourself again.

Aaron writes them back, turning down the invitation. He nearly writes that Hamilton should be chosen to go in his stead, but decides against it, knows that that too would be an abuse of his power and that Alexander would never forgive him if he found out.

~~~

Hamilton is invited to the Constitutional Convention.

He shows up on Aaron’s doorstep at six in the morning, bouncing up and down with excitement, clutching the letter with one hand and pounding and Aaron’s door with the other until Aaron stumbles out of bed blearily. When he opens the door, Alexander practically pounces on him.

“I was chosen for the Constitutional Convention!”

Aaron rubs his eyes. “That I can see. Come in, why don’t you.”

Alexander starts pacing behind him as Aaron closes the door.

“I’m only a junior delegate, but still! We’re going to be creating an entirely new form of government, Aaron, we’re writing the Constitution.”

Aaron smiles. “Yes you are.”

“You should be there,” Alexander says. Aaron’s blood runs cold; he’s not sure if Alexander is just saying that to be friendly, or if he knows. “You did as much during the war as any of us, you’re brilliant, you’re respectable, you’re a seer for Christ’s sake! I don’t understand why you won’t be there too!”

“It’s for the better,” Aaron says. “You know me, I can never voice an opinion. I’d hold you all back.”

Alexander looks at Aaron like he’s gone mad. “No you wouldn’t, you’d be incredible.”

Aaron just shrugs.

“Well, we’ll miss you dearly,” Alexander says.

“Go, live your dream,” Aaron says. “Write your Constitution, carve your name into history, enjoy your moment. You’ll be gone a few months at most, I’ll be fine.”

Alexander smiles. “You better be. Tell both your Theodosias that I’ll be holding them personally responsible if you’re not in perfect shape when I get back.”

“Alex,” Aaron says.

Alexander stares straight into into his eyes and Aaron can’t look away. “That’s the first time you’ve ever called me Alex,” he says.

“Alexander—“ Aaron says.

“It’s okay, I like it,” Alexander says.

“Congratulations, Alex,” Aaron says. “You’ll be amazing.” He's proud of him, he's so proud of him, and he tries to convey it through his gaze. "Tell me everything when you get back."

"That's a promise," Alex says.

Chapter Text

”Tell both your Theodosias that I’ll be holding them personally responsible if you’re not in perfect shape when I get back.”

”Alex—”

He can’t sleep at night anymore.

He doesn’t think about the incident, which is what he calls it; it’s years away from happening. But he can’t stop seeing Alex’s eyes, locked with his, and that’s another thing, Alex, he’s not sure where that came from, he’s not sure where any of this is coming from, but he feels like there is a line that he and Alexander have crossed and he’s not sure what that line is or where they crossed it, but it terrifies him.

See, in every single vision that he’s had of people that he was in any way close to, he outlives them. For his grandfather, he saw the doctor telling a servant to summon “the children” after they pronounced him death. For Theodosia, he saw himself holding her hand—the second vision that he’s seen himself directly in.

The first was the incident. He doesn’t think about the incident.

Death has been rather indiscriminate with the people in his life, with every single path he’s crossed: General Montgomery, his men, his regiment, Laurens and soon Theodosia and Alexander, he outlives them all. If there’s any reason why he’s still alive when everyone who loves him has died—will die—he’s willing to wait for it, willing to wait and see if this joke of a universe has some grand scheme in mind for him, if some joke of a God is out there and laughing at him.

Death doesn’t discriminate. It just doesn’t seem to be willing to take him first.

He can feel it, the weight of it dragging him down, paralyzing him. Hamilton doesn’t hesitate, he exhibits no restraint, he takes and he takes and he takes and he keeps winning anyway, he changes the game, he plays and he raises the stakes and if there’s a reason—

If there’s a reason that Aaron kills him, well, it’s far beyond what Aaron has the capacity to imagine.

Because love doesn’t discriminate either, and Aaron loves them all: he loved his parents, he loved his grandparents, he loves Theodosia, he…he loves Alexander, Alexander is the closest, dearest friend he has.

Alexander is perhaps the only real friend he’s ever had.

And I’m the damn fool who shot him. Sure as if it has already happened.

No.

No, he wouldn’t let this happen.

This power, this ability, this curse has ruled his life for far too long, he has a whole life to live, to laugh and to cry and to break and to make his own mistakes, he is not going to make this one.

I am the one thing in life I can control, he thinks, and he repeats it to himself over and over again.

I am the one thing in life I can control.

I am the one thing in life I can control.

I am the one thing in life I can control.

I am not going to kill Alexander Hamilton.

~~~

“Alexander?”

“Aaron Burr, sir!”

“It’s the middle of the night.” (He hopes that Alexander doesn’t question why he’s still awake. He’s taken to doing work, looking over cases, writing letters, anything to keep his hands and eyes busy, but he’s somewhat worried that Alexander will see through that excuse immediately.)

Alexander has an ear-splitting grin. “Can we confer, sir?”

He feels a pang of disappointment. It’s been four months, and that’s what he has to say? Can we confer?

Aaron pushes it aside. He is tired. He is confused. He is not entirely convinced that this isn’t a dream. “Is this a…legal matter?”

“Yes! And it’s important to me!”

Aaron sidesteps and makes a motion with is arm that Alexander should come in, get out of the cold, sit down, talk as normal people talk. Alexander hurries past him, and Aaron closes the door. “What do you need?”

“Burr, you’re a better lawyer than me.”

“…Okay?”

“I know I talk to much, I’m abrasive, you’re incredible in court, you’re succinct, persuasive. My client needs a strong defense, you’re the solution!”

Aaron sighs. “Alexander, do you want to come sit down and tell me what this is all about?”

Alexander isn’t meeting his eyes. Which is strange, it’s a bad sign, he always stares straight at what he wants.

“…Alex? Who's your client?”

“The new U.S. Constitution,” Alexander tells the floor.

“Alright,” Aaron says.

Alexander instantly looks up, and his smile is almost worth it, his entire face brightens, he grabs Aaron’s shoulders and looks like he’s about to kiss him. “You’ll help?”

“I’ll listen,” Aaron clarifies, pushing Alexander's arms down. “I haven’t read your brand new Constitution yet, I know nothing about it, I’m assuming that the Constitutional Convention is over because you’re on my doorstep in the middle of the night, so how about we go to my study, I can get us some tea—“ Alexander makes a noise of impatience. “—or not, and you tell me about everything.”

Alexander opens his mouth and Aaron shakes his head. “My wife and daughter are asleep, if you could wait until we are in my study.”

Alexander waits.

The moment Aaron closes the door behind him, he launches full-force into the explanation. The Convention, the delegates, who was an idiot and who was an arrogant asshole and a whole bunch of rather dirty expletives about seemingly all of the delegates that Aaron really would rather not have heard, the one time Washington spoke and how it was to criticize some fool who’d left his notes in a nearby tavern and how he’s never seen a room of statesmen be that silent before than when Washington asked whose they were, the push and the pull and every single compromise and halfway through Alexander snatches one of Aaron’s quills and grabs some paper and is scrawling things down, scratching diagrams into the surface fast enough that tiny flecks of ink speckle his face as he explains the separation of powers, reproducing whole paragraphs, whole articles, that he has memorized by heart.

And Aaron just takes it all in: this is Alexander Hamilton, this is Alexander Hamilton, whom he had missed so much these past months, who seems to manage to keep him awake at night whether he’s here or off a hundred miles away.

Alexander talks for at least four hours, possibly five. And then he steps back, and says the words that Aaron has been subconsciously dreading the whole time:

“We need at least nine states to ratify the Constitution for it to come into effect, and even that’s controversial, it would be better if all of them did. Aaron, we need your help.”

“No,” he says.

“Hear me out!” Alexander cries, and Aaron is very glad they are in his study with the door closed because Alexander seems to have no sense of volume control.

“I’m not going to use my influence to get anything passed, I’m not going to destroy my character and my integrity for—“

“No,” Alexander says. “A series of essays! Anonymously published, defending the document to the public!”

“And if anyone finds out that I helped co-author them?”

“No one will find out!” Alexander says. “James Madison is in on this too. And John Jay. Jay said that you’d do it, that you’d take a stand for what you believed in, and that you’d do it the right way. Join us. We can do this together!”

Aaron just shakes his head silently.

“Do you support this Constitution?”

Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons.

“Of course.”

The lie slips out of his lips before he is able to stop it.

He’ll spend weeks trying to justify it. Trying to justify how it was a mistake, how he was caught up in the moment, how he spoke before thinking, before weighing all the options, how he wouldn’t be able to stand to see the disappointment in Alexander’s face, that it was just instinct, or maybe that it wasn’t even a lie, that this was the best compromise that they could find and the colonies were falling apart, they needed something and they needed it now and they could fix it later, as time went on.

“Then defend it!”

“And what if you’re backing the wrong horse?”

And there’s the hurt look in Alexander’s eyes that he was so hard trying to avoid. “What do you mean?”

“The Constitution’s a mess!”

“So it needs amendments!”

The words are buried somewhere in the recesses of his mind; perhaps if it were not so late in the night, he would be able to articulate what he means, that they cannot start a nation of such a shaky foundation, that he’s worried they’re sewing the seeds for division and catastrophe. But he doesn’t know how to say that, how to put into words, so he settles for: “It’s full of contradictions!”

“So was independence, we have to start somewhere!”

Alexander is right; Alexander is always right. But there’s something in him that just won’t let him defend this document unless he believes in it, and he doesn’t. There are too many loose ends.

“It’s late. I’ll sleep on it,” he says.

“That’s your way of saying ‘no,’” Alexander accuses.

“That’s my way of saying I’m not sure!” Aaron says. “Because I’m not! You’ve told me a lot of information, give me the benefit of a day or two to process it before you demand that I not only support it, but join your efforts to convince the public to support it!”

“You just said you supported it!”

“I just—“ Aaron throws his face into his hands. “Alexander, you can be so—“

“So what?”

He takes a deep breath. “Forceful. And sure of yourself. And you’ve had four months to think about this document and argue each point and you know it inside and out, please remember that I haven’t.”

“And whose fault is that?” Alexander says. His eyes are hard, and Aaron’s blood runs cold.

“Excuse me?”

“You turned down the invitation to be there. Philip Schuyler told me. You could have spent four months thinking about this document too, but you decided to stand to the side. We studied and we fought and we killed for the notion of a nation we get to build, and then you were offered the chance to build it and you threw it away.”

“Get out.”

“What?”

“Get out of my house,” Aaron says.

Alexander just stands there. “Excuse me?”

“Get out of my house,” Aaron practically spits at him. “You don’t know me. You don’t know what I’m trying to do here. And you dare presume—“ He can’t even finish, can’t even put into words the mixture of fury and humiliation that Alexander seems so skilled at inspiring in him.

His expression must say it for him, because Alexander stumbles backwards, takes a seat in one of Aaron’s chairs instead. “I’m sorry,” he says quietly. “That was out of line.”

Aaron glares at him for a few more seconds, then deflates. He takes a seat as well. “It’s late,” he says.

“That’s never stopped us before,” Alexander says.

They sit in silence, and Aaron thinks that perhaps they’re never going to move, that they’re both going to be perched like this until the sun finally rises and they go their separate ways. Then Alexander speaks again. “I just don’t understand it. Why you’d throw away your shot like that.”

“Alexander, I…I can never be in a position of power,” he confesses. “I can never truly, honestly hold office. People will always give my words special meaning, people will always weigh what I say more than my opponents, because in the back of their minds they’ll think that I have better reason to say those words. And…and if that alone isn’t enough, it would be so easy for me to take it a step further. I could have gone to that Convention and said that I had a vision of another war, a civil war, of more people dying than in any other war in U.S. history, of slavery tearing this country apart, and they would have written gradual emancipation into the Constitution. Both of us can agree that it would probably be an improvement, but even if it was for all the right reasons, what if it wasn’t? There’s no one who can stop me. No one who can contradict me. Don’t you see how…how dangerous I am? I can’t be…I can’t be near any of that.”

“Oh,” Alexander says.

“I’m sorry,” Aaron says.

“Don’t be, it’s not your fault,” Alexander says. His eyes look fixed on something far in the distance, although there’s nothing in here to see.

“Go, defend your Constitution,” Aaron says. “I’ll do my best to help your poor wife make sure you still eat and sleep.”

Alexander laughs at that, then stands to go, and Aaron stands to open the door for him, but Alexander makes a straight for Aaron instead and pulls him into a tight embrace.

“Thank you,” he says. “You’re the best man I know.”

Aaron lets his arms wrap around Alexander, lets the warmth that is Alexander Hamilton seep into him.

Love doesn’t discriminate.

Alexander’s not letting go, and Aaron’s heartbeat is speeding up. When Alexander finally steps back, it’s not nearly far enough; Aaron can still nearly feel Alexander’s breath ghosting across his lips.

Alexander raises one hand, begins tracing the edges of Aaron’s face.

“You’re so…”

Aaron can’t move. “So what?”

“You’re like poetry,” Alexander says.

His own breath catches in his chest. How is this happening, how did they flip from being at each other’s throats to…being at each other’s throats so quickly?

I am the one thing in life I can control.

“Beautiful. Indecipherable. The world wouldn’t be the same without you, my world wouldn’t be the same without you.”

I am the one thing in life I can control.

Alexander leans forward and Aaron’s eyes flutter closed.

I am the one thing in life I can control.

“You really probably should go,” Aaron says. It’s a broken whisper. “Your wife.”

Alexander steps back. “My wife,” he says. “And my son. My children. They’re waiting for me at home. I should probably go home.”

And Aaron nearly, nearly, nearly invites Alexander to just stay with him, stay the night in his guest room, nearly convinces himself that there won’t be questions the next morning—he and Alexander have stayed up far too late before, always at his office, but it’s not a stretch to think that Alexander might come visit his house. It is quite late; the streets will be dark and surely Alexander won’t want to wake his family getting home at this hour. And his Theodosias love Alexander if only through proxy (and the fact that Alexander can be quite charming, and very much was at all the social gatherings the Hamiltons and the Burrs have frequented). They’d be delighted to keep him for breakfast.

But Aaron also doesn’t need to be a seer to know that if he lets Alexander stay over, he’ll have a hard time ever say no to him again, he’ll have a hard time saying no to this, he can already picture the nights that will start with lighthearted conversation or somewhat more heated debate or Alexander hunched over a desk scrawling while candles burn low while Aaron fetches them both tea and a small plate of biscuits—nights that will end far less innocently than they began.

“Alex—“

Alexander smiles softly. “It’s okay, you’re right, you’re always right.”

“In another lifetime,” Aaron says, and he says it like a promise.

Alex shows himself out. Aaron returns as quietly as possible to his own bedroom, slips into his bed next to his own wife. He didn’t think that he’d be able to sleep, but listening to Theodosia’s even breathing, he feels his own breath begin to match hers, and he finally relaxes, and darkness slips over him.

~~~

In the span of six months, Hamilton, Madison, and Jay write eighty-five essays. Jay gets sick after writing five. Madison writes twenty-nine. And Alexander, stubborn, insatiable Alexander, writes the other fifty-one.

His precious Constitution is ratified.

He keeps writing like he’s running out of time.

~~~

Washington asks Hamilton to be his Secretary of Treasury. Alexander accepts. George Clinton asks Aaron to be the New York State Attorney General. Aaron accepts.

Congress has not yet agreed on where to put the U.S. Capitol, so New York becomes the new de-facto capital; enough meetings and political debates are happening there that it might as well be. Alexander is saddled with the nigh-impossible problem of the stagnant economy and increasing debt.

Eliza takes Philip and Angelica and James and Alexander Jr upstate to stay with her father for the summer; Aaron knows that she’s trying to coax Alexander to take a break, but it only succeeds in giving him free reign to neglect himself further. And they’re not working side by side anymore, so it’s harder for Aaron to find excuses to make him eat, make him sleep, take his mind off of his current obsession, his precious debt plan.

He takes to walking the streets near Alexander’s house, hoping to run into him.

Sometimes he does. He tries to resort to small talk, little bits of news, reminding Alexander that there’s a larger world outside waiting for him. Today it’s Claremont Street, or perhaps he should say Mercer Street. Alexander seems to be in more of a hurry than usual. Mentions something about decisions happening over dinner. Aaron thinks little of it.

Until that night, he has a dream.

It isn’t like any other dream he’s ever had, it’s a montage of horror after horror, soldiers cradling dead bodies and sobbing over them despite wearing opposing uniforms, an army marching to sea and burning everything in its path, politicians screaming at each other, one beating another with a cane on the very Senate floor, of piles of bodies let to rot in fields, of a man that he instinctively knows is the President getting shot in the back of the head. And the whole time, a chorus of slaves stands in chains, silent, watching.

He knows it’s not a vision, he knows it’s just a dream, he knows that seers don’t develop extra powers as they age, that if he had dreams of the future, he would have had them from early childhood.

But he also knows it deep in his bones, knows it as a person, that what he’s always saying has been true, that slavery, that even compromise about slavery, is going to tear this nation apart. That giving the South what they want because they can hold Congress hostage is going to destroy everything.

And he’s so. tired. of lying in wait. He’s only a human, he can only take so much before he breaks, and he’s been this close to breaking for months: between the Constitution and nightmares about the incident and the feeling of Alexander’s fingertips against the edges of his face and watching Alexander work himself to death over a debt plan that isn’t getting passed for the stupidest of reasons, and this is something that he believes, that he believes as a person: that slavery is wrong, that slaves should not just be free but should have equal rights, and hell, while they were at it, that women should have equal rights and equal education and the ability to vote. Everyone else gets to talk about what they believe, everyone else gets to pursue what they believe, everyone else has the opportunity to run for office and legislate what they believe.

Hamilton will get his legacy. Why shouldn’t Aaron?

He runs for the Senate.

And he wins in a landslide.

Chapter Text

Aaron probably should have expected that the first thing Alexander Hamilton would do would be show up at his house to scream at him. Little Theo is the one who fetches him from his study, in her nightgown; she had been staying up to read.

Aaron isn’t even at the doorway when Alexander starts to tear into him. “Burr? Senator Burr? You two-timing, double-crossing liar, you traitor, you’ve betrayed everything you stand for, you’ve betrayed me, after all that you’ve said, after all that we’ve shared—“ Aaron recoils at that like he’s been slapped. “—you do this?”

Aaron can hear Theo’s intake of breath behind him, and realizes that she hasn’t left the hallway, that she’s still in earshot.

“Can we not do this now?” he whispers.

“No, we’re doing this now!” Alexander shouts. “You’re a fraud. No one knows who you are or what you do!”

“Well, they do know who I am,” Aaron points out.

“Not like I do,” Alexander spits.

“Alexander, I’m trying to help,” Aaron says. “I’m trying to do the right thing, I’m trying to make a difference instead of wasting my chance by hiding away in courtrooms. I’m not planning on lying to the people.”

“Your whole campaign was a lie,” Alexander says. “You festering pile of shit.”

“Alexander, my daughter is standing right behind us,” Aaron says.

“Good. Then she can learn what a sham you are,” Alexander says.

Aaron slams the door in his face.

“Daddy?” Theo asks. “Why was Mr. Hamilton so mad at you?”

Aaron sighs. “Because—“

“Why did you lie and cheat to get power that should never be entrusted to you? Why are you starting on this path, when you know that you’re going to fall?” Theo’s expression hasn’t changed, her eyes are still wide and innocent, and the words keep coming out of her mouth. “Why are you going to hell?”

Suddenly it’s not her standing in front of him, it’s Alexander, they’re outside, the ground is hard-packed and recently cleared of underbrush, Aaron’s back is to the city. Alexander stares straight at him. The sun glints over the horizon. He raises his pistol, and he shoots.

Then he wakes up screaming.

~~~

It’s weeks before Aaron finally does run into Alexander. If he didn’t know better, he would say that Alexander was actively avoiding him. But then they pass each other in the street one day, and they both stop, stare at one another, and neither says anything.

It’s Alexander who finally breaks the silence.

“I always considered you a friend.”

“Alex—“ Alexander glares at him. “Alexander. I don’t see why that has to end.”

This is the second lie he’s told in his life. He does see exactly how angry Alexander would be, exactly how much Alex just wouldn’t understand.

“You changed your…your driving policy, your own moral code, and for what, to run against my father-in-law?”

“Alex, I had to seize the opportunity I saw,” Aaron says. Then, somewhat quieter, “I honestly didn’t think that I’d win like this, I wanted to get my name out there.”

“Bullshit,” Alexander says. “You’ve known from the start that you could win any election you wanted to, all you had to do is run.”

Aaron just looks down.

“Did you have a vision?” Alexander asks.

“You know that I don’t have visions,” Aaron says. Then: “I’ve been having nightmares.”

Alexander sighs, and suddenly, he looks a lot older. “Well. Thank you for your honesty,” he says.

And then he continues walking along, and Aaron thinks that he feels his heart break.

~~~

Aaron doesn’t strongly affiliate with one party or another for a while. He votes mildly Democratic-Republican, but he has Federalist allies as well. He knows that it’s not enough. He also knows that the Federalist party is a mess, that with Hamilton’s explosive temper and unpredictability they’re not reliable and influential enough, that to get anything done, he’ll need the support of an actual party.

He approaches Thomas Jefferson with the following proposition: Jefferson gets a bill passed that will block the spread of slavery into any sort of new territory they might acquire, and he will throw his full weight behind the Democratic Republican party. The implication, behind Jefferson’s eventual candidacy, is unspoken. He tries to ignore the nausea in his stomach as Jefferson accepts.

The art of the compromise, he reminds himself. Hamilton does this all the time. Just hold your nose and close your eyes.

~~~

Theodosia starts getting sick, it’s a pain in her stomach. Aaron attempts to enlist all of the leading doctors of the nation, but to no avail. Theodosia finally pushes them all away, tells Aaron that she’d rather savor their remaining time together. That she wants to see their dreams become real. She and Aaron work to set up a school with Madame de Senat for young ladies in New York City.

She smiles. Aaron tries to as well, but it’s not enough.

~~~

On May 18th, 1794, Theodosia dies.

His daughter is eleven years old. She says nothing during the funeral, but that evening, she climbs into his lap again, puts her head to his chest and listens to his heartbeat. They fall asleep like that, holding each other in the armchair. Aaron dreams of crashing waves and thunder and the sour smell of salt in the air and rushing darkness and water, water everywhere. He wakes up, and it is dark everywhere; night has fallen. He carries Theo to her room, lays her in her bed, careful not to touch her anywhere.

~~~

In 1794, Aaron and Alexander both stay at Mrs. Payne’s boarding house in Philadelphia. (Hamilton may have traded away the capitol, but until it could be built, Philadelphia was now functioning in its place.) Things are almost civil between them; they have conversations like they once used to, mostly about bills. Aaron disagrees with Alexander more often, if only because Aaron is expressing an opinion more often, but Alexander smiles at that. And then attempts to rip his arguments apart and talks over him for hours, but Aaron finds it hard to mind. They’re talking.

~~~

It doesn’t last, of course. Tensions rise between the Democratic Republicans and the Federalists and Washington steps down from office, and Aaron and Alexander are on opposite sides of the dividing line.

John Adams is elected President, Thomas Jefferson becomes his vice-president. Hamilton is fired and humiliated. Hamilton publishes an open letter—a fifty page letter—openly smearing Adams and utterly destroying his chances for re-election.

Which in and of itself wasn’t the final straw, until Hamilton also publishes an essay which attacks Jefferson, stating, amongst other things, that his “simplicity and humility afford but a flimsy veil to the internal evidences of aristocratic splendor, sensuality, and epicureanism.”

Whatever the hell you do in Monticello indeed.

Jefferson is not very pleased, or rather, Jefferson is too pleased. He decides to confront Hamilton directly, and he calls Madison and Aaron to accompany him, says that he has something that might shut Alexander up for good. That he has in good authority that between 1791 and 1792 Hamilton paid almost $1000 to a Mr. James Reynolds.

Aaron knows that Alexander would never engage in speculation, that Alexander cares too much about his precious legacy to do anything like that. He also knows from the glint in Jefferson’s eye that Jefferson knows something that they all don’t, that Jefferson has called him and Madison here to further humiliate Alexander.

But he can’t afford to not be in the room when it happens, he can’t afford to not know what is going on, because if Hamilton decides to do something stupid, he needs to be able to stop him. Or at least try.

The meeting goes about as well as Aaron could expect. Jefferson accuses Hamilton of speculation. Hamilton confesses an affair with one Maria Reynolds, shows copies of the letters to them. He practically spits in their faces that he has not committed treason, and that’s where Jefferson and Madison leave him: red-faced, panting, and looking like he’s ready to kill a man.

Aaron closes the door of Alexander’s office, then turns back to him. “I didn’t know,” he says.

Alexander takes a few deep breaths. “Are they going to use it against me?”

“Probably,” he says. “Alexander, I think Jefferson already knew. He seemed to have a very specific purpose in mind when he asked Madison and I to come with him today.”

“What should I do?” he asks.

“Rumors only grow if you feed them,” Aaron says. “Wait.”

Alexander laughs. “Wait.”

“Talk to me before doing anything stupid?” Aaron asks.

“So you can run and inform your cronies what I’m planning on doing?” Alexander retorts.

“I am rather disgusted with Jefferson right now, and will have to re-think our current…association.”

(Another lie. He still needs Jefferson’s support, and Jefferson still needs his. Adams has been destroyed with the open letter Alexander published, which means that no one stands in the way of Jefferson for the presidency. And Jefferson can’t do it without Aaron’s support, which means that Aaron is going to be his Vice-President. Which is one step closer to being able to influence the Senate, get the legislation that he needs passed. He is rather upset at Jefferson, and plans on making that known privately, to Jefferson, as such disagreements should be kept.)

“What do you even see in Democratic Republicans?” Alexander asks.

“Wider voting rights, for one,” Aaron says.

“You know that Jefferson only wants to give them the vote because he thinks they’ll vote Republican,” Alexander says.

“Doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t be allowed to vote,” Aaron says.

Alexander sighs. “Maybe you’re right.”

“I usually am.”

“Jefferson needs to be stopped,” Alexander says.

“Slavery needs to be stopped,” Aaron says.

“You’re still hung up on that?” Alexander asks.

“You’re not?” Aaron shoots back.

“We’re running a real nation,” Alexander says. “Trying to get the South to compromise on anything like slavery will tie up all your legislation in a quagmire. All anyone does is argue that slavery is unfortunate and then will come up with outlandish suggestions that will never pass about how to deal with it, all the while making excuses about how they can’t leave their dear wives poor if they were to pass away, so they can’t set their own slaves free. I’m trying to do something real here.”

Aaron shrugs. “I suppose that is where our priorities diverge.”

Alexander doesn’t reply, he just stares at Aaron. Aaron feels his stomach drop, like he’s falling, like he’s weightless.

“I’ve missed you,” Alexander finally says. “Come over for dinner, bring Theodosia, we all miss you.”

Aaron smiles. He’s not sure if what he feels is relief, but he has no other word for it. “Alright.”

And Alexander smiles back, and it does feel a bit like the old days again.

~~~

They don’t accuse Alexander of speculation in the press; they accuse him of both speculation and infidelity, and publish copies of a few letters that ought to have been impossible for them to get ahold of. If Alexander were to deny everything, it would have been clear he was lying.

Instead, he publishes a 95-page pamphlet called Observations on Certain Documents, although it becomes colloquially known as The Reynolds Pamphlet. Aaron reads it all the way through.

You’ll have your legacy, you’re too stubborn not to, Aaron told him one. He wishes he hadn't. He wishes that he said that it wouldn't be worth it, that nothing was more important than the people you love, not your reputation, not your political prospects, not your honor, nothing. Maybe Hamilton would have listened.

~~~

Alexander shows up at Aaron’s house in the middle of the night again.

Aaron is awake; he was reading in his study, and he gets up with the tempered patience of one who has been friends with Alexander for years. He opens the door, and Alexander cuts him off before he can speak.

“Don’t tell me I shouldn’t have published it,” he says. “It was the only only way to protect my legacy.”

Of course.

“Come in,” Aaron says. “Can I get you some tea? Anything to eat?”

Alexander heads down the hallway towards Aaron’s study, even though Aaron no longer has a wife and young daughter in danger of being awakened. (Theodosia is playing hostess at the Richmond Hill Estate. Aaron oversaw her social education after her mother passed, and could not be more proud of her.) Aaron follows him.

“What’s going on?” he asks when the door to his study is closed.

“I challenged James Monroe to a duel,” Hamilton says.

Aaron’s blood runs cold. “James Monroe?” he says, praying that the tremor in his voice is not noticeable.

“He originally accused me of speculation in 1792,” Alexander says. “James Reynolds was the one who started speculating on unpaid wages for Revolutionary War veterans, got implicated, used his connection to me to help bail him out. I never gave him anything more than money. James Monroe was investigating the it, and James Reynolds, saw that I’d been paying him secretly for the last two years. He confronted me, I showed him the letters, he backed off, that was that. But he copied them under my nose, sent them to Jefferson, and now he’s not owning up about having done this, I’ve lost—he publicly humiliated me and he’s refusing to apologize.”

Aaron tries to keep his breathing steady, with only partial success. All he can see is the pistol pointing at Alexander, the scream of WAIT

“I want you to be my second,” Alexander says. “You told me to talk to you before doing anything stupid. Or rash. Or—“

“I’ll do it,” Aaron says. “Of course I’ll do it. Monroe will apologize, that will put an end to this whole affair.”

“I kind of want to shoot him,” Alexander says.

“I know. That’s why I’m your second,” Aaron says. “I’m going to stop you from doing anything stupid. Taking someone’s life—“ his voice cracks here “—is not something you can take back.”

“Alright,” Alexander says.

~~~

Aaron doesn’t even bother meeting with Monroe’s second, he marches straight to Monroe’s office, spends an hour detailing the future that the murderer of Alexander Hamilton will face: because there will be a trail, oh, yes, a full murder trail following Alexander Hamilton’s death, but not only that, it’ll destroy all of his political prospects, his allies will desert him, he’ll be accused of treason, he’ll be sent into exile, he will die alone, cursed, cursing his own existence, that history will forever paint him a villain, that no good he has ever done, no beliefs he has ever held, no legacy of his will survive except for the fact that he was the man who killed Alexander Hamilton.

Monroe apologizes. The duel doesn’t happen. Aaron breathes again, tries not to think about what he had to say to make Monroe back down, tries not to add it to the list of the number of times he has lied in his life. He just saved Alexander Hamilton, he reminds himself. That’s more important.

~~~

Dinner at the Hamiltons’ is very stilted. Theodosia makes conversation, eases the tension, gets people to smile, to laugh. Aaron is painfully aware of the fact that his presence might be seen as a reminder of what happened; he does not know how much Alexander told his family about his involvement in Jefferson’s confrontation or the duel with Monroe.

Still, every few weeks or so, he and Theodosia receive an invitation to dine with the Hamiltons. Theodosia loves the excuse to come visit him in the city.

~~~

Maria Reynolds shows up at Aaron’s law practice, and with a steady gaze, asks for Aaron’s counsel in suing her husband for divorce. Aaron agrees to advise her.

He isn’t sure whether or not Alexander hears, or if things are just getting more tense between him and Eliza, but he stops receiving invitations to have dinner with the Hamiltons.

~~~

In 1798, Aaron doesn’t run for re-election in the Senate, and Philip Schuyler gets his seat back. Aaron runs for the New York State Assembly again and wins. He says that it was because he was bored with the inactivity in the Senate, but he hopes that Alexander will see it for what it really is: a peace offering.

Alexander doesn’t write.

~~~

When Aaron learns that Philip Hamilton died in a duel, he locks himself in his study and cries. He cries in a way that he was never able to when Theodosia died, he curses the fact that he and Alexander drifted apart, curses the pain that Alexander must be feeling, curses that all he would have had to do was shake Philip’s hand once and then he would have known, might have been able to stop this.

It was so easy to stop someone from dying in a duel; all you had to do is not shoot.

If only George Eacker had known, if only—all Aaron would have had to do was pull him aside, tell him that he would kill Philip if he pulled that trigger, and then maybe George would have thrown away his shot too, and none of this would have happened.

He tries and fails ten, twenty times, to compose a letter to Alexander. To offer anything. He doesn’t know what to say, there are no words that can express how sorry he is, no words that can express how much seeing the pain inflicted on the Hamilton family—how it—

He has no right.

The Hamiltons move uptown.

Aaron doesn’t write.

~~~

Jefferson, as expected, asks Aaron to run with him for President. Each of the electors gets two votes; they’ll have 72 of the 73 Democratic Republicans give one vote to Aaron and one to Jefferson, and have the final one give Jefferson both votes.

To win this, they’ll need the electoral college delegates from New York to vote Democratic Republican, not Federalist. He enlists the help of Tammy Hall, charms all the most influential men in New York, it’s almost too easy. He feels dirty. But it’s necessary. He never lies.

It’s still not enough, he can taste it, he’s so close to winning, for his long alliance with Jefferson to pay off. He establishes a campaign headquarters. He creates a list of every New York City voter and their leanings. He organizes his supporters to go door-to-door.

Hamilton isn’t impressed. He comes knocking on Aaron’s door in the middle of the night again. Honestly, half the reason Aaron thinks he stays up is because he expects it.

“You’re openly campaigning?” he says at an impolite volume considering the hour when Aaron opens the door.

“Why, come in,” Aaron says. “Sit down, let’s talk, it’s not like the neighbors are trying to sleep.”

Alexander glares, then stomps in past him. “That’s new,” he says.

“Honestly, it’s kind of draining,” Aaron says. He isn’t sure what Alexander expects from him: excuses? Justifications? He’s said them a thousand times, why would Alexander listen now?

“Burr, is there anything you wouldn’t do?” Alexander asks.

No,” Aaron says. “I’m chasing what I want. And you know what?”

“What?”

If this child has even a fragment of your mind, she’ll understand. She’ll do more than understand. She’ll be incredible.

“I learned that from you.”

~~~

Something goes wrong. Instead of 72 and 74 votes, Burr and Jefferson tie at 73 each. It goes to the House of Representatives. Aaron has a choice: he can back down, give the Presidency to Jefferson, or if he can rally the Federalist faction of the House behind him, he might become President.

He decides to wait.

They re-cast their votes thirty-five times. Thirty-five times. Jefferson is frantic, there’s mudslinging going on, campaign promises being made behind closed doors, and Aaron stays out of it entirely, doesn’t promise anything, doesn’t use a single drop of his influence to secure a vote.

Hamilton rallies the Federalists against him, publicly endorses Thomas Jefferson, that Jefferson is by far a less dangerous man than Burr, that Jefferson has beliefs, and Burr has none.

The thirty-sixth ballot is cast.

This time, it’s Jefferson who wins in a landslide.

Chapter Text

Aaron doesn’t resent him for it, not in 1800, at least.

Jefferson decides that Aaron betrayed him by not stepping down, and completely cuts him out of all party politics. That doesn’t matter, he has work to do. Jefferson is scared that the judiciary branch—and thus Federalists on the bench—were gaining too much power through the exclusivity of judicial review. He tries to impeach Justice Samuel Chase. Aaron presides; he stays impartial, he sets the precedent.

(He will smile in private when Chase is eventually acquitted.)

Jefferson also pushes the Twelfth Amendment, which has the President and Vice President run together on the same ticket. He makes it very clear that Madison will be running with him in 1804. Aaron decides to run for governor of New York state instead.

He tries to stay above the mudslinging, he really does. Even when Hamilton starts actively campaigning against him, even when Hamilton publicly supports Democratic Republican candidates him, even when bits and pieces of what Hamilton says makes its way back to him.

Some of the accusations are purely ridiculous and clearly not of Hamilton’s doing: a handbill signed by “A Young German” which states that Burr had looted the estate of a Dutch baker for six thousand dollars. Or how the newspaper American Citizen claims to have a list of ”upwards of twenty women of ill fame with whom he has been connected, married ladies who were divorced due to his seductions, and chaste and respectable ladies whom he has attempted to seduce.”

Aaron feigns indifference to the “new and amusing libels” against his person. He runs an entirely clean campaign, focuses on the importance of opposing the Louisiana Purchase and the spread of slavery. Federalist secessionists begin to support him, which isn’t quite what Aaron was trying to go for, but he has long since accepted that politics makes strange bedfellows. Hamilton accuses him of trying to tear the Union apart, Aarons reads bits and pieces claiming that “…his conduct indicates he seeks Supreme power in his own person ... will in all likelihood attempt a usurpation.”

He stays above it all. Doesn’t design that with a response. He writes to Theo to keep his spirits up; they joke about all the lovers that he’s never had, a mistress named Celeste and La G., who was “good-tempered and cheerful,” but unfortunately “flat-chested.” They both have quite the laugh at that one.

For a while it seems all fine, like Aaron is going to win, even. Then an anonymous pamphlet—a pamphlet clearly written by Hamilton—starts making its rounds. It’s entitled “The Liar, Caught in His Own Toils,” and it not only accuses Aaron trying to swipe the election of 1800 out from under Jefferson, but it states that any campaign Aaron could ever run would be fundamentally built on lies. It lays out in explicit detail that his only power as a seer has ever been to know people’s deaths the moment that he touches their skin; that his contributions to the American since the Revolution were all fraudulent, that he abused the public trust to gain power, that no one can stand against him and his lies because no one can contradict anything he says.

Aaron, for the first time, can understand why he might ever want to shoot Alexander Hamilton. He can barely eat or sleep for the rage that burns through him, for the horror that freezes his blood in his veins every times the words replay in his mind. Words that he’d whispered once in complete confidence, splayed on the page, taunting him.

The final straw comes when the Albany Register prints a letter that Dr. Charles D. Cooper sent to Philip Schuyler. It’s nothing worse than anything else Hamilton has said, but it directly puts a name on the slander. It's a taunt, that Hamilton is so confident, so sure of himself in what he's doing, that he won't even grant Burr the dignity of smearing him anonymously. When Aaron loses the election by a margin of 10,000 votes, he cannot ignore it any longer.

And so he sits down, picks up a pen, and writes.

~~~

N York
18 June 1804

Sir,

I am slow to anger, but I toe the line when I reckon with the effects of your life on mine. I am speaking, of course, on the most recent gubernatorial election of New York and your campaign against me.

I send for your perusal a letter signed Ch. D. Cooper which, though apparently published some time ago, has but very recently come to my knowledge. Mr. Van Ness, who does me the favor to deliver this, will point out to you that clause of the letter to which I particularly request your attention.

You call me “amoral,” a “dangerous disgrace.” And Dr. Cooper alludes that you have more to say of me. You must perceive, Sir, the necessity of a prompt and unqualified acknowledgement or denial of the use of any expressions which could warrant these assertions. If you have something to say, name a time and place, face to face.

I have the honor to be
Your Obdt. St

A. Burr

~~~

N York
20 June 1804

Mr. Vice President:

I am not the reason no one trusts you; no one knows what you believe. I, however, will not equivocate on my opinion. I have maturely reflected on the subject of your letter of the 18th, and the more I have reflected, the more I have become convinced that I could not without manifest impropriety make the avowal or disavowal which you seem to think necessary.

The clause pointed out by Mr. Van Ness is in these terms: “I could detail to you a still more despicable opinion which General Hamilton has expressed of Mr. Burr,” along with the antecedent part to which it refers: “Genl. Hamilton and Judge Kent have declared in substance that they looked upon Mr. Burr to be a dangerous man, and one who ought not to be trusted with the reins of Government.” The language of Dr. Cooper plainly implies that he considered this opinion of you a despicable one; but he affirms that I have expressed some other still more despicable; without, however, mentioning to whom, when or where. ‘Tis evident that the phrase “still more despicable” admits of infinite shades from very light to very dark. How am I to judge of the degree intended? Or how should I annex any precise idea to language so vague?

Between Gentlemen, “despicable” and “still more despicable” are not worthy the pains of a distinction. For me to answer your impositions, then, you would have to cite a more specific grievance. How could you be sure that this supposed opinion even exceeds the bounds which you would yourself deem admissible between political opponents? I deem it inadmissible on principle to be interrogated as to the justness of the inferences drawn by others, from whatever I may have said of a political opponent in the course of a fifteen years competition. I stand ready to avow or disavow promptly and explicitly any precise or definite opinion which I may be charged with having declared to any gentleman. More than this can not fitly be expected from me; and especially it can not reasonably be expected that I shall enter into an explanation upon a basis so vague as that which you have adopted. I trust upon more reflection you will see the matter in the same light with me. If not, I can only regret the circumstances and must abide the consequences.

The publication of Dr. Cooper was never seen by me until after the receipt of your letter.

Sir, I have the honor to be
Your Obdt. St

A. Hamilton

~~~

N York
21 June 1804

Sir,

Your letter of the 20th has been this day received. Having considered it attentively, I regret to find in it nothing of that sincerity and delicacy which you profess to value.

Political opposition can never absolve gentlemen from the necessity of a rigid adherence to the laws of honor and the rules of decorum. I neither claim such privilege nor indulge it in others.

The common sense of mankind affixes to the epithet adopted by Dr. Cooper the idea of dishonor. It has been publicly applied to me under the sanction of your name. The question is not whether he has understood the meaning of the word or has used it according to syntax and with grammatical accuracy, but whether you have authorized this application either directly or by uttering expression or opinion derogatory to my honor. The time “when” is in your own knowledge but no way material to me, as the calumny has now just been disclosed so as to become the subject of my notice and as the effect is present and palpable.

Your letter has furnished me with new reasons for requiring a definite reply.

I have the honor to be
Your Obdt. St

A. Burr

~~~

N York
22 June 1804

Sir,

Your first letter, in a style too peremptory, made a demand, in my opinion, unprecedented and unwarrantable. My answer, pointing out the embarrassment, gave you an opportunity to take a less exceptionable course. You have not chosen to do it, but by your last letter, received this day, containing expressions indecorous and improper, you have increased the difficulties to explanation, intrinsically incident to the nature of your application.

If by a “definite reply” you mean the direct avowal or disavowal required in your first letter, I have no other answer to give than that which has already been given. Let me state plainly: as you have so phrased it, your grievance is legitimate; I stand by what I said, every bit of it. I have no apologies to offer for the truth.

I have the honor to be, Sir
Your Obdt. St

A. Hamilton

~~~

That is where they stop sending letters, and start having their seconds arrange things. Aaron asks Van Ness to serve as his; Hamilton secures Pendleton, and the two pick up their own correspondence. They arrange a time and place: July 11, Weehawken, dawn.

Aaron awakens the morning of the duel from a nightmare he cannot remember, and cannot fall back asleep. He re-reads “The Liar, Caught in His Own Toils,” he’s not sure if to steel himself for what is to come, or convince himself to back down. Seeing the letters on the page—feeling the traces of Hamilton’s fingers on his jaw, his cheeks, his eyelashes—

”You’re like poetry.”

He tries to remember what it felt like to have Alexander’s eyes fixed on him with anything but contempt. Tries to remember the days where Alexander was there to catch him when he fell, where Alexander had held him when he was at his weakest, where Alexander had looked at him so earnestly and told him that he would fight so Aaron could be free.

That he would take this burden from Aaron in an instant, if he could.

Would Alexander have been able to bear it? The knowledge, day in and day out, that they were going to reach this point, the memories and his own words bitterly spat back up at him accentuating all that he’d lost? Hamilton never hesitated, never hesitates—he exhibits no restraint, he takes and he takes and he takes and he’s taken all that Aaron has to give. And so they have come to this. Aaron is hollow. He’s imagined this day so many times that it feels like he’s just going through the motions.

”The world wouldn’t be the same without you, my world wouldn’t be the same without you.”

He and Van Ness arrive at the spot at 6AM sharp. They clear away the underbrush, wait for Hamilton and his crew to show. Hamilton comes with Nathaniel Pendleton and Dr. David Hosack nearly an hour later, still before dawn.

Hamilton’s eyes survey the terrain, and he gives Pendleton a curt nod.

Just apologize, we have worthier pursuits.

Hamilton draws first position, as well as first shot. He chooses the upper ledge, where he will be overlooking the city, where the sun will rise in his eyes.

Is it on purpose? Does he have a death wish?

Dr. Hosack turns around so he can have deniability.

because there will be a trail, oh, yes, a full murder trail following Alexander Hamilton’s death—

Pendleton gives Aaron the pistol he will be using; John Church, husband of Angelica Schuyler Church, had provided them.

They stand across from one another on the dueling ground. Aaron tries to catch Alexander’s eye, but in vain; Hamilton is wearing his glasses.

Aaron knows exactly what is going to happen. It’s still hard not to feel fear grip his belly when Hamilton aims his pistol towards Aaron. Aaron aims the pistol as well, straight and sure, at Hamilton’s head.

Aaron has never told a lie in his life. Seers don’t lie. He has crafted his entire life around living by this principle, he has held himself back in so many places where lesser men would have taken advantage, he has been patient, he has been understanding, he has let time after time slide, and for Hamilton to accuse him of this, to publicly splay his greatest fears in a campaign to attempt to defeat his candidacy for governor?

They begin the count to ten. One, two, three. It’s inevitable, it’s inexorable, time, fate, and choice has pushed them to this juncture. Aaron had trusted him. No, he’s not backing away from this.

Four, five, six. The count reaches seven. Eight. Nine. Aaron can almost feel himself stepping back out of his own skin, can almost feel time freezing, he blinks, and for a moment all he sees is a young, innocent Alexander, grinning and pumping his hand up and down, staring at Aaron like Aaron’s just made his whole day.

I am the one thing in life I can control.

The sun glints off Hamilton’s pistol; it’s pointed straight in the air.

I am the one thing in life I can control.

—it’ll destroy all of his political prospects, his allies will desert him, he’ll be accused of treason, he’ll be sent into exile, he will die alone, cursed, cursing his own existence—

I am the one thing in life I can control.

Alexander was the closest, dearest friend he had. Was it worth it, was any of this worth him?

No.

Aaron begins to lower his gun, nearly bursts out laughing at the relief of it all. He is not going to kill Alexander Hamilton.

Then his finger twitches—the slightest of movements—and the gun goes off.

Chapter Text

”WAIT!"

It strikes him right between the ribs.

Aaron must have dropped his gun, because he’s running towards Alexander. He can see the surprise on Alexander’s face, the hurt as he drops to the ground, he knows that Alexander knows: this is a mortal wound.

Alexander must have realized that he’s known from the beginning that he was going to kill him—Alexander must be aware that every time Aaron told him that he would come home safe and sound, it was because he hadn’t shot him yet. He has betrayed Alexander in the greatest possible way imaginable, that he has betrayed him day in and day out—that nothing will ever come close to making up for what he’s just done here.

There are people dragging him backwards; Pendleton and Van Ness. He struggles against them weakly, and Hamilton is being moved, taken to the boat so he can be rowed across the Hudson to Dr. Hosack’s house to be better treated. He loses the will the fight as Alexander leaves his line of sight.

If there’s a reason that he survives, when Alexander dies—

He’ll have the rest of his life to wait for it.

~~~

Aaron isn’t sure how he got home. Van Ness, probably. His hands are trembling. He can’t stand to look at them; the hands that killed Alexander Hamilton.

He pours himself a drink.

It doesn’t make anything better.

Dr. Hosack is treating Alexander.

There are a few people on the streets, making their way about their business. No one stops him, no one cares, no one knows about the duel yet.

Angelica is the one who answers the door.

“I need to see him,” Aaron says.

“You have no right,” Angelica says.

“I need to tell him that—“

“No you don’t,” she says. “Eliza just went in there with all their children, lined them all up to say goodbye, and he hid his face because he couldn’t stop himself from crying, and you—you knew—“

“I—“

“I hope you’re satisfied.”

“I’m—“

“You killed my brother.”

“If I could—“

Angelica puts her hands on her hips, as if she is daring him to continue.

“It is—if I could pay in my own blood, I would do so seven times over, I would—“

“Oh, but you weren’t his keeper?” Angelica says. Aaron is reminded of how sharp she is.

“I didn’t mean—“

“You knew from the beginning,” Angelica accuses.

There’s nothing he can say to that.

“Death isn’t good enough for you,” she says. “You never deserved him, you never deserved a single second of his life that he gave you, I hope you’re happy, I hope—you could live with this for the rest of your life, and you still wouldn’t deserve a moment of peace.”

He stands there, mouth agape, until she slams the door in his face.

~~~

Alexander Hamilton dies the next day.

~~~

Pendleton brings him a note, words that Alexander insisted be written down before he died. Alexander had so many words, and apparently, he could spare a few of them for Aaron.

“I do not hate Burr for doing this to me. I hope he knows this. I forgive Burr for his actions. My hope is that he proves himself worthy of honor after I am gone.”

Aaron clutches the sheet of paper, and cries. He wonders if Alexander did this to spite him, if Alexander knew exactly how—

He can never be forgiven, he has done the unforgivable, and for Alexander to try to offer it—

No. He can’t accept it. Won’t accept it. He wishes he’d never seen it, never seen those words. He’ll never be worthy of Alexander’s forgiveness.

~~~

He is charged for murder in New York and New Jersey. Papers speculate about whether or not he knew that he was going to kill Alexander, whether or not it was in cold blood. He makes no comments, chooses to represent himself in court.

It never goes to trial in New York. The grand jury of Bergen County in New Jersey tries to indict him, but the New Jersey Supreme Court quashes the motion. Perhaps because the country doesn’t want an international scandal. He’s already no longer their beloved seer; his legacy is and always will be to be remembered as the man who killed Alexander Hamilton.

~~~

He tries to run away from it, goes to St. Mary's in Georgia, but his duties call to him. The impeachment trail for Samuel Chase, for one, is still ongoing. He presides over it with the “dignity and impartiality of an angel, but with the rigor of a devil.”

He makes a farewell address to the Senate in March, tries to put into words everything that he wished he could do, everything that he won’t be able to stop, everything that he wishes he could be remembered for.

“This Senate is a sanctuary; a citadel of law, of order, and of liberty.”

Soldiers cradling dead bodies and sobbing over them despite wearing opposing uniforms.

“And it is here — it is here, in this exalted refuge; here, if anywhere, will resistance be made to the storms of political frenzy and the silent arts of corruption.”

An army marching to sea and burning everything in its path.

“And if the Constitution be destined ever to perish by the sacrilegious hands of the demagogue or the usurper, which God avert, its expiring agonies will be witnessed on this floor."

Politicians screaming at each other, one beating another with a cane on the very Senate floor, of piles of bodies let to rot in fields, a man he instinctively knows is the President getting shot in the back of the head. And the whole time, a chorus of slaves stands in chains, silent, watching.

The Senators weep, and he leaves the room.

~~~

He tries to escape by going west, leases a tract of land from the Spanish government, takes eighty men to settle there with him. There is talk of provoking a war, and Andrew Jackson writes him letters, ready to swoop in if war is ever actually declared.

Part of his wishes for a war, knows it is the only way to rise up, out of his debts and the curse that his name has become. Part of him wishes for the easy way out, dying on the battlefield, perhaps regaining a scrap of his old glory.

Neither happens. Jefferson puts him on trial for treason. He reads it in a newspaper. He turns himself in to federal agents twice. His actions are found legal both times; judges acquit him.

Jefferson still has him dragged off to Fort Stoddert, places him under arrest there. Jefferson then engineers the fabrication of a letter Aaron supposedly wrote to General Wilkinson, which is written in Wilkinson’s own handwriting because Wilkinson “lost the original.” The evidence is thrown out, no more witnesses come forth, and despite the full force of the Jeffersonian administration behind this case, he is acquitted. His daughter comes for the trial, tries to comfort him. He doesn’t have the heart to push her away. She lays her head on his chest like she once did, says that his heart is still beating strong, and that as long as he is alive, there is still hope.

He goes to Europe for four years. After all, he’s got nothing left in the States, no career, no friends, nothing but memories that he wishes he didn’t have. He travels from France to England to Germany to Scotland to Denmark to Sweden. He wanders, broke and desolate, seeks solace in the warmth of human bodies like his political opponents once accused him of doing, despite the pain of seeing their deaths. Maybe because of it. At least he feels something then, and he just—he feels like he should feel something, anything at all. He keeps a journal for Theodosia. He writes to her often. She never stops trying to help him; she raises money for him, writes to the Madisons to try to smooth over his eventual return.

He doesn’t deserve her. He doesn’t deserve a single second that she spends on him, but she is his whole world, and he knows that she will not forgive him if he gives up hope. So he keeps a smile on his face, keeps his humor dry and his emotions close, and he almost—almost—feels like a person again.

~~~

He returns to New York with the help of Samuel Swartwout and Matthew Davis, and starts up a law practice under his mother’s maiden name.

His grandson dies of a fever.

The War of 1812 has just broken out, there’s no one to escort Theodosia from South Carolina up to New York, and no one to escort Aaron down. Some people call for America’s seer to be forced to serve, many mistrust him too much to offer him even that chance at redemption. It doesn’t matter, he hears that his daughter is struck down with grief as if she is sick herself, and he can see his whole life crumbling to pieces around him. He's in no position to fight in another war. He dreams every night of his daughter dying, wakes up in a cold sweat, until finally, he can’t stand it. He needs her to come to him immediately, he needs to shake her hand, to brush her skin, to know so that once in his life his power can be used for something good.

She gets on the first and fastest ship to New York City.

There’s a storm. The ship is lost at sea. He never sees her again.

~~~

He passes a statue of Hamilton in the street one day. He walks up to it, hesitant, but there is no one around, so he allows himself this one indulgence. He stares into its eyes; it is cold and unmoving.

He raises one hand, traces the edges of the face, the cheeks, the jawbone. Draws his fingers lightly over the eyelids, as if he could close them, as if he could bring Alexander peace.

“There was the poetry,” he whispers.

~~~

He re-marries seventy-seven, a wealthy widow named Eliza Jumel. She marries him for his name, he marries her for her money. They separate within four months.

He has a stroke, is rendered bedridden. Still the sweet escape of death eludes him, his confinement forces him to think, to reflect upon every single moment of his ill-fated life. He can feel it, creeping ever closer, the end, the blessed end. He wonders if he’ll see Hamilton. He wonders if he’ll see God. He wonders if he’ll burn in hell. He wonders if there will just be nothingness, if there is no overarching plan, if there is no reason for anything.

He can’t believe that, desperately doesn’t want to believe that, because then Hamilton will have died for no reason. He waits, but no flashes of insight come.

His friend Reverend Van Pelt visits him on his deathbed, makes one last attempt to save his soul. He begs Aaron to state that there is a God, that there is a reason for all of this.

Aaron smiles. “On that subject, I am coy,” he says.

And then he dies.

Chapter Text

When Aaron Burr is one years old, his father dies.

He can’t speak, he can barely crawl, but he’s known it intrinsically since he saw his father’s face, tried to communicate it, tried to do anything.

When he is two, his mother dies.

When he learns to talk, that’s all he can talk about, how he knew it was coming, how his grandmother and grandfather are going to die, how the war is coming, how so many wars are coming. His mouth can barely shape the words, but he tries, he learns to read and write far faster than anyone would expect, and he writes it all down, everything he can remember, everything in vivid detail with turns of phrases that no two-and-a-half year old should know. What he doesn’t have words for he draws: dark eyes that haunt him, a face and a shadow instead of name that he cannot bring himself to say.

He mostly speaks of the deaths of his grandmother and grandfather, tries to tell them again and again that they’re in danger. He describes in excruciating detail exactly how it happens. No one finds it strange that a two-year-old who just lost his father and mother would be terrified of his grandmother and grandfather dying, and his grandfather scolds him, tells him it is disquieting and rude and he should stop speaking of it. The degree of specificity with which he speaks is peculiar, sure, but young children have overactive imaginations.

And then his grandmother dies exactly as he described it.

His grandfather writes to the authorities, a council in Britain that is in charge of confirming these sorts of things. Aaron hides all his writings and drawings under a loose floorboard, and tells the strange, scary men in priest’s robes only that he can see people’s deaths when he touches them, because that’s what he saw himself telling them.

They take him to a hospital, have him touch the patients one by one, tell them which ones die and describe the scenes of how they die. He does. The evidence is overwhelmingly convincing. He is confirmed to be a seer, the first seer that has been found in nearly a hundred years. His grandfather asks that the news be kept private until Aaron is at least ten, but someone at the hospital noticed what they were doing, and, well, rumors only grow. His name becomes well known throughout the colonies; they are proud, and claim the seer is theirs. It actually becomes a point of contention in politics about whether or not he should be allowed to stay here, or sent to England for his education and eventual place in the British court. In the end, everyone agrees he is too young to be taken from his family, and the question is pushed off to another day.

His grandfather tries to sequester him away from all of it, from the press and the public and the fame of being a powerful seer, tries to raise him right. Tells him that the most important thing he can remember is not to lie, that seers never lie.

“What about killing a man?” he asks one day.

“What?” his grandfather says.

“You said the worst thing I can do is lie. What if I kill a man in cold blood?”

His grandfather just stares at him. “Why would you say that?” he asks. “Did you have a vision?”

“No.” It’s not a vision, he never directly saw any of it in a great flash, they honestly feel like memories more than anything else, the same way that he has picked up writing and Greek and Latin and French so quickly and reads sophisticated texts, it’s because it feels like he’s done it all before, he’s had one long vision that is his entire life and he knows, with complete certainty, that Alexander Hamilton is going to haunt him.

“Then do not speak of this foolishness.”

He never speaks of it again.

~~~

His grandfather dies when he is eight. He told him that he would die of smallpox, so when smallpox starts to sweep through Princeton, his grandfather gets vaccinated. Something goes wrong. The man dies thirty-seven days later, when the pox spreads to his mouth and throat, making it nigh-impossible for him to swallow.

The Shippen family in Philadelphia take in Aaron and his sister for a few years, until Aaron’s maternal uncle Timothy Edwards turns twenty-one and threatens to sue if custody of the children is not turned over to him. Edwards marries Rhoda Ogden and moves them to Elizabethtown, New Jersey, and Aaron befriends his half-cousins. It’s an uneasy sort of friendship, though, because Aaron’s mind is in other places, bigger places.

He applies to Princeton when he is eleven; he can read and write and practically remembers anything they might teach him. Despite his pedigree, his composure, and his remarkable circumstances, they turn him down.

Two years later they admit him as a sophomore, he breezes through every class they have to offer. He graduates with distinction when he is sixteen, and stays to study theology in-depth for another year, because he is seeking answers, he is seeking anything that might grant him peace of mind. But he doesn’t find any of that in God or books, so he leaves it behind as well, heads off to stay with his brother-in-law, and begins to study law.

He moves to New York City.

He waits.

~~~

“Pardon me, are you Aaron Burr, sir?”

Aaron freezes.

He has to compose himself. Has to look like this is perfectly normal, that he’s surprised that a total stranger could approach him in the street. Because that’s what he’ll be to Alexander, a total stranger.

“That depends, who’s asking?”

“Oh, sure, sir! I’m Alexander Hamilton, I’m at your service, sir!” The tiny, raggedly, clearly underfed little bastard in front of him grins and sticks his hand out from an oversized and ill-fitting coat. Aaron takes it, perhaps a smidgeon too quickly, but he doesn’t care, because the vision hits him.

It’s the same, it’s so stupidly, terribly the same, that it feels more like a memory. His visions when he touches people are always longer, more painfully real, than his prescience: he can smell, taste, feel, and the sights and sounds of this one hit him like a wave. Alexander standing behind the rising sun, the new light of day glinting off his pistol, the words tearing themselves from Aaron’s chest:

WAIT!

Then it all fades, Aaron blinks, and the young, oblivious Alexander is grinning and pumping his hand up and down in the cold, dreary night, staring at Aaron like Aaron’s just made his whole day.

“I heard your name at Princeton—“

Aaron can’t feel his legs, doesn’t know how he’s standing, let alone walking. He can’t breathe, and he’s not sure why. Alexander Hamilton inspires in him something that he cannot describe—joy and rage and love and sorrow and the deepest regret he could possibly imagine. The hollow, empty knowledge that he’s going to kill this man, that he can never forgive himself for killing this man, eats away at him from the inside.

“—punched him, it’s a blur, sir, he handles the financials?”

Alexander is waiting for him to talk, he realizes, and quickly fills in what’s expected of him: “You punched the bursar?”

“Yes! I wanted to do what you did, graduate in two and—“

Aaron almost wants to laugh. So this is Alexander Hamilton, this is the Alexander Hamilton that he has been waiting for his entire life. Aaron takes it all in, the light in his eyes and his animated hands and his words, his unending stream of words. Even though for all intents and purposes he’s already heard everything that Alexander Hamilton has to say, the full force of him is not something he could have prepared himself for.

Alexander takes a pause for breath, and Aaron jumps in: “Can I buy you a drink?”

Alexander swallows. “That would be nice.”

All the while, Aaron's mind is racing. He has been following the script of his own visions, and if he keeps repeating the words that he is supposed to say, they are going to end up in Weehawken again thirty years from now and he is going to put a bullet in Alexander Hamilton. He knows it as sure as if it’s written in stone.

Hamilton seemed to think that his words had special meaning, Aaron remembers—sees—knows this specifically. Even after Aaron explains the full extent of the powers everyone thinks he has, that Alexander will still put special weight to his words. So he chooses his words very carefully.

“While we’re talking, let me offer you some free advice.”

Alexander looks at him with wide eyes and a trusting face.

“Talk…less. Smile more.”

The speed to which Alexander’s expression transitions to utter shock ought to be comical. “You can’t be serious,” he says. “That's it? The great maxim that you live by?”

“Alexander, fools who run their mouths off wind up dead. Especially fools whose every move is being scrutinized by the British.”

Alexander snorts. “If you stand for nothing, Burr, what will you fall for?”

It’s a lot easier to stay calm this time around. “I don’t stand for nothing,” Aaron points out. “You keep out of trouble and you double your choices. I'm with you, but my situation is fraught. The British have no use for a seer who is going to help the enemy. If I’m not careful, I’m going to get shot. Not much I can do for the Revolution then.”

“Hah!” Alexander says. “So you are on our side!”

Of course Aaron is; he already knows exactly how the war is going to go. If nothing else, he intends to be on the winning side. But he also recognizes the benefits of keeping his cards close to his chest. He’s been doing that since before he could remember, hiding the full extent of his abilities, of what he knows.

“I’d appreciate it,” Aaron says, “if you’d lower your voice.”

Alexander smiles. “Of course,” he says. “But I can still talk.” And then Alexander begins babbling about his hopes and dreams and ambitions and the war and glory and freedom and Aaron isn’t sure if it’s with annoyance or relief that he picks up the pace again. Alexander Hamilton hasn’t changed.

Aaron has.

A seer can never lie.

His whole life has been a lie, of seeing more than anyone could even imagine, of pretending to be a person when he’s not, he can’t be, not with all that he knows.

Alexander Hamilton doesn’t seem to mind. Alexander Hamilton doesn’t seem to notice. He wonders what Alexander would think if he did know.

But Alexander Hamilton has always been his guilty secret, and he doesn’t see why that’s ought to change now.

~~~

Dinner goes smoothly until three drunk idiots stumble through the door. Aaron half rises from his chair, but Alexander’s hand on his stops him. He stares at it, unable to move. Finally, he clears his throat. “I’d prefer to avoid a confrontation,” he says.

“Wait,” Alexander says with a smile. “Trust me.”

Hercules Mulligan, John Laurens, and a French man whom Aaron has never seen before but recognizes to be the Marquis de Lafayette all stagger towards their table, sit down at an adjacent one. Laurens’ eyes land on them.

“If it ain’t the prodigy of Princeton college!”

He elbows the French man and Mulligan, and now all three of them are staring at Aaron and Alexander. “Aaron Burr!” Mulligan exclaims. Laurens laughs, and his eyes are hard. “Drop us some knowledge!”

Aaron is not particularly in the mood for this. “You spit, I’ll sit, we’ll see where we land.”

“Boooo!” Mulligan shouts, and the entire tavern quiets down. Aaron can feel their focus; it prickles uncomfortable on the back of his neck.

“Burr, the Revolution’s imminent, what do you stall for?” Laurens says.

“Yeah! You stand for nothing!” Alexander shouts. There's a bit of a slur to his words, although Aaron didn't think he was that drunk. “You’re a sham! You use your power only for your own purposes, what, are you waiting for a vision of which side is going to win the war before you join the fight? You’re nothing better than an exalted liar, and it’s going to catch up with you one day. Come on, out with it, what have you ever really seen?”

Aaron stands abruptly. The whole tavern is looking at them. Fury washes over him, and he locks eyes with Alexander. “All I see is death,” he spits. And in that moment, he feels completely vindicated for killing Alexander Hamilton.

Then the shame washes over him, and he can’t stand to be there a second longer. He pushes his chair aside and storms outside. The cold air and rain on his face do nothing to calm him. He tries to wrestle his scarf and hat and coat on all at the same time, his legs moving ever-forward, when a hand slips into his and tugs him to a stop.

He knows that it’s Alexander Hamilton.

What could he possibly have done to deserve this?

He turns around, and Hamilton is bouncing up and down, looking just as excited as when Aaron first shook his hand. “Tell me that was brilliant,” Alexander says.

“Brilliant?”

“We just had a very public disagreement, I insulted you, you stormed out, no one’s going to associate our names again. You’re safe. I’m brilliant.”

Trust me, Alexander had said. Aaron probably should have, and feels embarrassed for the very real anger that he had felt. But he doesn’t let any of that show on his face; instead, he lets out a short laugh. “You’re brilliant.”

They stand there in the street, and Alexander isn’t dropping his hand. Aaron clears his throat. “I have a guest room. You can stay the night. I—I mean. I live just down the street. And I’m not sure if you live nearby or.”

Alexander’s smile is blinding. “I’d love to.”

“Only because we haven’t finished our conversation,” Aaron quickly clarifies.

“Of course,” Alexander says, his smile never dimming.

They talk far too late into the night, until Aaron finds himself staring at Alexander’s lips, his hands, the motion of his fingers as they splay and dance to his words, if only to avoid getting caught in Alexander’s eyes. Aaron can feel himself wanting to lean closer, can feel the infatuation that he inherited from his…foreknowledge growing in him like a poisonous seed, and he knows that it can only bear poisonous fruit.

He sees Alexander to the guest room with a smile, and falls asleep that night with the smile still on his face.

~~~~

Alexander will not, for the life of him, shut up. He writes about the Revolution extensively, sometimes under pen names and sometimes not. He gets into King’s College. He befriends all of the local Sons of Liberty. Aaron, on the other hand, rarely leaves his own house anymore. Whether or not he should be taken to Britain is argued back and forth in the newspapers every day, and while Aaron knows that he won't be dragged off because he hasn't seen it happening, living in the turmoil that his life is a lot harder than he expected from his visions. So he stays inside as much as possible in an attempt to avoid it all.

Alexander sneaks over nearly every other night to talk about one thing or another, and their conversations always drag out long enough that Aaron invites him to stay. He starts leaving the very small portion of belongings that he does have in Aaron’s guest room, until Aaron half-jokingly suggests that why doesn’t he just move in and save them both the trouble, and Alexander takes him seriously. It doesn't cause any problems; Alexander is careful to make himself scarce whenever British officers come to visit, and visit they do like clockwork: to check up on Aaron, ask about Aaron’s plans for the day, and escort him wherever he wishes to go. They haven’t taken to guarding the house at night yet, which Aaron counts as a blessing. He knows that his time is running out.

News of the battles of Lexington and Concord arrive, and he and Alexander sneak off in the dead of night to enlist in the Continental Army. Aaron stutters, stoops, and employs every trick he knows to look like a different person. He gives his mother’s maiden name at the registrar, Aaron Edwards. He doesn’t want to be sent to Quebec. He knows instinctively that if he’s going to make a difference, he needs to be here, now. He needs to speak to Washington, he needs to be taken seriously by Washington.

They’re assigned to the Hearts of Oak, which is a group of overexcited kids that are rather hard to take seriously until Aaron and Alexander have the brilliant idea of stealing British cannons. Suddenly the Hearts of Oak are an artillery company, and a lot of important eyes are on them. Aaron stays up at night, pouring over maps and scraps of paper that he’d scribbled on when he was younger, tries to remember anything that they can use. But he hasn’t seen the battles around New York, he knows names and dates of them, sure, but not number of men, positioning of troops, things that matter. He knows exactly what the British are doing in Quebec, for all the help that is. For the first time, Aaron feels actively guilty about his gift, and genuinely useless, and he hates it.

The British chase them through Pennsylvania. At this point, with help from John Jay and Alexander McDougall, he and Hamilton are leading the newly minted New York Provincial Company of Artillery. Well, technically Alexander is leading. Alexander was the one elected captain, and Aaron prefers it this way, because it means that when they draw attention from people like General Greene and Henry Knox, the attention is focused on Alexander, not him.

Then one of Washington’s aides-de-camp comes for Alexander. Aaron and Alexander are sitting in a tent together, discussing strategy, when it happens: a man walks in and asks for Captain Hamilton.

Alexander meets Aaron’s eyes, and then nods his head deliberately. “You heard him, Hamilton,” he says.

So it is Aaron, not Alexander, who follows the aide-de-camp of unsteady feet to Washington’s central organizational and command pavilion.

~~~

“Your Excellency. You wanted to see me?”

“Hamilton, come in,” Washington says. Aaron lets himself into the tent, the flap closes behind him, leaving him and Washington alone in the room. There are tables covered in maps and papers, letters that look like they’re half-finished, the entire expanse exudes the aura that it was a bustle of activity only a few minutes prior. The stillness now is unsettling. Washington makes no move to break it, he just stares at Aaron, and Aaron is sure that he can see right through him.

“Have I done something wrong, sir?” he asks.

“On the contrary,” Washington says.

Aaron clears his throat. “Sir. I’m…I’m not Alexander Hamilton.”

Washington smiles. “I know. I assumed the two of you would try to pull something like this. Stealing British cannons—that was a stroke of genius. So I asked my men to look into whose idea that was.”

“That really was Alexander’s idea,” Aaron says. “I’m not nearly as useful as—“

“I’ve called you here because our odds are beyond scary,” Washington says. “I will be frank with you, Mister Burr—“ Aaron shivers at his own name, there’s no hiding it now. “—I am well aware of the extent of your abilities, and your history of equivocation. Why would a man like that enlist under a false name? If you were just looking for glory, you could have enlisted publicly, and you would have gotten recognition and been guaranteed safety. Instead, you’ve been out there bleeding and fighting like every other man.”

Aaron isn’t sure how to answer that, so he remains silent.

“Son, what do you know about the war?” Washington asks.

“Battle of Trenton,” Aaron blurts. The words tumble from him and he can't stop them. “December 25th, you cross the Delaware river, then December 26th you’ll be able to capture the entire garrison of British troops stationed at Trenton with almost no American losses. Then you’ll need Baron von Steuben to train the troops over the winter, it’s—“ Aaron wrings his hands. “I have lists of battles, dates that I’ve written down, I know some numbers and movements and it’s so little and I’m trying to see more, sir, I’m trying every day but—“

“We are a powder keg about to explode,” Washington says. “Your assistance—any assistance—could lighten that load.”

“Of course, sir,” Aaron says.

“Gather your things, you’ll be joining my aides-de-camp, and once you are settled in we can talk further about what you know,” Washington says.

"Of course, sir," Aaron says, then realizes that he has been dismissed and probably shouldn't keep standing there like an idiot. He makes for the tent flap.

“Oh, and Burr?”

“Sir?”

“Send Hamilton, I do actually want to talk to him.”

~~~

Aaron and Alexander keep their tent together, they just move across the camp. The hardest part of the relocation is all of their papers—Aaron’s been trying to write down anything he has seen about the war, and Alexander, well, Alexander writes so much that half the time Aaron can’t track what he’s writing about.

They’re greeted by some familiar faces the moment they duck out of their tent, Laurens and Lafayette. Alexander runs forward and hugs them both, and kisses Lafayette on both cheeks and fires something off very quickly in French. Aaron hangs behind, feeling the weight of Laurens’ gaze on him. Lafayette gestures at him, and Alexander laughs.

“Come on, Aaron,” he says in English. “We can find Mulligan, get a drink tonight, the whole Revolutionary set is together again!”

Laurens raises an eyebrow, and that’s all Aaron needs to try to back away. “I—I’d rather—“

“He’s a bit shy,” Alexander says to Laurens and Lafayette. “And he hates taking credit for anything he does. But he’s been one of us since the beginning.”

Laurens nods, and offers Aaron a smile, and Aaron tries to smile back. He’s worried that it comes out as more of a grimace. “General Washington wants to talk with me.”

“Not all night,” Alexander says. “I’m not going to let you get out of this.”

Aaron tries to ignore the headache he can already feel building behind his temples. “Alright,” he says.

Alexander beams and turns back to Lafayette, and they continue their conversation in French, leaving Laurens to turn to Aaron and offer if he can help carry anything.

“Actually, if you take the bedrolls, Alexander and I might be able to make this in one trip,” Aaron says.

“Well, that is the plan,” Laurens says. “As much as I’d love to make social calls—“

“Of course,” Aaron says, and resumes staring at the ground. There's a blush creeping up the back of his neck. No one makes him feel stupid better than Hamilton's friends. It's funny, despite all he knows about them, he's only actually met them in person once, that first night at the bar. That doesn't stop them from...intimidating him.

Laurens just laughs. “You really are shy!”

“I”m not!” Aaron says. “I just—“

“What?” Laurens asks.

“I’ve never particularly had a group of friends before,” Aaron says, carefully articulating every word as if he can hide from the meaning of them. “It was always…too dangerous, or I’ve been forced to hold myself too distant to form meaningful connections with one person, let alone…” He takes a deep breath. “What I am trying to say is that I am grateful that your camaraderie and affection for Alexander extends to me as well, and I will try my hardest to make you proud of any such association you choose to have with me.”

Laurens smiles. “I can’t wait for you to meet the whole crowd.”

Chapter Text

Aaron stares at the water, or what little he can see of it through the sleet, and then back at Henry Knox.

“Yes, we’re still doing this,” he says, and that’s all the Colonel needs to begin shouting orders to push them off. Most of the men already crossed the river in smaller boats, but Knox needed to get their cannons and horses safely to the other side of this icy nightmare known as the Delaware. Encouragement from the seer, it seems, is analogous enough to orders that Knox won’t back out. Aaron, his task done, stands to the side of the ferry. His knuckles are white as he grips the guardrail. He closes his eyes and tries to breathe.

“Hey.”

Aaron cracks an eye open. Laurens is standing next to him. Aaron nods in acknowledgement and hopes that nothing more will be required of him.

“I’m glad I found you,” Laurens continues. “Everyone thought you went with General Washington in the first wave of boats.”

“Needed to make sure everyone made it over okay,” Aaron grits out.

“It’s natural to be nervous,” Laurens says. “Hamilton is a complete wreck right now, although that’s probably because no one knew where you were. A lot of people are pretty doubtful about this crossing, although I think the weather means the British won’t expect us at all.”

They’re making small talk about the weather, how amusing, Aaron thinks.

“It’s not that,” he says. (That is partially a lie, he is terrified that they won’t win this battle, and both his credibility and all American hope for victory will be crushed in a single devastating blow.)

Laurens looks at him patiently.

“My daughter dies at sea,” Aaron says. “Shipwrecked in…in a storm, it makes this—“ He gestures at the icy water, what little can be seen, at least. “—it’s not…it’s hard to travel by…by water. Ever since.”

“I didn’t know you had a daughter,” Laurens says.

“I don’t yet,” Aaron says. “Does that make me mad? Mourning a woman who hasn’t even been born?”

“I wouldn’t know,” Laurens says. “Maybe it’s in the job description, being a bit mad?”

“Maybe,” Aaron says. “There’s not really anyone I can ask.”

“We’re almost halfway over,” Laurens says. “I can keep talking, if you’d like.”

“That would be nice,” Aaron says. Even small talk is better than staring at the dark water around them, wondering if it was cold, wondering if it hurt, wondering if she felt as scared as he does now.

“So Mulligan and Hamilton once got drunk, and designed their ideal uniforms for their own regiment once they joined the Revolution,” Laurens says.

Aaron’s full focus is on him. “Details. Now.”

“The best part was the hat,” Laurens says. “It had a cockade on it. A cockade. And a band reading ’LIBERTY OR DEATH.’”

“Was this uniform just a hat?” Aaron says. He wouldn’t be surprised, given what he knows about Mulligan and Hamilton.

“No, they got to the jacket,” Laurens says. “Extremely tight-fitting, short, and for some reason green, and apparently it was very important to pin a tin heart to that read ‘Our God and Our Right’ on them.”

“And that was the uniform?” Aaron asks.

“That was the uniform,” Laurens confirms. “We’re about three quarters of the way over now.”

“Okay,” Aaron says. “Okay. Any more stories I can hold over Hamilton’s head?”

“There was the time we ran into Samuel Seabury, you know, the author of Free Thoughts on the Proceedings of the Continental Congress?”

“I read A Full Vindication of the Measures of Congress, and The Farmer Refuted,” Aaron says. “They were pretty brutal.”

“I guarantee they were nothing compared to the things Hamilton shouted at that poor man,” Laurens says. “Highlights were probably, ‘My dog speaks more eloquently, but strangely your mange is the same!’”

Aaron almost doubles over laughing. “Yeah, that sounds like Alexander,” he says.

He feels Laurens’ hand on his shoulder. “Alright, we’re here.”

“Thank you,” Aaron says. “I really appreciate…you coming back for me.”

“It wasn’t any trouble at all,” Laurens says. “I’m glad you’re alright.”

Washington is in the middle of a hub of activity when Aaron and Laurens approach the sentry line. Alexander sees them and runs over, and seems to maintain just enough decorum not to embrace Aaron, for which Aaron is grateful.

“What have we missed?” Laurens says.

“General Ewing didn’t even attempt a crossing, he was too worried about ice jams,” Alexander says. “And Cadwalader couldn’t get his artillery across, so he crossed back. We’ve got no reinforcements.”

“We still need to do this,” Aaron says.

“I know,” Alexander says. “Washington was waiting for the artillery to get over, we’re ready to march, we’re going with him and Greene, and Sullivan is taking the other half of the men, so that we can flank them.”

“Alright,” Aaron says. “That sounds good.” He has no more to offer, he doesn’t remember enough about what’s supposed to happen to be able to give tactical advice.

“We’ve got support from locals,” Alexander says. “People volunteering to guide us, some just flocking to join our army.”

“That’s great,” Aaron says.

“I’m supposed to pass on the news that you’re sitting out this battle,” Alexander says.

That manages to snap Aaron out of it. “Bullshit,” he says. “I haven’t sat out of any battles yet, there’s no reason why I—“

“I’m on your side on this one,” Alexander says. “We need all the help we can get.”

Laurens sighs. “Then I’ll have to be the voice of reason. The two of you have been aides-de-camp for less than a month. If you disobey direct orders, you’ll be dismissed, or at the very least re-assigned. And maybe you’re irreplaceable,” he says, raising one hand to cut off Aaron’s protests, “but Colonel Hamilton doesn’t have your abilities, and as much as the General seems to appreciate the both of you, that will be put to the test.”

“Where does Washington want me to go?” Aaron asks.

“Apparently Captain Mott’s house is nearby, and he can escort you to it,” Alexander says.

Aaron takes a deep breath. He considers the big picture. He weighs all his options. Laurens has been an aide-de-camp longer than either of them; if Laurens says Washington will be displeased and send Alexander away, then that is likely to happen. “I suppose I’ll be spending the night at Mott’s, then,” he says. “You’ll shoot some Hessians for me?”

“Of course,” Alexander says. Then he adds: “Get some rest, you look terrible.”

Aaron can practically feel Laurens rolling his eyes behind him. He wants to retort, but honestly, he does feel terrible, and he’s not sure if there’s anything he can say without making a fool out of himself in front of Laurens.

“Where’s Mott?” he asks.

“Talking with General Washington about the best roads to take and where the British outposts are,” Alexander says. “Follow me.”

Washington gives Aaron a tight smile when they get to him; he must have just finished his conversation with Mott, because he thanks man, introduces him to Aaron, and then climbs on the horse that was brought to him and begins shouting orders for the march to commence.

Mott turns to Aaron. “I’ve got two horses tied a little further down, it’s only a few miles to my house. We should be there within an hour, Colonel.”

Aaron nods. He is hyperaware of the thousands of men here with rags tied to their feet, and of all of the cannons that need to be hauled the nine miles from where they crossed to Trenton. He is hyperaware of how precious one horse, let alone two, is to what they’re trying to do here, and yet two have been set aside so that he and Mott can reach Mott’s house as soon as possible.

“I’ll be riding back as soon as you’re settled in safe,” Mott says, and Aaron feels a little better. He's only really wasting one horse.

It’s a small cozy house, next to a mill. Apparently Mott owns two mills, the second one being further down the road. His wife is awake, and offers Aaron tea, biscuits, hard cider, or stew that she can easily warm up, as well as their bed to sleep in. Aaron turns it all down except for a cup of tea; he doesn’t think that he’ll be able to eat, and certainly not sleep, not without knowing how the battle is going.

Mrs. Mott seems very inclined to fuss over him; Aaron is not sure if this is because there are no children in the house for her to mother-hen, or if it is because he is America’s seer. He is worried that it is the latter, same as he is worried that the stew that she offers is the only food in the house and the bed that she offers is their only bed. She doesn’t speak of his gifts or thank him for his service, for which he is extremely grateful, although he is conscious of the fact that he is keeping her from her own rest by refusing to sleep. The guilt gnaws at him, and does nothing to help his highly strung nerves.

At about 6:30 in the morning, Mott stops by to give them news: the weather is wetting the gunpowder, and Washington has ordered the attack to continue, stating that if they must, they’ll use their bayonets. It’s all Aaron can do not to faint; he’s led Washington and all of his men—Alexander included—straight into a massacre. He tries to stand up, isn’t sure what his plan is besides rush out of the door and run straight to Washington’s side to tell him to call it all off, but his legs are too unsteady and he falls back into his chair.

“That is enough,” Mrs. Mott says. “You are going to lay down in the bed and get some sleep. God knows a growing young man like you needs it.” Then when it turns out that he can barely stand, the Motts together practically carry him to their bed. Aaron is humiliated and sure that he would be furious if he had any energy to be anything except terrified for the lives of just about everyone he cared about. He stares mutely at the ceiling for what feels like hours.

He must have somewhere along the line fallen asleep, because it’s dark again the next time he opens his eyes. Laurens is standing over him, looking rather worse for wear.

Aaron pushes himself up immediately. “Alexander?” he says, and it comes out in nearly a squeak.

“Is fine, he’s been tasked to take down the names of the thousand troops that we’ve captured, and begin writing letters for hostage exchanges,” Laurens said. “We won.”

The words sink in.

“Thousands of…we won?”

“We only captured two thirds of them, but we got over a thousand muskets, gunpowder, their cannons, and their entire store of provisions,” Laurens says. “Flour, dried and salted meat, ale, shoes, boots, coats, even bedding. This winter is going to be a lot less unpleasant than it originally looked.”

“What was the cost?”

“Two died in the march from frostbite,” Laurens says. “And five were wounded in battle. That’s all. Aaron—“ Aaron twitches at Laurens’ use of his first name. “—I don’t think we’ve ever won a battle this decisively.”

“It’s not over yet,” Aaron says. “We need to get back to our troops on the other side of the Delaware, and there’s going to be…there’s a battle at Princeton that we can win as well, but we need to prepare for it.”

“We all know that,” Laurens says. “But this victory is huge for our new nation. We’ve been barely able to survive, we’ve lost battle after battle, and then out of nowhere America’s seer comes out of hiding and joins Washington’s circle of advisors? And we immediately win a battle with next to no losses? People are flocking to enlist, all of the men who were there tonight have pledged to stay, Aaron, you should have seen them all fighting.” Laurens’ eyes are shining. “There was hope in their eyes.”

Aaron can’t bring himself to say that this victory has nothing to do with him, that the Washington in his vision had thought of this plan and enacted it entirely on his own, that none of this credit should be given to him.

But Laurens’ eyes are shining, and the men have hope. Hope is a lie, hope is a carefully crafted image, and Aaron is well aware at how important images are. The impact of America’s seer turning the war around will garner far more support from rich and powerful men both inside and outside of this country than Washington winning a fluke battle. Aaron grew up playing this game, ever aware of actions and interactions and implications. This is the right move, keeping his cards close to his chest. He’ll have time to prove himself later.

“You said we found ale?” Aaron says. “Then let’s go celebrate.”

~~~

Aaron Burr is usually very careful not to get drunk. He is fairly ambivalent to the taste of alcohol, and he is constantly nervous that he will say something while intoxicated that might implicate him. His power, his position, even his social connections feel fraudulent to him at all times, but he is not quite penitent enough to wish to reveal this to anyone. Alcohol is more of a danger than the appeal can balance out.

Aaron’s new friends are also a terrible influence.

He is currently singing—signing—and he never sings—some ridiculous drinking song that Alexander knew and taught them all (perhaps from the Caribbean? Alexander never specified). He has spilled ale on his sleeve and a bit on the front of his shirt, and will resent the smell tomorrow, but for now he doesn’t care. Laurens claps his back as he hits a particularly high note perfectly, and more of the drink slops over and onto the table. He’s laughing. He’s actually having fun.

I am so proud to be…to be drinking with the American Jeanne D’Arc,” Lafayette says. “Singing like an angel.

I don’t know what kind of angels you have in France,” Alexander says.

Aaron snorts. Laurens looks at him.

This is very funny because I can speak French,” Aaron whispers, perhaps a bit more loudly than he intended, but it doesn’t seem like either Alexander or Lafayette has heard. “I went to Princeton and I learned a lot of languages.

I can tell,” Laurens says.

But your seer is very beautiful too, no?” Lafayette is saying. “And will drive the British oppressors away from your land. There are many resemblances.

Aaron is no maiden in need of defending,” Alexander says.

Neither was Jeanne D’Arc!” Lafayette says. “She rode into battle in front of her men.

There is no way that will happen,” Alexander says. “The General will not risk America’s seer, and this is a good thing, there is too much danger, he thinks he is invincible.

Maybe he knows that he is.”

No, there is something more, there is…there is a darkness that troubles him. He has nightmares. He won’t speak about it.”

Talking about people behind their back is rude,” Laurens cuts in.

“I am…how to say…vraiment désolé,” Lafayette says. “I am just learning your language, it is easier to speak in my mother tongue.”

Think nothing of it, my friend,” Aaron says. “We can speak in your own tongue until you learn ours, I can help tutor you if you would like.

Alexander turns bright red.

You speak French!” Lafayette says.

Yes, that is rather obvious,” Alexander says. “Aaron, why didn’t you tell me you spoke French?

Clearly so that he could catch the two of you doing precisely this,” Laurens says. “I warned you it was rude.

You knew? Traitor!” Alexander says.

I learned just now,” Laurens says. “But you should have guessed. ‘Prodigy of Princeton College,’ that’s what they call him.

Well, I have nothing to be ashamed of, I will say this to your face, American seer,” Lafayette says. “You are very beautiful.

Aaron giggles. “You flatter me, monsieur.

I would very gladly accept your offer of…private lessons,” Lafayette says. “It can be so hard to adjust to a foreign land, I—

I can teach you English!” Alexander cuts in. “So can Laurens! There is no need for you to—to impose on Aaron like that.

Calm down, my friend,” Lafayette says. “We can all share. The more the merrier, no?

I will outline lesson plans tomorrow when I can…when I can sit down and write,” Aaron says. “Practicing conversations is one of the most important part of immersion in a new language, and I will write you down a dictionary, and prepare exercises. You will be fluent in English in no time. I would love help from John and Alexander. There is much work to do.

For some reason that Aaron cannot grasp, Laurens finds this incredibly funny, Alexander resumes glaring at his drink, and Lafayette looks a little crestfallen.

I promise I will be a good teacher!” Aaron says. “I have tutored my classmates before, they always excelled.

Your abilities are not in question,” Laurens says. “These two are…

Are what?” Alexander says.

Too willing to take advantage of his poor, delicate sensibilities,” Laurens says, shooting Alexander a look.

Now who’s the one talking about him like he’s not there,” Alexander says.

I’m very delicate!” Aaron says. “And I am the most sensible one here!

Do I have to walk him back to his tent to ensure that neither of you jump his bones?” Laurens says.

His tent is my tent too,” Alexander says.

I’m not tired,” Aaron says.

“You’re drunk,” Laurens says, switching to English. “And we’ll be marching tomorrow. It’s a fine time to call it a night.”

“I’ll take him back,” Alexander says. “I should get some sleep as well.”

“Alexander—“

“You can come escort us if you want, I’m not going to sully his honor.”

Laurens shakes his head. “I just hope you know what you’re getting yourself into.”

“I can be responsible,” Alexander says.

“Then see that you are,” Laurens says. “The both of you are very dear to me, and I will not be very happy if either of you gets hurt.”

Alexander smiles, and Laurens must melt at that, because Aaron can’t possibly imagine anyone not melting at that. “And we love you dearly for it as well, Laurens. Lafayette, my friend, we are leaving for the night.

I gathered.” He leans over and kisses Alexander on both cheeks, then motions for Aaron to stand so that he can give the man the same treatment. “Goodnight, sweet American Jeanne D’Arc.

Goodnight,” Aaron says. Then he reaches for Alexander’s shoulder for support, and the two stumble outside.

“Those two are going to be the death of me,” Laurens mutters.

~~~

“You know that we were just kidding in there,” Alexander says as soon as they’re out of earshot.

Aaron turns towards him, confused. “The Marquis doesn’t want English lessons?”

Alexander needs to pause in their walking a moment to laugh. “No, no, he still wants English lessons. How—“

“I’m not sure if I’ve ever been this drunk before,” Aaron says, holding one hand in front of his face. “The world is spinning.”

“That would explain it,” Alexander says. “You’re a very articulate drunk.”

“I have to be very careful with my words,” Aaron says. “People take my words very seriously. So I have to be careful with them.”

“You can tell me anything,” Alexander says.

Alexander standing behind the rising sun, the new light of day glinting off his pistol, the words tearing themselves from Aaron’s chest, WAIT!

Aaron is nearly certain that he doubles over and begins to throw up, only he’s still standing, and Alexander is still looking at him, and he’s still pushing down the bile in the back of his throat and is in control of his mind and his body, I am the one thing in life I can control, I am the one thing in life I can control, and there is not a single crack in his facade.

“I’m very drunk right now,” he settles on saying, pitches his voice just right so it sounds like he’s sort of surprised and mildly amused and not like a cold sweat is covering his back.

Alexander just smiles at him. “Then let’s get you to bed.”

~~~

Through normal intelligence, Washington learns that Cornwallis is bringing an army of at least 8000 men to attack Trenton. Congress has sent wages for Washington’s men, as well as resolves increasing Washington’s power as a commander to do what is necessary to win the war. No one directly states that this is because of Aaron, but Aaron can feel it in the weight of the other men’s gazes on him.

Aaron insists they need to attack Princeton, so instead of retreating, they cross over the Delaware again and hole up near Assunpink Creek. They build three miles’ worth of earthwork banks. One of the aides-de-camp, Joseph Reed, points out that the British can just cross the creed at a ford and then attack their right flank, and their boats are upstream, so they cannot escape across the Delaware. Washington responds that he has no intention of escaping, and that this position is just temporary.

Aaron is terrified, once more, that everyone he cares about is going to die because of Washington’s inexplicable trust of him, and his own pride and foolishness.

Three times the British charge them, and three times the American defenses hold strong. It begins to grow dark. The British withdraw.

~~~

Washington calls a council of war that evening. Generals Greene, Sullivan, Cadwalader, Mercer, and Ewing sit one one side of the table. Colonel Knox is there to provide information about coordinating the transportation of artillery.

Aaron is there because he is America’s seer.

“I will not bandy words,” Washington says when they are all seated. “We do not have a lot of time, and the decision that we make now will be vital.”

“I believe we can win at Princeton,” Mercer says. “There are locals who can help us navigate backroads. All the intelligence checks out. We can take men hostage, take their supplies, and then retire for the winter victorious.”

“It’s a dangerous move,” Ewing declares. “We’ve already won, if we push our luck we might lose the war here and now.”

“We’ve won a scrimmage,” Mercer says. “When the victory fever fades, everyone will realize how small the battle was. We could defeat the full British army in the field. We can’t afford to leave now!”

“We can’t afford to throw what we’ve already done!” Ewing says.

“We win at Princeton,” Aaron says. The words hang in the air. “We win there. I’ve seen it.”

It’s not a lie, he tells himself. They do win at Princeton. They just have to be there to fight at Princeton for that to happen, and if he needs to tell them that they’ll win to get them to go there in the first place, then he’ll do it. This is his duty. It’s important they can’t win the war if they don’t fight the right battles.

“Cornwallis will expect us to try to escape,” Sullivan says. “Do you have a plan for that? Have you seen anything that can help us?”

“Cornwallis’s war council will be arguing right now as to whether or not we’re trying to escape,” Aaron says. “So let’s give them the answer. Leave a few hundred men to keep fires burning, patrol, dig with picks and shovels so it sounds like we’re making trenches, and fire maybe two of our cannons at the British line. Evacuate the rest of the army to Princeton, surprise their forces at dawn.”

It’s a good plan, it’s an honest plan. He thought of it himself. It should work, if their forces stay quiet enough, but the American army is exceedingly good at marching in absolute silence.

“Colonel Knox, is it possible to move our cannons?” Washington asks.

“The ground is frozen,” Knox replies. “They won’t sink, we can move ‘em.”

“Then this meeting is concluded, gentlemen,” Washington says. “Sullivan, pass on the orders to the New Jersey militia to remain here and patrol. The rest of you, prepare your men. We march immediately.”

The other men trickle out, and Aaron is the last one to pass Washington on his way to the door. A hand on his shoulder stops him from leaving.

“You did well in there,” Washington says.

Aaron stares resolutely at the ground. “Is there something you want, sir?”

Washington sighs. “Yes. Your orders are to sit this battle out as well. You will hide with Moore and his family until the fighting is over.”

Aaron feels the frustration prickle under his skin, but Washington’s hand is heavy on his shoulder, and his protests die unvoiced. “Yessir.”

Washington must hear the disappointment in his voice. “This is for the best, son.”

I’m not your son. “Yessir.” And Aaron stands there, very still, for a long, long moment, until Washington removes his hand and he can make his escape.

~~~

Alexander is the one who fetches him from hiding this time. He’s grinning like and idiot and bouncing up and down, so Aaron gathers before he even opens his mouth that they won.

“Then they fell back and hid out in Nassau Hall, but we had three cannons, and I ordered the men to blast away at the building, I bet that stupid bursar really regrets turning me down now, and then they stopped firing so we rushed to go bash in the door and that was when someone started waving a white flag out a window and we captured precisely one hundred and ninety-four of them.”

“Well done, Alexander.”

“What did you do, eat breakfast?” Alex asks.

Aaron will not dignify this with a response, it is enough that Washington is forcing him to sit out every battle, but he will not be made fun of by his friends.

Alexander must sense the change in his manner. “I’m not kidding around, I’m really hungry, did you save any for me?”

That earns Alexander a laugh, and the roll of bread and dried meat he’d been given for the road. “Didn’t you all seize more supplies?”

“Washington told everyone we could just loot the wagons, I think he could sense how hungry everyone was,” Alexander says. “But I was supposed to pick you up right away.”

“Where are we headed?” Aaron asks.

“Morristown, for the winter,” Alexander says. “We really did it, Aaron, we’re changing the course of this war around.”

“You are,” Aaron says. “I’m sitting around sleeping in nice beds and being fed full breakfasts.”

“And giving us unparalleled intelligence on British movements!” Alexander says. “They’ll tell stories about you for centuries.”

“I don’t care about my legacy,” Aaron says.

A look of surprise flits across Alexander’s face. “Then why are you here?”

Because you’re here. “Because I want to do it right this time,” Aaron says. “I want America to be all that it can be.”

Alexander grins like an idiot. “I’m glad that you’re on our side. That you chose our side.”

“I’ve always been on your side,” Aaron says. “You know that, right?”

“Of course.”

I was on your side even then, we could have fought against slavery together, we could have fought for democracy, we could have prevented Jefferson’s rise and all of the ruinous party politics and the rifts between the North and South that threatened to tear our country apart. Alex, I was always on your side.

Aaron blinks back tears. “Yeah. Of course.”

Chapter Text

Alexander is perhaps the most annoying, frustrating, and utterly terrible roommate imaginable. Aaron had shared a tent with him, sure, but most nights they would be so exhausted that they’d both collapse into unconsciousness next to one another and that would be that. Here, they’ve got two narrow beds and one desk all in a room of their own in Arnold’s Tavern on the Green. Aaron had been offered a private room, but Alexander had jumped in and argued that it was dangerous for Aaron not to have a bodyguard with him at all times. So now not only is Aaron sharing his bedroom with Alexander, but he is also not allowed to step outside without informing at least three people where he is going and taking an escort.

It’s things like this that makes Aaron want to strangle Alexander.

Well. Only a little bit. Actually killing Alexander is entirely out of the question. The torment of Alexander’s work and sleeping habits are almost a relief next to the pain and heartache of Alex not being there at all, of being six feet under because Aaron put him there.

Alexander keeps extremely odd hours, because light wakes him up. So every morning at the crack of dawn, he’ll start going about his daily business with no respect for the fact that Aaron does not need to be conscious that early. Candlelight also apparently keeps Alexander up, which means that when Alexander decides that he wants to sleep, Aaron has to put all his work away and try to sleep as well. And then sometimes, for no reason, in the middle of the night, Alexander will shake Aaron awake and begin babbling at him about the most inconsequential things.

It’s only when Alexander rouses him awake and he’s covered in a cold sweat and panting does he realize that he’s probably been having nightmares, and Alexander is probably just trying to watch out for him. He doesn’t have the heart to tell Alexander that he always has nightmares, and that he barely remembers them. It’s sweet that Alex is trying to help.

Then he wakes up one night screaming “WAIT!”, startling Alexander out of his sleep, and suddenly Aaron finds it very, very, very hard to allow himself to relax. He never considered the possibility that he might talk in his sleep, say something that gives himself away, and the fact that it is Alexander next to him listening makes it all the worse.

Alexander holds him that night, rubs circles into his back until he stops trembling and Aaron guiltily pushes him off and they return to their own beds. They don’t talk about it in the morning. Aaron starts trying to stay up even later, hoping that perhaps he’ll be exhausted enough to not talk in his sleep anymore.

January turns to February. The nightmares don’t stop.

~~~

One of the consistent bright points in Aaron’s days become his English lessons with Lafayette. Lafayette insists on at least half an hour of his time every single day, and they settle into a routine of finding one another at a little past four, then sitting down together for the immense struggle of attempting to get the Marquis to concentrate on English. Lafayette has many fantastic stories about his childhood, how he grew up on a farm, his beautiful wife, or will speak fervently about how much he cares about the Revolution. He’ll even sometimes rant about the appalling excess of the French court and how much he looks forward to a French Revolution as well. Unfortunately, he does this all in French. Aaron starts writing up lesson plans and little exercise pamphlets to try to guilt Lafayette into paying attention and not going off on these tangents, but to no avail. (Aaron does see Lafayette dutifully working on the booklets late at night sometimes, though, so he keeps making them.)

Lafayette also insists on referring to him only as “the American seer” or “American Jeanne D’Arc”, which Aaron feels ought to bother him, but strangely it doesn’t. He does plan his revenge one day, and slowly gathers up his courage over the next week until:

“Good afternoon, American Jeanne D’Arc.”

“Good afternoon, French Lancelot.”

Lafayette freezes, and his face twists into a mask of outrage. Aaron feels his stomach drop in abject terror as he scrambles to figure out where along the line he miscalculated.

“French Lancelot? French Lancelot? I cannot believe you, I cannot believe your—your ignorance, your insolence, Lancelot *was* French! You…you traitor, you fool! No, I cannot believe that I have associated with you for over a month and—

Relief courses through Aaron, and he begins to laugh, and Lafayette sputters off has to struggle to keep his face looking suitably angry instead of joining in. “In most traditional stories, he is raised by the Lady of the Lake in her magical kingdom, the last time I checked that was not France,” Aaron says.

No, but Lancelot first appears in the works of Chrétien de Troyes, a French poet! French! And—“

And three hours later, they’re still going back and forth about this, having attempted to track via memory every single story of Lancelot and its implications of his origin. Lafayette has unbuttoned the top of his shirt, taken off his cravat, and is pounding a fist on the table for emphasis every other sentence. Aaron, at least, is nowhere near as disheveled, and is instead leafing through all the papers where he’s been listing the various points that they’ve brought up for each side of the argument in an attempt to logically prove that Lancelot is English.

Alexander knocks at the door for a solid minute but neither of them notice enough to answer, so the two of them are surprised at least into a moment of silence when Alexander finally bursts into the room. Alex surveys the scene, mouth slightly agape, until Lafayette jumps back in.

Tell your uncultured swine of a friend that Lancelot is French!

Tell your overly touchy elitist Frenchman that the fictional origin of a fictional character ought to be considered their homeland, not the place from which the story originated!

Do I even want to know what is going on here?” Alexander asks.

He,” Lafayette says, pointing his finger at Aaron dramatically, “Called me French Lancelot. But Lancelot *is* French!

Lancelot belongs to the Arthurian legends! Which take place in England!” Aaron says. “And in the stories, he is from England! His lineage is undeniably English! Alexander, back me up here!

Alexander looks between the two of them.

Oh no, don’t you dare, you traitor, just because you like him—

Excuse me, but Aaron is right,” Alexander says quickly. “The integrity of the internal structure of a story is more important than the origin of the story itself, it—

That’s where Laurens finds them all, an hour later, well after dinner has grown cold, shouting about the nationality of an ancient legendary knight who, as Laurens attempted to remind them multiple times to get them to just sit down and eat, was not even real.

Aaron settles for calling Lafayette ‘the French Knight’, Lafayette continues calling Aaron ‘the American seer’, Alexander throws a fit when he finds out that they are calling one another by nicknames and he hasn’t been given one, so they start calling him ‘the little lion’ (“because,” as Lafayette puts it, “you won’t stop roaring at us, and you have such a pretty mane”), and Laurens remains fondly amused at how histrionic all his friends are, and ‘Laurens’ or ‘John’ will do, thank you very much.

~~~

Alexander will not for the life of him keep his hands to himself.

Aaron’s not sure if he is just hypersensitive because he is so stressed, or if Alexander at some point reached a decision to discard all respect for personal space, but Aaron is very, very aware of it happening now. Their hands will brush when Alexander hands him things, their legs will brush when they’re both getting up from a table, or he’ll come up behind him and put both elbows on his shoulders and lean over him when Aaron is sitting down and trying to work and Alexander wants his attention.

Aaron is not used to physical touch. Aaron is used to actively avoiding physical touch, and the visions that generally come along with it. Aaron is especially not used to even thinking about physical touch in relation to Alexander, who inspires such a flurry of emotions within him when he’s an arm’s length away. It shouldn’t matter so much, but it does. He feels his heart pounding in his ears every time Alex comes into contact with him, and it irks him immensely that he begins to take comfort in it, that he begins to lean into Alex, that he begins to crave it.

Getting close to Alexander is dangerous, and he is a fool for not realizing this earlier. Every moment is antagonizing pain, a guilt so heavy that it is all he can do to keep from blurting out what he’s done. He’s not sure what has changed; they got along fine in New York before the war. Perhaps it is all the kindness that Alex’s friends are showing him, it feels like one more thing he is leeching from Hamilton’s life that the poor man doesn’t even realize he’s taking.

He doesn’t deserve this, doesn’t deserve the regard that he has from Washington, doesn’t deserve the fond smiles from Laurens and the sweet sobriquets that Lafayette peppers every conversation with, doesn’t deserve his own private room or the best food and warmest blankets, doesn’t deserve a single second of time that Alexander is giving to him. He shouldn’t be here, and the sense that he shouldn’t be here and none of this should be happening grows and grows in him until it overwhelms his every waking thought.

~~~

Aaron begins to take to sneaking downstairs after Alexander insists that all candles in their room be put out. It is on one of these nights, well past midnight, that Washington startles him.

“Colonel Burr?”

Aaron’s head snaps up. “Your Excellency!”

“What are you doing here?”

“Writing letters, sir,” he says. “There are quite a few gentlemen that I believe can be persuaded to send us supplies, sir, if Congress does not send what we have requested. I am also attempting to compose a letter to Baron Von Steuben, the sooner he can come to train our army the better. King Louis will also eventually send us guns and naval support, and the sooner he does the better, although the Marquis de Lafayette is the one who is vital in securing that.”

“We’ve won three major victories, son,” Washington says. “The British have withdrawn from New Jersey. You have outlined in magnificent detail their campaigns through the next year. I think you deserve a rest.”

“It’s not enough, sir,” Aaron says. “This illusion of hope will be shattered if we don’t keep winning, and I haven’t had any new visions. You have been exceedingly careful to keep me out of the line of fire, sir, so let me do what I can to further our cause. I need to secure support while emotions are still running high from our recent victories to ensure that this momentum continues. With more supplies and Von Steuben’s training, we will become a real army, and with French naval support, we can—we can win.”

Washington sits down at the table. “Can we drop the formalities for the evening, and speak?”

“Of course, sir,” Aaron says quickly.

“Is there some sort of terrible disaster imminent?” Washington asks.

“No, sir,” Aaron says. “I swear, I’ve told you all I know so far about the war, and if I see anything more, I’ll notify you immediately.”

“I ask because your behavior has been worrisome,” Washington explains. He holds Aaron’s gaze steady, and has a very patient expression on his face, like Aaron is a wounded animal and he is ready for Aaron to try to bolt. “You have been working incessantly on your plans and letters and manuals. Your friends claim that you barely eat and sleep. You are for all intents and purposes acting like a man who is running out of time. Is there something that I need to know about?”

“No sir,” Aaron says.

“Is there something that you would like to talk about?”

“Not particularly, sir.”

Washington sighs. “I will not order you to speak with me, but there is something clearly weighing on your mind, and I wish that you would confide in someone.”

Aaron is silent for a long moment. He does what he always does in situations like these: he weighs his options. Washington clearly suspects that there is something severe troubling him. Denying it would do him no good. Confiding truly in Washington is out of the question. Confiding truly in anyone is out of the question. However, shooting Alexander Hamilton isn’t the only thing on his mind at this point; there are too many other people counting on him, too many other people who have wormed their way into his heart, for him to worry about an event thirty years in the future when the war is happening here and now. Those worries he could speak about.

It’s against his every instinct to open up in such a manner, certainly not to a superior, someone who holds as much authority over him as Washington does. Honestly, though, what makes his decision is that he does want to speak to someone about…not everything, he can’t tell anyone everything, but at least some of what burdens him.

“My current standing and prominence is based on lies, sir,” he says. “I don’t nearly have the abilities that everyone thinks I do. I’ve only had a single full vision of the future, everything else is just scraps of people’s deaths. It feels…wrong, for people to treat me with such respect and renown, when I haven’t done anything.”

“We won the battles of Trenton and Princeton, we have the full and renewed support of Congress, and our army has more than doubled in size,” Washington says. “I would not say you’ve done nothing.”

“But that’s precisely it, sir,” Aaron says. “In my vision, you came up with the ideas and plans for the Battles of Princeton and Trenton all on your own. I was with General Putnam, I was nowhere near the battle. I deserve none of the credit that I am being given, sir.”

“In your vision, what was the size of our army now?” Washington asks.

“Perhaps 10,000 men, sir,” Aaron says. “And double that from New York who pledged to help our cause.”

“We have nearly 25,000 men here, and our numbers still grow,” Washington says. “Your plans for latrines and the cooking area at opposite sides of the encampment—“

“Those were Baron Von Steuben’s ideas, sir.”

Washington looks at him patiently, and Aaron closes his mouth. “Your plans for the organization of our encampment, and the drills that you have remembered from your vision, are already shaping these men into an army we can be proud of. And the dedication and enthusiasm with which these men are enduring the winter and training is far more than can be explained from a few battles. You are not a fraud, Aaron, you are perhaps single-handedly turning this war around.”

“It doesn’t feel like that, sir,” Aaron says.

Washington sighs. “I know.”

“Sir?”

“I was younger than you are now when I was given my first command,” Washington says. His eyes are caught on something in the distance, lost in memories beyond what Aaron can see. “I led my men straight into a massacre. I witnessed their deaths firsthand. I’ve made every mistake.” He chuckles. “Not really what people expect from their venerated Virginian veteran. The world puts me on a pedestal and expects me to take this underfed, underpaid, ragtag mess of an army and win the war.”

“You do win the war,” Aaron says.

“Do you truly think we win simply because of me?” Washington asks. “The people win, it is the men who fight, it is the men who risk their lives to bring us intelligence, it is the generals who help plan the campaigns, the colonels and captains who make decisions on the battlefield, the aides who write letters, the civilians who open their doors to us. Every single sacrifice that is made for this war weighs heavily on me, son.”

“They need you, you stand for—for all that they want to believe in,” Aaron says. “Your bravery, your patriotism, your dedication. You have put this nation before everything.”

“They need you as well,” Washington says. “You’re their seer. You cannot begin to imagine what you mean to these men. You are the sign that God is on our side. You are the instrument of the fates, you are even to disbelievers a tactical advantage unlike any other. For many, for you to even take a side is tantamount to stating that we win. You are a smart man, Aaron. You know this.”

Aaron looks down. “That doesn’t change how it feels,” he says. He feels like a small, whining child. “A long time ago someone asked me if I thought the war was right, if I wanted us to be a free nation, and I…I said that I hope it happened because then maybe everyone would stop bothering me and I could live my life in peace and practice law and be a normal citizen. Was that…wrong of me?”

“'But they shall all sit under their own vines and under their own fig trees, and no one shall make them afraid,'” Washington says.

“Micah 4:4,” Aaron says. Washington raises an eyebrow. “My grandfather was a preacher, and I studied to be a theologian for a full year before switching courses of study, I…I know my Bible.”

“It’s a somewhat fancier way of saying precisely what you just said,” Washington says. “There is nothing wrong with wanting that, and there is nothing wrong with fighting for that.”

Aaron lets out a shaky breath. “It’s getting late, sir. I should probably at least attempt to get sleep.”

Washington smiles. “That sounds like a wise idea.”

Aaron stands to leave, then hesitates. “Sir, thank you for…checking up on me,” he says, before he can lose the courage to speak.

He can’t quite read the expression on Washington’s face, but if he didn’t know better, he’d say the man almost looks proud of him. He ducks out of the room before Washington has the chance to respond.

~~~

Aaron actually does sleep soundly for once. He feels a lot calmer the next morning as he finishes composing his latest batch of letters, and decides, as he strikes the last flourish of his pen, that he would actually like to go on a walk. He hasn’t been outside in…a week now? Certainly several days. The fresh air will do him good.

Laurens accompanies him. Laurens is quickly becoming his favorite bodyguard, because the man seems to respect that fact that often times, Aaron wants to be alone with his thoughts. For some reason, walking in silence next to Laurens is never awkward or pressing. It’s a brisk day, but the sky is clear, and Aaron feels better than he has in weeks. The war seems far-off, like a distant memory, and he can almost imagine that he’s normal, that he’s just taking a stroll with a friend on a crisp winter day.

The town peters out to local farms, wide fields, and forest in the distance. It’s quiet outside of town, Aaron likes it.

That is, of course, until the peace is broken by a long litany of cursing.

It’s a fair distance off, but it’s in the direction that Aaron and Laurens are heading, so they exchange a look and pick up the pace. The mysterious string of indiscrete words is coming from just beyond a house around the bend. They round the corner to see a farmboy, a local, prodding at a pig, trying to get it to move around the yard. The pig grunts and nearly falls on its side. One side of its skin is enflamed red and white, and there is mucus gathering at the edges of its eyes. The boy curses again, and tries to get closer to it.

“Excuse me,” Aaron calls out. “Could you use a hand?”

The boy looks over at them, and Aaron can see the exact moment when recognition across his face. “Um, s…sir?” he stammers. Aaron takes this as an invitation to enter the yard and walk over towards the pig.

“May I?” he asks.

The boy nods mutely.

Aaron kneels down next to the pig, pulls off one glove, and places his hand on it.

No vision hits him, but there is a sort of buzzing in the back of his mind. He closes his eyes, concentrates on it, pours all of his frustration and his focus into that single knot—

and then it all breaks, he feels as much as sees three weeks flash by over the course of seconds, the pig getting weaker and weaker, not being able to eat, and finally keeling over on its side, dying. He lets it go, stumbles backwards, and Laurens grabs him before he can fall.

“This pig will die in three weeks,” he says, keeping his voice completely steady. “You would do better to kill it now; you’ll get a lot more meat. Save the feed for your animals that will live.”

The boy half nods towards him, half bows, stammering thanks, and Laurens puts two steady hands on Aaron’s shoulders and ushers him away from the scene. When they’re out of earshot, Laurens says, “I didn’t know you had that sort of power.”

Whether Laurens is accusing him of faking what he told the boy, or if Laurens is just actively surprised by his abilities, Aaron is not sure; however, considering that he doesn’t really talk much about what he can do, the spectacle of it, or lack thereof, must be on some level unsettling.

“I didn’t know I did either,” Aaron settles on.

~~~

Three days later, they get a letter from Benjamin Franklin of all people, stating that Baron Von Steuben is on his way and should be arriving within a few weeks. Apparently Von Steuben received one of the letters Aaron had sent all the way back in December, and has already gotten on a ship. Aaron scraps the three letters he had been composing to Fürst Wilhelm, Claude Louis, and Prince Josef Friedrich Wilhelm requesting that Von Steuben would come to America.

Von Steuben sweeps into their camp like a pagan god descending from the heavens, on a sleigh pulled by black Percheron draft horses, clad in a robe of silk trimmed with fur, with his miniature greyhound Azor on his lap. The Baron immediately wants to shake the hand of the American seer, and then promptly ignores Aaron, instead beelining for the inspection lists and reports of what they’ve been up to all winter. He requisitions a building for his retinue, and he begins drilling the troops immediately.

February turns to March. Aaron’s impatience, especially at his own uselessness, grows. They’re going to be back on the battlefield soon, and he still has nothing. The fact that he can see more about dead animals than the fate of their republic bothers Aaron to no end.

(Alexander points out that Aaron’s willingness to give very sound advice to the surrounding civilians have made said civilians a lot more tolerant of the army’s presence. Aaron doesn’t argue because it’s nice to be beloved for something that he’s actually doing, for once.)

Laurens gets commandeered by the Baron to help translate his orders, so Aaron stops going on walks; he doesn't like going out with men that he doesn't know, and the one time that Lafayette accompanies him, they both manage to get so lost on the way back that Washington has to send out search parties, so that is a one-time venture. Besides, as spring approaches, the ground thaws, and the entire world becomes a sludge-filled nightmare. Aaron almost manages to convince himself that he would prefer to stay inside.

Tensions are running higher for everyone. Laurens and Alexander are exhausted at the end of each day, Washington’s lips press into a tight line every time he receives another letter from Congress, and the men are growing impatient. Aaron’s frustration boils over during one of his lessons with Lafayette when they get forty-five minutes in without a single word of English spoken; Aaron barely manages to stop himself from breaking into a screaming rant about how if Lafayette didn’t want to learn English, well, he shouldn’t have asked Aaron, and instead suggests that maybe they ought to find Alexander and Laurens and see if practice would be a bit more useful. Alexander and Laurens are throwing back shots when Aaron and Lafayette arrive.

Hard day at work?” Lafayette asks.

Aaron elbows him. “English,” he hisses.

“Hard day at work?” Lafayette says.

“You wouldn’t believe,” Laurens says. “Someone tipped the Baron off that we weren’t translating some of the choicier of his insults—“

“Hey, I was translating the choicier of his insults,” Alexander says.

“And he chewed us out,” Laurens finishes.

“Hilariously,” Alexander adds. “I’ve learned some rather remarkable turns of phrases, they’re mostly in French, Lafayette, want to hear?”

“Lafayette is only allowed to speak in English tonight,” Aaron says. “It’s very hard to test how well my lessons are going when he refuses to speak anything but French, and the two of you enable him.”

“I practice every night!” Lafayette says.

“Well I wish you’d practice with me!” Aaron says.

“Seems like everyone’s getting in trouble for lack of translating today,” Alexander says. “Care you join us? We’ve got some whiskey from the Baron’s private store.”

“How did you manage to get ahold of that?” Aaron asks.

“His aide, Pontière, took pity on us,” Alexander says. “Brought us three whole bottles, and this is strong stuff.” He pours Aaron and Lafayette glasses. “But good. Really good.”

Aaron takes a sip of his, enjoys how the burn spreads down his throat and into his stomach. “This is good,” he says.

He concentrates on the drink as his friends fill out the conversation, he finishes one glass, two, somewhat loses count around the third, and is nursing what is probably the fourth glass when the conversation turns to the number of farmers that Laurens had to turn away because they wanted predictions about their animals and crops. Not too many today, it seems, but last week ten separate people showed up at the edges of the camp asking for the seer because of a livestock-related emergency.

“I just can’t believe that the best thing I can do for the Revolution now is tell farmers how their pigs die,” Aaron says.

“How does that even work?” Alexander asks. “Do you…have visions, or—“

“I touch the pig and think about how it’s going to die and I see its whole life play out before my eyes,” Aaron says. “I try for years, years to have more visions about how this war is going to go, to no avail, but I can tell everyone how their cows and pigs and chickens are going to die.”

There’s a round of laughter at the table. Aaron shakes his head. “I can’t believe that it’s my death-seeing abilities that are the ones that get…get more powerful. You know that I see how people die, right? That’s my great gift, when I touch them I see how they die.”

Everyone grows silent. Aaron finishes his glass and pours himself another.

“This is where I bid you the night,” Lafayette says. “You are…how to say…screwing with fate, to be discussing things like this in this in this sort of a….state.” He shakes his head and makes his exit.

Laurens and Alexander exchange a look.

“You don’t talk about this sort of thing a lot,” Alexander says hesitantly.

Aaron drains half the glass. “I don’t talk about things like this, no one wants to know, you want to know?”

Laurens and Alexander exchange another look.

“You’re very drunk right now,” Laurens says.

“I’m not drunk you’re drunk,” Aaron says.

“Maybe we should get you to bed,” Alexander says. “We can talk about this in the morning.”

“I know how you die,” Aaron says. “I know how…I know how both of you die, that’s my power, that’s my great power, when I touch people I see how they die.”

Laurens carefully pats Aaron on that back. “I know. You said. I’m sorry, that must be very difficult.”

“I know how it all goes, I know how my whole life goes, I’m not…I’m not…I’m the…you,” Aaron says, pointing at Laurens, “you die the war is over and you still get shot by redcoats.” He finishes his glass.

“Maybe you’ve had enough,” Laurens says.

“You have to…you can’t go, you can’t go, you can’t go and then you won’t die, you break—“ Aaron gestures wildly at Alexander. “—you break his heart but I was never friends with you but I am friends with you now so I don’t know why I…but you…I can tell you the things and then you won’t die.”

“Okay,” Laurens says. “You can tell me about it when you’re sober, and I won’t get shot.”

“Okay,” Aaron says. He pulls himself off the table, and embraces Laurens—although it is less of an embrace and more just draping himself over Laurens’ shoulders. “You’re a good man,” he slurs.

“Alright,” Laurens says, patting him on the back. “Hamilton, do you want to help me with—“

“I’ve got him,” Alexander says, peeling Aaron off of Laurens and setting him back and at least somewhat upright in his seat.

“Alexander,” Aaron says. “Alexander.”

“Yes, that’s my name,” Alexander says.

Aaron reaches up and cups one hand along the side of his face. “Alexander you’re my best friend.”

“Okay,” Alexander says, and he smiles and Aaron feels like he’s going to melt.

“You’re the one…you’re the one who is like poetry,” Aaron says.

“I’ll take your word for it,” Alexander says.

“Alexander. Alexander. I shoot you.”

The smile vanishes from Alexander’s face. Shock, betrayal, fear, that's what Aaron knows he must have seen before Alexander carefully composes his expression to neutral.

“I shot you I didn’t mean to I wasn’t going to pull the trigger, I wanted to tell you but they wouldn’t let me, I didn’t—“

“When does this happen?” Laurens cuts in, his voice hard and cold.

“J…July 11th,” Aaron says. “It’s a long time ago, it’s in 1804 because it’s right after the election, the other election not the…it was gu-ber-na-to-ri-al.”

“Describe to be exactly what happens,” Laurens says.

“It’s a duel, it was a duel, we get into a duel,” Aaron says. “There was a…there was a letter and it was in the newspaper and it said things and I…I lost the election and I…I trusted you when I told you about…when I told you how I…and you wrote…all I wanted was for you to apologize.” Aaron’s head is spinning, “I didn’t want to—Alexander I promise that I—it’s not—“

“Who else is—“

“Laurens, that’s enough,” Alexander says. “He’s not in his right mind right now.”

“He kills you,” Laurens says. “He’s our friend and he turns around and kills you. How do you—can you even imagine—don’t you think it’s important to know?”

“Do you want to kill me, Aaron?” Alexander asks.

“No,” Aaron says. “No I don’t I’m…no I’m not…I don’t.”

“Then it seems like my impending doom, much like yours, is entirely preventable.”

Laurens sighs, and runs his hand through his hair. “Lafayette was smart to bail, I honestly did not expect the conversation to turn to…this.”

“He has to live with this every single day,” Alexander says quietly. “Knowing how everyone around him is going to die. So cut him a bit of slack.”

“I didn’t mean to…I’m sorry,” Laurens says. “You know that I’d take a bullet for you, right? For either of you. So hearing him say to your face that he…it’s just…a lot. I didn’t mean to…to snap.” He quaffs the rest of his drink. “You want help trying to get him to bed?”

“I’ve got it,” Alexander says. Then he slings one of Aaron’s arms over his shoulder. “Come on buddy, time to go.”

“I don’t want anyone to die,” Aaron says.

“It’s okay, we know,” Alexander says. “Can you stand?”

Aaron responds by staggering to his feet. Alexander stands as well, supporting a good portion of Aaron’s weight. Aaron starts walking towards the main door, as if to go outside, and despite Alexander’s “no, no, our room is this way,” he can’t do much to change Aaron’s course, so out the door they go.

The moment that they’re outside, Aaron pulls away from Alexander, stumbles a few more feet, then falls to his knees and begins promptly puking his guts out. Alexander is at his side immediately, one hand on Aaron's shoulder and the other at the back of his neck. Violent sobs begin to wrack Aaron’s body, which does nothing to help with the nausea, and he’s shivering. Alexander waits until his retches have turned to dry heaves, then says, “Maybe we should get you inside.”

“‘M sick,” Aaron says.

“I know,” Alexander says. “We’ll get you an urn in case you’ve got anything else that comes up, but it’s very cold out here, and you’ll feel better in our room.”

“I didn’t want to do it,” Aaron says.

“I know, it’s okay, come on,” Alexander says, and he hoists Aaron onto his feet. “We’re going inside.”

They manage to make it up to their room without incident, and then Aaron sort of sinks to the floor, and Alexander guides him carefully into his lap, rubbing small circles with his thumbs on the side of Aaron's shoulder as he cradles him. Aaron’s heaving fits have reduced to one every ten or fifteen minutes, and they sit in mostly silence in the between.

Eventually, Aaron manages to pull himself together enough to ask for a glass of water, and the moment Alexander leaves the room, he drags himself onto his bed, curls into a ball, closes his eyes, and desperately hopes that the pounding in his head will go away.

Chapter Text

Aaron wakes up to sunlight streaming into his room, and from the angle, it must be very late in the morning. He’s alone. There’s a plate of food on the bedside table, as well as a glass of water. The condensation of the sides of the glass suggest it’s been there for a while.

The worst part is, his head doesn’t even hurt that much.

No, the worst part is he remembers every second of last night with complete clarity.

There is absolutely nothing he can do. He wonders when Washington is going to come and march him downstairs, wonders is there will be a firing squad waiting for him. The rational part of his mind tries to pipe in that he is more useful to this war effort than Alexander Hamilton, and that Washington knows this, so he won’t lose his position in this army. It probably won’t even be made public knowledge what he’s done—what he’s going to do. It would be so easy to keep it a secret, keep him under more careful guard for “his own protection,” and at the very least allow his image to serve its duty and win them this war. He could be dealt with afterwards.

He feels sick.

He can’t bear the idea of going downstairs and facing anyone. But he can’t disappear; privacy is a luxury that he does not have as America’s seer. Whether or not Washington knows what he’s done, he cannot run or hide, because the army will panic, will worry that he’s been kidnapped or assassinated.

He hears voices and footsteps, people coming up the stairs. Before he can consciously make a decision, he’s back in his bed, blankets haphazardly covering him, eyes squeezed tight, trying to keep his breathing even. He hears the door crack open, then a quiet, “He’s still asleep. Should we wake him?” Then another voice, Laurens perhaps, “He drank a lot last night, it’s better to let him sleep it off.” The door closes, and the footsteps retreat.

All Aaron can hear is his own heartbeat, it’s pounding in his ears, he can only pretend to be asleep for so long before they do try to wake him up and if he ignores that they might, God forbid, get a doctor. He needs…he needs more time. He looks around the room desperately, and his eyes settle on the desk. There’s parchment and ink.

He hurries over and scrawls a note:

am still in the building, if anyone needs me, call for a few minutes and I’ll come

and hopes it will be enough to assuage anyone’s fears that he’s run away or been captured. Then he walks to the door as quietly as possible.

It takes him a full minute to gain the courage to crack it open, but the hallway is empty. He hurries to the end, grabs the stepladder that he and Alexander found their very first day, and uses it to climb to the trapdoor that leads to the attic. It’ll only be a temporary reprieve, he knows it, but he cannot think of anything else to do. He’s trapped.

He closes the door underneath him, finds a corner that is mostly clear of dust, sits, and waits.

~~~

They all leave him alone for a few hours, but he ought to have known that it wouldn’t last. He hears the steps down the hallway, hears someone dragging the ladder into position, hears someone opening the trapdoor, hears them sort of awkwardly pull themselves up, huff, and brush their hands off, hears them close the trapdoor again.

“Hey.”

It’s Alexander.

Aaron keeps his eyes closed and hugs his knees, trying to draw them in even closer to his chest, as footsteps creak over to his side. He can feel Alexander sit next to him.

“We weren’t sure how much about last night you remembered.”

He can’t keep putting this off forever. He keeps his eyes closed. “I remember all of it.”

Alexander doesn’t say anything, doesn’t demand an explanation, he just sits there and the silence is even more accusatory than anything that could come out of his mouth. Aaron wants to die then and there rather than face any of this.

But he can’t, can he? Dying would be too good for him. They have a war to fight, there are people who need him, he owes Alexander so much more than just ducking out now that it’s been revealed what a monster he truly is.

Finally, Alexander breaks the silence again. “Want to talk about it?”

What can Aaron possibly say to that? He tries to focus on his breathing, tries to focus on keeping his heartbeat steady, tries to focus on anything but the heat radiating from Alexander, anything but his awareness of the man sitting at his side.

“You don’t have to,” Alexander says.

“Who else knows about…?” Aaron asks. He cringes, well done, of course the first thing he says sounds like he’s only out to cover his own ass in all this.

“Laurens and I haven’t told anyone,” Alexander says.

Aaron tries to concentrate on his breathing again, because he’s getting dizzy.

“You really don’t have tell me anything,” Alexander says. “Although I know that I…I would appreciate it very much if you could tell us the circumstances surrounding Laurens’ death, so that we can try to prevent it.”

A sob catches in Aaron’s throat. Is that really what they think of him? That he would have just let Laurens die to cover his own tracks?

Alexander tries to wrap a reassuring arm around Aaron’s back, and it makes it all worse.

“You don’t have to, I don’t mean to push.”

“Just be…be quiet for a moment,” Aaron manages to get out.

Alexander is instantly silent.

Aaron takes another deep breath. He keeps his eyes closed. There is quiet, for just a moment, and he wants it to last forever, but he has to try.

“When I was one,” he says, “My father died. I couldn’t speak. He was sick and it was unfolding in front of me, but I couldn’t say anything. I got sick too, you know, but I couldn’t seem to die. I’ve seen…I’ve seen everyone around me die, I…it sometimes feels like it’s all already happened.”

Alexander makes no move to speak.

“I’ve seen my whole life, I’ve seen our whole lives, so…vividly that it feels more like a memory sometimes. I can’t even remember if I ever had a vision of it or if I’ve always known. I knew who you were years before you came up to me that day in New York. I’ve known who you are my whole life, I’ve known what was going to happen before you even shook my hand. It…”

Aaron has to stop for a moment, or he’s going to cry.

“In the vision, we were best friends through the war, even though Washington had no interest in my abilities. I eventually went home because it was too much seeing how everyone was going to die. We won. We moved to New York to practice law. Our offices were right next door from one another, we worked on cases together all the time. We…I had a daughter, and you had a son. You comforted me after she was born.”

“Comforted you?”

Aaron lets out a ragged laugh. “I couldn’t touch her, I couldn’t bring myself to spend every day looking at her knowing how she would die.”

“Oh god, I’m so sorry, I didn’t even think.”

“You said the same thing in—you will say the same thing, you—I don’t even know anymore.” Alexander’s arm tightens around him. Aaron tries to ignore it, he has to keep talking, he has to finish what he’s started. “Eventually, you went into politics. There was the Constitutional Convention, you were invited, you spent four months arguing with a bunch of idiots about how our new nation should be structured, and you came back…you came back so hopeful, you wanted my help defending the Constitution to the public so it could be ratified, I told you I hadn’t had enough time to think about it, and you…you knew that I’d turned down an invitation to go myself.”

“I told you that night that I could never be in a position of power, that people would always give my words special meaning, that any campaign I ran would be a lie because people would trust that I knew more than I really did, that the general public didn’t know all I could do was see people’s deaths when I touched them so they’d believe that I had some sort of special foreknowledge when I didn’t. Or I could say I’d had a vision of anything, and no one would be able to stand up and refute me, because no one else was a seer. I told you the truth, that I should never be involved in politics.”

He takes a shaky breath. “And then I started—I started having nightmares. A terrible war, soldiers sobbing over the bodies of their dead enemies, a man beating another man with a cane on the Senate floor, the President getting shot. It was…it was all because of slavery. I made a decision. I made a decision to try to go into politics and stop that from happening, even though…even though they were just dreams, even though it was still wrong, for all of the reasons that I’d…I just wanted to make a better world for my daughter to live in. The first election I ran in was for the Senate, and I beat your father-in-law. I don’t think you ever really forgave me for that.”

“Eventually, I was in the position to run for president, and I did. Tied with Jefferson, the vote went to the House, I lost and became Vice President. Jefferson never forgave me for that, and completely cut me out of all…out of all decisions of our party. I decided to run for governor of New York. You wrote…it wasn’t just you, a lot of people were writing terrible things about me. Lists of women that I’d had my way with, rumors about me trying to swipe the presidential election from Jefferson, but you…you wrote exactly what I’d said to you all those years ago. That any campaign I ran would be a lie. That I was a dangerous man who should never be trusted with the reins of power.”

“You were very public in your campaign against me. Enough that a letter got published in the paper stating that you…that you’d said despicable things about me. I sent a letter to you asking for…for an explanation or an apology. You send me back…” Quotes of it are still burned into his mind. “‘The more I have reflected, the more I have become convinced that I could not without manifest impropriety make the avowal or disavowal which you seem to think necessary.’ And. ‘Between Gentlemen, “despicable” and “still more despicable” are not worthy the pains of a distinction.’ You argued about the grammar of it all for nearly a page. Said that I should cite a more specific grievance. ‘I have the honor to be your obedient servant, A. Hamilton.’ I…” He has to catch his breath again so that he doesn’t break down; it’s stupid that letters that haven’t even been sent yet still make him want to cry. “I sent a second letter. The reply was even worse, it claimed that my demands were ‘unprecedented’ and ‘unwarrantable’ and an ‘embarrassment.’ That you stood by what you said, every bit of it, and wouldn’t apologize for the truth.”

“I knew what would happen if I showed up that day to the dueling ground. I’d tried so hard to keep you from the dueling ground before, there was…you’d even asked me to be your second back in ’97, when you and Monroe…I told Monroe that the murderer of Alexander Hamilton would be put on trial, first for murder then for treason, that he’d die alone and cursing his own existence and I should have known better because it was all true.”

“You aimed your pistol at the sky. And I shot you.”

Alexander pulls him in closer, trying to wrap another arm around him in an awkward embrace, and Aaron curls in on himself more. Finally, Alexander lets him go and leans back.

“Have you considered that this might not be a vision?”

“What do you mean?” Aaron asks.

“Just…little things,” Alexander says. “For one, the worry about misleading the public because all you could do was see people’s deaths, when you’ve seen more than people’s deaths, you know the course of the war. I know that you have that power, everyone who works with Washington knows you've seen future battles. It would be a bit strange…no, it would be a complete contradiction for a vision of the future to not take into account the fact that you have visions of the future.”

“What else would it be?” Aaron asks.

“Memories,” Alexander says.

“So I’m, what, reliving my own life as a punishment from God?” Aaron asks.

“I’m not sure about God,” Alexander says, “but I think there’s more going on here than just a very long and specific vision that you can’t even remember having where you kill me.”

“It…” Aaron shakes his head. “It doesn’t matter, I still had the vision of shooting you when I first shook your hand.”

“Then I just won’t send you angry letters, and I’ll never willingly set foot on a dueling ground, and you didn’t see me being dragged there, kicking and screaming, Aaron, this doesn’t have to happen.”

“Do you think I want it to?” Aaron says. “I can’t—I can’t stop—Theodosia, my daughter, I…I went to Europe after, stayed there for four years, and when I came back I learned my grandson had died of the fever. I wrote to Theodosia, told her to get on the first ship back to the city because I needed to hold her hand to know to prevent…to prevent her from…and the ship was lost at sea, Alexander, she died too. Even when I try to stop it from happening, even when I…I can’t…I can’t stop the people I love from dying.”

“Everyone dies,” Alexander says. “You learn to get over it.”

Aaron goes as still as possible.

“You can’t stop living,” Alexander says. “If you…if you stopped every time anyone died, you’d never get anywhere, you’d never do anything, you’d never pull yourself out of…so you pull yourself together and you move on and you live.”

Aaron is reminded that Alexander is an orphan; he never asked for details, assumed that there were things that Alexander preferred not to talk about.

“I’m sorry,” he whispers.

Alexander’s arm is up around his back again. “Hey. It’s okay. Don’t be. Let’s try to make sense of this together, alright?”

Aaron nods.

“How long did you live, afterwards?” Alexander asks.

“Another thirty or so years,” Aaron says.

“Your dream, about the war and the President getting shot—did it ever happen?”

Aaron shakes his head. “No. But things were getting…very violent, with disagreements about whether slavery should spread into western territories or not.”

“So it could have been a vision,” Alexander says.

“Sure, it could have,” Aaron says. “Would that make any difference?”

“It can now,” Alexander says. “We can cut slavery out of our country from the very beginning.”

“And what if it wasn’t?” Aaron says. “What if I tell the American public that we’ll tear each other apart over slavery, and that it is wrong in the eyes of God, and that certain destruction will fall upon this country if we don’t eradicate it, and that was all just a nightmare.”

“Then we won’t have slavery,” Alexander says. “I don’t really see the problem.”

“I won’t lie to the public!” Aaron says.

“Just because you didn’t see it happen with your own eyes doesn’t mean it won’t!” Alexander says. “I happen to think you’re right! And that it will happen! Why are you so averse to—to changing that?”

“Because I don’t want to become the man you thought I was when I shot you!” Aaron says.

Alexander is silent for a moment.

“I forgive you, you know that?”

Another ragged laugh breaks free of Aaron’s chest. “Yes, I know that, you made it explicitly clear, you had your second send me a note from your deathbed just to tell me you forgave me.”

“Well, good, it sounds like we’ve got it all sorted out,” Alexander says.

“You can’t be serious,” Aaron says.

“I’m completely serious,” Alexander says. “You’re already changing the course of the war. So I don’t think your weird vision-thing is set in stone. And I’m not the sort of person right now who would slander you all over the press and then rub it in your face, so I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt and say that you’re not the sort of person right now who’s going to shoot me. We don’t ever have to become those people.”

“And that it? That’s all?”

“What more do you want from me? Do you want me to scream and tell you I hate you? Would that make you feel better?”

Aaron lets his head fall to his chest.

“You didn’t see yourself last night,” Alexander says. “You were a mess. You’ve been a mess for months. Is this what’s been troubling you?”

There’s no use lying now. “Yes.”

“I thought about it, I really did, and I’m more afraid of losing you than I am of dying,” Alexander says. “You want to make this all up to me? Then stay with me.” He pauses for a moment. “Laurens agrees too. You’re our friend. Let us help you.”

Aaron can feel himself trembling. What could he possibly have done to deserve this?

“Okay,” he says. He finally cracks his eyes open, and his gaze remains fixated on his feet.

“You know, there is one thing that I’m never going to let you live down,” Alexander says.

His tone is teasing enough that Aaron risks a slight smile. “What is it?”

“You said I was like poetry last night.” He pokes Aaron in the ribs. “Poetry.”

“You said it first!” Aaron squeaks, before he can stop himself.

Alexander’s eyes narrow. “I think I would remember saying something like that. Which means…”

“No.”

“You owe me!”

“No!”

“Well if you don’t tell me any context I’m just going to have to assume—“

“We were talking! It was late at night!” Aaron says. He doesn’t think he’s ever been this red in the face before. “We’d gotten into a fight. It was a kiss and make up sort of thing. Because apparently poetry is indecipherable unless it’s explained to you.”

“So did we—“

“No! Figure of speech!”

Alexander laughs, and it’s a beautiful sound. “Are you sure we didn’t?”

“We both had wives.”

“Well, I suppose I’ll have to take your word on it.”

Alexander is looking at him with a strange sort of intensity, the same intensity that he’d had that night, and Aaron shivers.

“Alex—“

“Alex?”

Aaron swallows. “I used to call you that sometimes. You liked it.”

Alexander smiles. “I like it a lot.”

Aaron isn’t sure what to say, what he meant to say. After a moment, Alexander leans over, lays his head on Aaron’s shoulder. “We’ve got this, okay? Together. If you don’t trust yourself, trust me.”

“Okay.” This time, it isn’t even a lie.

“Ready to go down and face the world?” Alexander asks.

“Not really,” Aaron says.

“Come to our room, at least, so you can lay down instead of freezing in this dusty hellhole?”

“Alright.”

Alexander stands, then offers Aaron a hand. Aaron takes it. Maybe this will really be alright.

~~~

When Aaron wakes up again, he still feels groggy, and the room is entirely dark. There’s no rhythmic breathing next to him, so he must be here alone. He wonders how long he’s been sleeping.

Almost as if to answer his question, he hears footsteps down the hallway, and the door creak open. He squints, but it’s too dark to see.

“Alexander?”

“No, it’s Laurens.” Laurens clears his throat. “Dinner is being served downstairs, and Alexander is worried because you haven’t eaten all day. We can bring something up for you if you want.”

“What…what does everything think is going on? With me?”

“Alexander told them that this week was the anniversary of your mother’s death, and that he’d made some sort of offhand comment last night when we were drinking that reminded you of it, and you’re a bit fragile and just needed the day.”

“And everyone bought that?”

“Alexander said something about ‘perks of being an orphan, no one wants to hear your sob story.’”

Aaron laughs. “Yeah. I guess that works.”

Silence stretches between them, and Laurens must find it as awkward as Aaron does, because Aaron can hear his feet shuffling. “Alexander…filled me in on what the two of you talked about. He thought that you’d want me to know, and didn’t want you to have to explain it again.”

“Alright.” Aaron can’t exactly fault him for that.

Laurens clears his throat again. “We both agreed that he was definitely being a little shit, publishing those pamphlets.”

“You really don’t need to make excuses for me,” Aaron says. “What I did—was inexcusable.”

“You’re not that person,” Laurens says. “Maybe if you become that person we can have words. But I’m not going to judge you for something you might do. I have the ability to walk downstairs and shoot everyone in this building, that doesn’t mean people treat me like a murderer waiting to happen.”

“I didn’t have a vision of you doing that,” Aaron says. “I didn’t—“

“Bullshit,” Laurens says. “Farmboy killed the pig in front of our eyes, even though you had a vision of it slowly dying over the course of three weeks. Your visions of death are entirely changeable. Now stop moping and tell me if you’re going to come downstairs for dinner, or if we have to bring you a plate.”

“Why are you on my side?” Aaron asks.

“First of all, there are no sides, because no one is shooting anyone,” Laurens says. “And secondly, is it really that hard for you to believe that people might care about you? Alexander isn’t my only friend in this mess. Someone’s got to make sure that you don’t both act like idiots.”

“I’d prefer to eat dinner up here,” Aaron says.

There’s a terse pause. “Alright.”

“And…Laurens? If…if you and Alexander and Lafayette don’t mind, it…it would be nice to have some company?”

“None of us mind,” Laurens says. “Sit tight, I’ll grab the others and some food.”

And for the first time that day, Aaron doesn’t feel chilled to his core anymore.

Chapter Text

The goals for the 1777 campaign were twofold: win decisive victories that boast of Aaron’s foreknowledge and frighten the British into wanting to end this war early, and court France into sending them guns, troops, and naval support. The letters Lafayette writes home to his people embellishing Aaron’s kindness, good breeding, and intelligence, as well as their earlier victories, ought to help with the latter.

Nothing can assuage Aaron’s doubts about the former.

Howe is going to make the terrible mistake of not sending aid north, resulting in a crushing defeat at Saratoga; the entire second half northern campaign will be so successful for the American forces that Washington does not want to risk changing any factors. Early in the spring they fortify Ticonderoga and sent brief instructions on British plans of attack, and the fort holds out. The rest of the British movements, though, have continued to match with Aaron’s memories. Which means the hard-pressed decision to send Major General Benedict Arnold up to General Gates with the troops at Stillwater.

What to do about Benedict Arnold is a conversation that Aaron and the General have had a few times in complete secrecy. Benedict Arnold certainly was ardently for the Patriot cause at the outbreak of the war, and Aaron and Washington have watched his repeated humiliation at the hands of his fellow officers and the Continental Congress. Washington did all he could to secure Arnold’s position as a Major General, but the both of them are worried that it is too little and too late. Aaron thinks that he should be removed from power, the threat cut off before it can come to fruition. Washington firmly disagrees, maintaining that Arnold is an excellent commander and will not be judged for crimes that he has not yet committed.

Either way, they need him to win at Saratoga, so he is sent north.

The Philadelphia campaign is on everyone’s minds, because as Aaron has outlined it, the Americans face crushing defeat, and the Continental Congress will be forced to abandon the city before it is taken by the British. This is the first full season where the American forces are being informed by America’s seer, and a humiliation on that level would be utterly unacceptable.

They do well at Bound Brook; they leave only a 500-man garrison there to lure the British in, but empty the post entirely of supplies, and they have 1000 men who are hidden beyond the town, and when the British charge across Queen’s Bridge, they face not only the 3000 reinforcements that Washington had stationed an hour’s march away, but the 1000 flank them behind. It’s a resounding victory, one that the American have achieved because they knew precisely when, where and how the British would attack.

Washington uses the mobilization from the battle to move the entire army to Middlebrook. It’s larger, it’s easily defensible, and they can keep an eye on British movements, make sure everything Howe does matches up with Aaron’s predictions. The army settles in for the summer.

It starts to seem as if every other letter they get from Congress is urging the Marquis (and in some private letters to Aaron from various members with thinly veiled implications that Aaron ought to go himself as well) to return to France in the hopes of securing aid. Lafayette pleads the case to Washington first to let him stay until the end of the year, then when he succeeds in that, to have a portrait painted of Aaron that he can take with him. He finds a picture of Joan of Arc amongst the things that he brought with him from France, because the more that his people can be reminded of the similarities, the more likely they are to be inclined to send aid.

Everyone is still very sore about the time when the British killed our seer,” he explains. “It will not be hard to play on their zeal, convince them to join the fight.

Would you prefer if I wore a dress, then?” Aaron asks, wrinkling his nose at the gilded locket that Lafayette is shoving in his face. They both have dark hair, and hers is cropped far shorter than usual women's styles, he'll give Lafayette that, but the picture is too small for him to see much more of a resemblance.

No, wear plain clothing for the portrait,” Lafayette says. “Jeanne D’Arc dressed in practical things, and dressed for battle. Although if you want to wear a dress for me…

Half of the aides, and Steuben, who is also here to consult about supplies and other matters, begin to titter at this; Aaron is very thankful that Washington does not speak French.

“A portrait of me made with the image of Joan of Arc in mind will remind the French of their long list of reasons they want to fight the British,” Aaron translates.

“We’ll commission the portrait, then,” Washington says.

Lafayette smirks. “That’s not quite what I said.”

Then speak English yourself, if you can do it so well!” Aaron whispers.

Maybe I will,” Lafayette replies.

Oh, no, no no no no they are in a meeting and Aaron doesn’t have time for this. “If you bring up the dress one more time, I’ll tell Alexander.”

Lafayette’s eyebrows shoot up.

You’re playing dirty,” Lafayette accuses.

I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Aaron says.

But there are other important things to discuss, and the rest of the meeting is not nearly as amusing. The Continental Army has been swelling ever since the battles of Trenton and Princeton, but with the recent and very clear victory at Bound Brook, there’s been a whole new wave on enlistments. The truth of the matter is, they do not have uniforms and guns for the upwards of 40,000 people who now all claim the title of being a soldier in the American Army.

The 25,000 that were actually quartered at Morristown over the winter—and thus actually got some semblance of training from Von Steuben—those men make a magnificent army, which is going to be considerably less magnificent with its food and ammunition stretched to thin. They’ve taken to re-directing a large flow of the men into local militias of southern New Jersey, but it seems for every one man they send away, three more take their place. Von Steuben has helped pick out a continent of men who were ”somewhat less of a disgrace than the rest of them” to be put in charge of training these militias covertly; what Washington is hoping to do is establish another army situated around Philadelphia and waiting for his main forces to arrive.

It’s an insane scheme, but they don’t have any other options, not unless they get more supplies. Congress especially is not happy about the sudden influx of hungry, raggedy men in their backyard. Hamilton writes them a scathing letter about then maybe they should come through with all the supplies they’d promised. Everyone is at their wit’s end. But it’s the best they can do right now, and with it, they might just win Philadelphia.

~~~

The next thing that they take advantage of is knowledge of how Howe will move his entire army to New Brunswick for the beginning of an attempt to draw Washington into the open. The Americans station guerrilla fighters all along the Raritan River to harass British troops and then steal or burn whatever equipment Howe leaves behind.

Because of the shortage of officers, Laurens ends up leading some of the raids of British stores. Alexander and Aaron do not learn of this until he comes to fetch them and four other guards for Aaron from the Nathaniel Drake house with his arm in a makeshift sling. Upon further questioning, he reveals that he’s been shot in the shoulder.

“I killed plenty of Brits with my sword,” he says, as if that will assuage them.

Neither Aaron nor Alexander are particularly amused.

It’s a glancing shot, though, the bullet only struck the top of his shoulder, and didn’t lodge. It’ll heal quickly, provided it doesn’t get infected. Which, Laurens says, considering the amount of fussing Aaron and Alexander are doing over him, doesn’t seem likely to happen. Washington takes Laurens off of active duty (which, Alexander huffs in return, he never should have been on in the first place, although that is most likely Alexander just being sore for having to sit out the last two battles in a row). Life in the Middlebrook encampment goes on.

~~~

On the 29th of June, Aaron walks into the command tent and everyone grows quiet. He feels the uncomfortable prickle of everyone’s gaze on him, and a flash of annoyance that no one feels compelled to explain exactly why they are all staring at him. Laurens, who had been escorting him over, stops behind him.

It’s Alexander who makes the first move to break the silence. “We can’t keep this from him, he deserves—“

Washington cuts him off with a single gesture. Aaron feels his stomach flip. Laurens puts a hand on his shoulder, and Aaron tries not to let the strain show so clearly in every line of his frame.

There are a hundred things he can say, from tell me what? to Sir, if there is anything that I ought to know to better help the Revolutionary cause, please, I would like to know.

“I can leave if there is something you’d prefer to discuss without me,” slips out of his mouth before he can stop himself. Laurens’ hand tightens on his shoulder.

Alexander rolls his eyes. “You should know. The British are offering a dukedom to anyone who can bring them your head.”

There are a few hushed whispers around the room. George Washington begins rubbing his temples, and Aaron can’t blame him, Alexander looks like he’s in the sort of mood that would give anyone around him a migraine.

“Is that all?” Aaron asks. “The information that you have, I mean,” he says. “A dukedom is definitely a perfectly respectable…” He trails off into silence.

Everyone’s still staring at him. He tries to make eye contact with Alexander in a silent plea for the other man to bail him out, but then—

Laurens starts laughing as if he’s said the funniest thing in the world, and that breaks the tension, the whole room joins in, one aide even begins slapping his knees. Aaron is trembling and Laurens doesn’t let go of his shoulder and he is immensely grateful for this fact.

“Nonsense, your pretty head is worth at least three dukedoms,” Laurens says.

“I wouldn’t dream of it for less than five,” one aide says.

“Anyone trying to claim Burr for less than ten will have to go through me,” Alexander growls.

“Make it seven,” another aide pipes up. “If shutting up Hamilton is a part of the deal, I’d be willing to go for seven.”

“I’m glad that you all find this so amusing,” Washington says, and the room quiets down. “Colonel Burr, we need to discuss your protection detail.”

“Sir, I think putting more men around Burr at all times might increase the danger, if we make the Colonel’s location a spectacle, it will do far more harm than good. He should be surrounded by people he already knows and trusts, we need people who will not be tempted by monetary gain—“

“Hamilton,” Washington says.

Alexander shuts up.

“Colonel Laurens, how is your shoulder healing?” Washington asks.

“Quite well, sir. I am ready to resume active duty.”

“Good,” Washington says. “I am putting you in charge of Colonel Burr’s protection. You may pick twenty men whom you trust completely. They will be directly under your command in this matter. You will organize shifts, and you will report directly to me. Unless otherwise instructed, you are to remain at Colonel Burr’s side at all times. Is this understood?”

“Yessir,” Laurens says.

The room falls back into silence. Then, from one of the aides in the corner:

“I’d need an offer of at least fifteen dukedoms to consider trying to get through Colonel Laurens to get to Burr.”

~~~

It’s not even three hours later that Alexander storms in on Laurens and Aaron eating lunch, flushed and positively fuming.

Why am I not a member of your twenty-soldier squad?” he practically spits in Laurens’ face.

“Because I don’t think you actually want to take orders from me,” Laurens says. “And I have no doubt whether or not you would jump in front of a bullet for Burr.”

Aaron drops his drink, and it sloshes all over their makeshift table.

Laurens curses quietly. “I didn’t mean it like that, Aaron, I only meant that he adores you and wouldn’t let anything happen to you.”

Alexander hmphs at Laurens, like Laurens is only proving his point, and slides down next to Aaron, putting his arms around him.

Aaron closes his eyes and desperately wishes this all will go away because the last thing he wants to be is caught in the middle of this pissing match.

“I’m fine,” he grits out.

“You’re not fine,” Alexander says.

“He’ll be safe,” Laurens says.

“Not as safe as he would be if he were with me,” Alexander says.

“I fully intend for you to be with him for as much of every day as you want to,” Laurens says. “Which was why I didn’t assign you to the squad. I need soldiers who will follow orders. Who will conform to the schedules I give them for watches instead of sleep in the same tent as him. Who will stand guard outside. I thought that you would prefer to remain closer.”

“Oh,” Alexander says. “So we’re not changing the sleeping arrangements?”

Laurens gives a long-suffering sigh. “No, we’re not. I’ve been here discussing with Colonel Burr how we can arrange the schedules as seamlessly as possible so that his day-to-day life is least disturbed.”

Alexander pulls away from Aaron so that he can cross his arms. “I still think that—“

“Would you stop?” Aaron says. “I was the one who asked that you not be on the detail. You get more work done than half the other aides-de-camp combined when you actually put your mind to it. You’d be wasted, guarding me.”

“I—“

“Nothing happens to me!” Aaron says. “I survive the war! I’m not going to make light of this threat, but you’re taking it far too seriously. Laurens, at least, is being rational about this.”

Alexander stands up, and hovers there for a moment, his hands curled into fists, before he turns on his heel and stomps away.

Laurens sighs. “He’s had a long day,” he says. “He was very upset when he heard.”

“We’ve all had a long day,” Aaron says. “Let’s finish the schedules, alright?”

~~~

Aaron finishes up the last of his work around midnight, leaves the command tent with his new escort, tries to settle down on his bedroll and ignore the fact that there are five men standing guard right outside the tent. Alexander didn’t even look up from his work when Aaron left, but he’ll have to retire eventually. Aaron considers lighting a candle and continuing to work in his own tent—he has his own journal that he can pour over—but ultimately decides against it. Hamilton might not come back if he thinks he’s awake.

It’s at least two hours before Alexander returns to the tent for the night. Aaron spends the time wondering which he will take more offense to—if Aaron stays up waiting for him, or if Aaron seemingly ignores the whole matter by falling asleep. It’s a moot point, it’s not like Aaron is going to be able to sleep either way. The idea that his own life is in danger is one that is very new to him. His visions have always seemed to guarantee his own survival. But a number of plans—from both winning the war, to Alexander and Laurens’ lives—hinge on his visions being changeable. He’s not sure which outcome makes him less sick to the stomach.

It’s a moot point. It’s not like he has any control of that either.

When Alexander makes it to the tent, the man looks exhausted. He pulls his boots and coat off and nearly collapses onto his own bedroll. Aaron knows that this is his chance, it’s now or never to get to say something instead of staring at the ceiling, pretending to be asleep.

He can’t even open his mouth. He’s a coward.

Alexander has never been…mad at him before, not in his actual life that he’s lived instead of his visions. It’s an unpleasant feeling, and he hates it. He still wouldn’t shoot the man for it.

He lays there for nearly half an hour, until Alexander’s voice breaks the silence:

“Aaron?”

Aaron swallows. “I’m awake.”

“I talked to Laurens, after you left.”

Aaron nearly asks when, then realizes that Laurens wasn’t a part of the guard detail that escorted him after he decided to retire for the night. So after he left the command tent, probably. “Okay.”

“I’m sorry for how I acted today.”

“Okay.”

“Okay?”

“I’m not mad at you.” Aaron sighs. “No one likes the new arrangements.”

“I shouldn’t have blown up, though.”

“It’s okay.”

“I really would take a bullet for you.”

“That’s not particularly reassuring.”

“I would.”

“I don’t want anyone to.”

Alexander rolls on his side to face Aaron. “I really do…”

“You don’t have to say anything,” Aaron says. “You don’t have to explain yourself. We’re all under a lot of stress right now. People do stupid things when they’re stressed.”

Alexander laughs. “Laurens and I certainly have, often enough.”

Aaron gets a sinking feeling in his stomach that he knows exactly what sort of stupid things Alexander is referring to.

“Well, the two of you are still alive,” Aaron says. “So you clearly couldn’t have been that stupid.”

“Maybe I am that stupid,” Alexander says. “But hey, if you stand for nothing, then what do you fall for?”

“You’re being rather indecipherable right now,” Aaron says.

Alexander grins. “Like poetry?”

“Allow me to amend that, you’re being rather insufferable right now.”

Alexander props himself up on one elbow. “I could always…talk less. Smile more.”

Aaron has never been so grateful for the dark, and the subsequent fact that Alexander cannot see the blush rising on his face.

“Convince you with actions rather than words.”

Aaron risks a, “Did that line work on Laurens?”

There’s a moment of silence and Aaron is terrified that he has completely misread the situation. Then Alexander answers, “I think the more important question right now is if it worked on you.”

Aaron’s heart skips a beat. “There are five men outside guarding this tent,” he says. “Be sensible.”

“How about be quiet,” Alexander says, and then he surges forward and is kissing Aaron.

In all honesty, Aaron should have suspected that something like this might happen. In his memories, he and Alexander had been friends, only friends, but close friends. There were moments when it felt like they could perhaps be more than friends—poetry, Alexander was never going to let him live that down, even in this life, if seemed—but Aaron had never particularly considered that Alexander might see more in him.

But this was a different Alexander, a young Alexander, an Alexander caught up in the fever of the war and the heat of the moment. The Alexander who earned the nickname the “tomcat,” the Alexander who had not just seduced a number of women, and if the inferences from the stories that he’d told Aaron in Aaron’s other memories were to be believed, he’d been with both Laurens and Lafayette. Now Aaron is here as well, and, well, that means that Aaron too is feeling the full brunt of the tomcat’s prowess.

He adjusts himself slightly so that they can get a better angle; it can’t be comfortable for Alex, he is strewn across both bedrolls and holding himself up as to not crush Aaron. Not that he’d be particularly successful in an attempt to crush Aaron, considering his dainty frame, but Aaron appreciates the effort.

Alexander draws back for air, and Aaron pushes himself up to a semi-sitting position and pulls Alexander forward into his lap. Alex mades a small noise at being moved, and Aaron smiles and brushes a runaway strand of hair back behind Alexander’s ear.

It all feels so…so normal, so natural, like Alexander didn’t just kiss him, like nothing has changed.

(Maybe, Aaron will muse later, nothing has changed, maybe they were on this path from the beginning, maybe this is just one more expression of how intertwined their lives seem to be.)

Alexander doesn’t hesitate, he leans in and begins to kiss Aaron again, more carefully this time, and with a lot less desperation, and maybe it’s the angle, or maybe the shock has worn off, but Aaron finds it very hard to concentrate on anything else. Alexander is warm, soft, and oh, he knows what he is doing. His hands start moving even as Aaron's are clenched down beside the two of them; they slide under Aaron’s shirt, mapping his skin, and Aaron can feel his breath catch. Alexander grins at that, leans back, and begins peppering kisses down Aaron’s jawline before he makes his way to Aaron’s throat.

Alexander.”

“Yes, that’s my name,” Alexander says, before he leans in an nibbles gently at a pulse point, and then one of his hands slips a little lower.

And Aaron decides that of all the ways that their original discussion could have gone, being seduced by Alexander Hamilton was far from the worst.

~~~

General Howe eventually makes his bid for Philadelphia, and Washington positions 20,000 men at Chadds Ford of Brandywine Creek to stop the British forces. The fog shouldn't give the British any sort of advantage, because they know about Howe’s plans for a flanking maneuver, prepare ambushes near Trimble’s Ford and Jefferies Ford.

And then General Lee sees the ten thousand British soldiers—ten thousand tired, harassed, and easy-to-defeat British soldiers—that have been sent to attack his said flank and orders a retreat. If it can even be called that. It’s atrocious, and the moment Washington is alerted to it happening, he rides over himself to take command. Lafayette gets shot organizing one of the columns from disorderly retreat into an orderly retreat to somewhere where they can regroup and fight back. There are conflicting orders being shouted back and forth, and the battle stretches on for eleven hours. More Americans die there than have in any other confrontation so far.

Then finally, finally, finally, the British retreat.

~~~

Lafayette’s in the medical tent, having his leg patched up, positively beaming. “Washington praised me for ‘bravery and military ardour,” he says when Aaron and Laurens come to visit him.

You got shot!” Aaron says.

Lafayette shrugs. “Not very badly, it will heal. And in my first battle I received the highest praise from our commander! It will be a very fitting story to tell when I get home, otherwise I have only been sitting around because I am too important to be killed.

Aaron wants to scream at the sky, why are all of his friends so cavalier about getting shot. Laurens takes over with dealing with the small talk.

He’s at his wit’s end. He needs to talk to Washington about Lee, that's what he needs to do. So he pats Lafayette’s hand, makes sure that Alexander, who is busy tallying up the damage and trying to organize lists of men who were wounded or killed, has heard the good news that Lafayette is not hurt particularly badly, and they head for the command tent.

“Wait outside,” he tells his escort. Laurens nods, and they take position.

Aaron steels himself, then storms in. He allows a moment for the flap to close behind him, giving them at least a semblance of privacy. Then he faces Washington. “You have to dismiss Lee,” he says.

Washington turns around, a mildly annoyed expression inscribed on his face. “I have to do nothing.”

“We would have won—“

“We did win. We were outnumbered, and we managed to decisively hold our ground, and then we retreated to a more strategic location. This is a war, not every victory will be a complete one.”

“We would have outmaneuvered them if not for Lee’s incompetence.

“That is a rather strong statement to make.” Washington’s tone is curt, the meaning is apparent: this conversation is over. Well, not if Aaron has anything to say for it.

“How many more men have to die before you see how ruinous Lee truly is!” His voice is nearly a shout now. “We…we don’t have room for any more mistakes, with Philadelphia on the line, with everything on the line, we don’t have time to pander to every mediocre general with a large ego and an even larger mouth.”

Washington remains completely calm. “Is the problem his ego, or yours? You act as if every victory and every defeat rests on your shoulders. I’m growing tired of it.”

The words sting. “Well, they do,” Aaron says. “This war has become as psychological as it is one that takes place on the battlefield, we don’t need to win, we need to crush them by knowing things that they shouldn’t know. They’re scared. They’re scared of me. We don’t have to outlast them, we can win a clear and decisive victory because Joan of Arc is seared into their memories.”

“Keeping this army together, keeping the states together, are just as important as winning this war. We accomplish nothing if we fall apart after defeating the British!” Washington’s eyes flash. “Winning is easy, young man, governing is harder.”

“You want to speak about unity? Charles Lee, Thomas Conway, those men take your name and they rake it through the mud!”

“My name’s been through a lot, I can take it.”

Aaron stares at him, his chest heaving. “You have to dismiss Lee,” he repeats.

“I have to do nothing. Now, if you’re finished?”

“Sir,” Aaron says between locked teeth, and then he bows and exits the tent before he can say anything that will dig him in deeper.

~~~

Aaron is nearly shaking with rage by the time Alexander finds him. Laurens has been patient and hasn't pushed about anything, but he wants someone to push. Alexander will understand. He cuts straight to the chase. “Washington won’t get rid of Lee.”

“How bad will it be?” Alex asks.

“Thousands of men die at the Battle of Monmouth,” Aaron says. “Because first Lee doesn’t follow orders, then he orders a retreat, then he completely fails to organize it, Washington will have to swoop in and take over command to barely salvage a stalemate from it. Again.

“If we change this enough, maybe the battle won’t happen?” he offers. His voice is steady, but Aaron can see in his eyes that he’s furious too.

“Doesn’t matter, if he’s outnumbered or put in a similar situation he’ll do it,” Aaron says. “Thousands of deaths that are completely preventable if Washington would just dismiss him. But we need ‘Southern support’ and Washington’s worried about our ‘image’ if he just starts dismissing people on my word for things they haven’t done yet. Something about this country being based on democracy and ‘governing is harder’ than winning.”

“Those aren’t his words. Lee’s been badmouthing both you and Washington behind your backs,” Alexander says. “Someone ought to hold him to it.”

“What exactly are you suggesting we do?” Laurens asks.

“He can’t be a general if we shoot him,” Alexander says.

There’s a moment of silence.

“I can challenge him to a duel,” Alexander says. “I’m a good shot, I can—“

“You promised you would never set foot on a dueling ground,” Aaron says. “You can’t—“

“Then I’ll do it,” Laurens says. “You—“ he points at Aaron, “—should stay out of this, we don’t want it tied to you, Alexander can be my second. I’m just as good of a shot. We take him out, fair and square. Two hot-headed aides-de-camp upset that someone is badmouthing Washington.”

“Well, shoot him in the mouth for me,” Aaron says. “That ought to shut him up.”

“I’ll see what I can do,” Laurens says. Now that Aaron thinks about it, he’s never seen Laurens’ lips pressed so tightly together; perhaps the man is just as mad about this as he and Alexander are, and is better at not showing it. It gives Aaron pause.

“Be careful,” he says.

Laurens smiles, and it doesn’t reach his eyes. “Oh, we will.”

~~~

The duel happens three days later. Aaron doesn’t learn about it until Washington calls him to a private meeting, so he has no idea what to expect when he ducks into the command tent with his usual greeting of “Your Excellency” only to see Washington more stony-faced than he has ever observed the man to be before.

“Son,” Washington says.

Aaron bites back an I’m not your son.

“This war is hard enough without infighting.”

Aaron freezes. I don’t know what you mean, he desperately wants to say, but a seer never lies.

“You’ll have to be more specific, sir,” he says.

“Are you aware of the fact that at a little past three this afternoon, Charles Lee and Evan Edwards met with John Laurens and Alexander Hamilton in the woods a few miles from camp, for an affair of honor?”

“I was aware that Hamilton and Laurens were not happy with the slander Lee has been spewing behind your back, sir,” Aaron says. “But I was not aware of the particulars of the duel.”

Washington stares at him for a long moment, and sighs. “They were wise to keep you out of it.”

“Sir?”

“I have spent most of my afternoon attempting to determine if I am dealing with the fallout of two hot-headed officers and their misguided attempt to protect my name, or if I am dealing with a plot—with treason—“ Washington grits his teeth around the word “—to take matters into your own hands and dismiss Lee yourselves.”

Aaron remains silent.

“This has been a waste of precious time that ought to have been used to preparations for defense at Germantown.”

“Sir—“

Washington cuts him off with a single wave of his hand. “I don’t want to hear lies, and I don’t want to hear a confession. I heard enough to know what I have to do from Hamilton and Laurens. I’m sending Hamilton away.”

Aaron’s heart drops to his stomach. “Sir, you—“

“Of the three of you, he is the most hot-headed and impulsive. He is the most volatile. He is, to put it delicately, a bad influence. Laurens will remain in charge of your guard, unless you give me reason to believe that he is an equally bad influence.”

Aaron feels the heat of anger rise unbidden in him. He feels unjust accusations beginning to form—that Washington is upset because he’s been more forward, he’s been more comfortable in his own skin, that the only thing Alexander has taught him has been confidence but no one wants a seer to have a will of their own, all anyone ever wants from him is his abilities, not his opinion. He’d thought Washington was different, thought that maybe he’d been finding a place here, but oh, how wrong he’d been.

He doesn’t voice any of it. But that doesn’t stop it from showing in his expression.

“Son—“

“I’m not your son,” he says, and he storms out of the room.

~~~

The sun sets. Aaron’s rage turns to numbness. Alexander’s things are already gone, because apparently even the chance to say goodbye was something that Washington didn’t want to risk.

But it means that Aaron doesn’t have a chance to take his hand, Aaron doesn’t have a chance to make sure that he’ll be safe. Aaron doesn’t even know where he’s going, where he’ll be, if he’ll have anything or anyone or—

He can’t think about any of that. He just can’t.

Laurens eventually comes to his tent, hauling his own bedroll and a small bag of personal belongings. He hesitates at the entrance. “May I?”

“Your tent now too,” Aaron says flatly.

Laurens closes the tent flap behind him. “Alexander wasn’t dismissed. He’s being sent north to join our forces at Saratoga. He’ll have command of an artillery company there, and the opportunity to rise through the ranks, like he always wanted.”

Aaron nods mutely. He doesn’t trust himself to speak any more.

“I tried to—“

“’S not your fault,” Aaron mumbles, pressing his eyes closed against tears. This was why he didn’t want to be speaking right now. About anything. About what happened. About Alexander.

“He blew up at Washington, shouted that the General was a fool not to notice how lucky we are to have you, and a fool not to have just listened and dismissed Lee. It was rather impressive to watch.”

“Oh, no.”

“He’ll be fine,” Laurens says. “He’ll probably come back to us as a Major General. General Hamilton, that has a nice ring, doesn’t it.”

Maybe if Aaron keeps his head down and stays still enough, Laurens will leave him be, maybe he won’t have to keep this mask in place, because he’s not sure how much longer he can pretend that his heart isn’t in utter pieces all over the floor and he’s not sure how he’ll be able to put it together again and stitch himself into a functioning human being to face his duties tomorrow.

Laurens doesn’t leave. Laurens doesn’t come over as Alexander would have, though, doesn’t wrap his arms around Aaron and pull him close, and Aaron positively aches for someone to do just that.

For Alexander to do just that.

“He’s the reason why I’m here in the first place,” Aaron says. “He’s the reason why I joined, he’s the reason why Washington didn’t fire me immediately, he’s the reason why…why I’m here.”

“He’ll be back,” Laurens says. “He’ll be fine, you’ll be fine. He’s holding me personally responsible if there’s a single scratch on you when he returns.”

“Of course he is,” Aaron says. Then, because Laurens isn’t Alex, because Laurens won’t know that he’s the one who’s supposed to move in first, Aaron does. He stands and sort of shuffles to where Laurens is arranging his stuff, and leans in, and Laurens gets the picture. Warm arms engulf Aaron, and he relaxes slightly.

There’s a light pressure, Laurens’ hand under Aaron’s chin, and Aaron allows himself to be moved, for his face to be tilted up.

“Hey,” Laurens says. “You’ll be fine, okay? I’ll make sure that you’re fine.”

Then he lightly presses his lips against Aaron’s.

Then he pulls Aaron in closer, and kisses Aaron’s forehead. “You’ll be fine.”

Aaron can’t feel his own heartbeat, but he rests his head on Laurens’ chest, and there is a steady beat there, and he lets it surround him.

They stay there, Aaron is not sure for how long. He doesn’t care. He misses Alexander.

“You’ll be fine,” Laurens says again, and because there is nothing else Aaron can do, he lets himself believe him.

Chapter Text

In the three and a half weeks that they’ve been housed in Philadelphia, Laurens has already managed to save Aaron’s life at least twice.

Aaron maintains at least instead of simply four because he has successfully lit a candle with gunpowder before without killing himself, and he is nearly certain that he was using the correct amount to produce the result that he wanted, thank you very much. Then, of course, there was the time that they were walking down the very steep stairs of the house that they were staying in and Aaron slipped and Laurens caught him by the collar of his jacket like a cat grabbing its kitten by the scruff of its neck and Aaron narrowly missed banging his head against a stovepipe, and the actual assassination attempt that came from a small armed group when they were traveling back from a meeting with the Confederation Congress. The time when Harrison, another aide-de-camp, fetched them all some ice cream and Aaron thought himself to be poisoned for a solid hour, when in actuality he’d just eaten it too fast, was something that Laurens and the others were sworn to never repeat, not even upon their deathbeds.

For the most part, Aaron is confined inside. He’s moved every week or so, usually a day after he makes a venture into the outside world, to ensure that no one can track his location. There’s one rather enjoyable week in which he and Laurens stay with Lafayette before the man gets on a ship to return to France. Lafayette’s leg is mostly healed, but the Marquis takes exquisite pleasure in ordering Aaron and Laurens around, or draping himself over them every time he tries to move, because apparently he prefers living crutches to wooden ones. But Lafayette knows how to fill a room with his presence, so the times passes swiftly with him.

Aaron tries to write letters to Alexander every day:

You wouldn’t believe what Lafayette said today. Had me and Laurens running up and down the stairs fetching him water and food and then candy and then he had the gall to insist that he was too cold, refuse our offers to re-start the fire, and attempted to get Laurens and I to waste the afternoon laying in bed with him acting as mere sources of heat! A whole afternoon!

He imagines Alexander writing back, “Well, did you do it?” (Laurens had, Aaron had started a fire, and then Lafayette had pouted until Aaron finally came over and joined them and by that time the room was sweltering and the bed was too small for three bodies anyways. But he still sat through it for half an hour, because he for some ludicrous reason actually cared about these people.)

We had another dinner with politicians, and I swear, they are trying to poison me, if not for the dukedom, then simply because they are all terrible cooks. Although one day, there will be a man named Thomas Jefferson whom you will hate, and I can testify that there is no worse meal than the abomination that man claims is macaroni and cheese. He makes it with a machine he had shipped specially from Naples. And not a single person can stand its taste.

The single good thing about his previous association with Thomas Jefferson is that he now has a lifetime of dirt on the man, from the more innocent details all the way to Sally Hemmings. And he can be on Alexander’s side this time, they can take down Jefferson together.

Laurens and I have been trapped in the same room for three days now, I swear to God if there is one, Alexander, I want to die, and it is no fault of Laurens; he is patient, he is polite, he has the disposition of an angel. But there is nothing for either of us to do other than ’stay safe,’ there are no audiences to attend, no members of Congress to meet, no letters or orders to transcribe, no battles to predict. We simply sit here and twiddle our thumbs. I wish you were here, you would know what to do; I, meanwhile, am starting to find the prospect of the British martyring me more and more enticing. At least then Lafayette will have no trouble securing the support of his people, and he can return, and we can all be reunited.

There are the words that he tries to scrawl under all of his words, but can never gain the courage to write: I miss you, you’re important to me, I think about you, I haven’t forgotten you. Alexander is smart, Alexander surely will be able to read them.

But the weeks pass, and he receives no letters in return.

~~~

Washington is staying at Stenton, and Martha has traveled all the way from Mount Vernon to join them for the season. Aaron, Laurens, and the entire guard detail are relocated to the mansion for the week around Christmas, and it takes one look at Mrs. Washington’s face for Aaron to determine that she was the driving force behind their being included in Washington’s pseudo-family holiday celebrations.

Lady Washington, they all call her, until she insists they address her as Martha.

Her cooking, at least, is magnificent, and she fusses over them all, makes them take second servings. She seems, much like her husband, to have taken special interest in filling the role of surrogate parent for Aaron during the week, although unlike General Washington’s previous advances in that regard, hers are easier to accept. Aaron has not had a mother figure that he can remember the face of, he was too young when his own mother and grandmother died, they’ve faded from his memory. So he allows Martha to dote upon him with minimal opposition. They even have quite an interesting conversation about how uncomfortable she was back in ’75 when she was first assigned a guard detail, and how strange it still feels to be treated as a symbol of the Revolution, as a person of great import. It makes him feel a bit better about his whole situation.

Then he realizes with a pang that he misses Sally, that he has no idea if his sister has a guard detail, and considering how much he’s been targeted, it would not be a large leap for that ill will to transfer to his immediate family.

Laurens assures him that he’ll take care of asking.

Aaron has not spoken with George beyond the most terse requirements of his station since Alexander has been sent away, and as such, he is being kept out of all war business for the winter. Laurens consoles him, tells him that it is merely the smartest move to concentrate on Aaron’s safety after so successful a season, but Aaron can’t help but feel like there’s something broken between him and the General. As much as he was uncomfortable with Washington’s clear favoritism and even potential affection, he is even more uncomfortable to have lost it.

He feels guilty that the man might be upset, and of his accord. Washington, for his part, avoids the festivities, so it’s not like Aaron has much of a chance at reconciliation. He’s not even sure who is mad a whom at this point, whether he ought to be offering an apology or accepting one.

Still, it is nice to have the holidays with something that almost feels like family.

~~~

The winter sets in, and it is the worst that Aaron has seen in years. Food is short, supplies are short, and morale from past victories can only stay high for so long when the men are freezing and starving. From the trickle of information that Washington allows him, he ascertains that it’s far preferable to what Valley Forge would have been, but these men don’t know that, these men don’t know how much better off they are now.

The problem is, Aaron has already written down twice over all that he remembers, has marked up maps with potential troop movements, he’s highlighted important players on both sides and what he remembers of their dispositions and strengths and weaknesses, he’s even filled a bound journal with all that happens after the war: how the Articles of Confederation fall apart, the Constitution, Washington’s two-term presidency, Hamilton’s financial plan, about Adams and Jefferson and what happens to France in the chaos of their Revolution, every single bill, law, backroom deal—everything. And then, for Alexander, he writes about his dream of the Union tearing itself apart, and the growing tensions over slavery, a warning that if there is one thing they should do differently, it is prioritize truly equal rights.

Such a project ought to have took him some time, but he’s been writing all of this down since he was a small child, and keeps his papers on his person at all times, so it’s more like transcribing than creating something new. He finishes it within the month, and with it, all of his usefulness evaporates.

“Laurens,” he says one afternoon. “If I die, you must take this to Washington, and no one else. And burn it before it can fall into the hands of the British.”

Laurens seems torn between annoyance at one of Aaron’s increasingly frequent casual mentions of hypothetically dying, and curiosity at the object at hand. “What is this?”

“How to win the war. And then every law that is past, every victory and landmark, and every mistake that we make and how perhaps to avoid them, for the next twenty years in great detail, and then perhaps forty years after that in broad strokes. It’s not much, but. Well. It’s all I can do.“

Laurens stares at the bound leather journal. “That seems rather dangerous. Perhaps we should focus on keeping you alive.”

“Death would break up the monotony. And besides, a book is a whole lot easier to deal with than a person. It doesn’t have opinions. Could be clean and simple, secure French aid in one fell swoop—”

“You will do no such thing. You would leave a mess is what you would leave—a tactical mess, a political mess, and a mess for all the people you leave behind!”

Aaron laughs. “I was kidding.”

“It wasn’t funny.” Then Laurens pulls out the heavy artillery: “How do you think Alexander would feel if he heard you talking like this?”

That’s not going to work, not this time.

“Well isn’t that the question,” Aaron says. “If only we’d gotten a single letter, a single piece of news, we might be able to answer it, but Alexander is far too busy to write.”

“Fine. How do you think I feel?”

Aaron freezes. He was not expecting that.

Laurens moves a step closer, and Aaron can feel the heat rising in his face. They haven’t discussed the—the day that Alexander had left. Aaron has kept his emotions under control since then, and Laurens has kept a respectable distance. Aaron…hasn’t pushed the issue because it hasn’t been an issue, he’s not sure how Laurens felt about the whole thing, and until he knows Laurens’ intentions and understanding of what had transpired, he cannot conclude how he feels about the incident.

But the look in Laurens’ eyes right now is giving him pause.

It’s not like he has anything against sodomy, per se, and even if he did, he wouldn’t have a leg to stand on, considering that he and Alexander have…at least with Alexander he knows exactly where the other man’s intentions lie, knows exactly what the tomcat wants with him, knows exactly how much it all means nothing.

Laurens is looking at him like he’s made of glass, though, and it’s scaring him.

“I did not mean to distress you,” Aaron says. “And I very much appreciate the effort you have put forth to keep me safe. I apologize if any comments that I have made have belittled that effort—“

“You know, you have a habit of doing that.”

“Doing what?”

Another step closer.

“Defaulting to formality when you’ve decided to emotionally withdraw from a situation.”

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean—“

Laurens waves his hands. “You don’t have to apologize. I just want to make sure that you are aware that there are people who genuinely care about you. You. And who would be upset if you were gone.”

Tell that to the twenty-three years after his daughter’s death that he spent alone, impoverished, in obscurity.

Everyone who loves me dies.

“I understand,” he says.

“You’re lying,” Laurens says.

Aaron’s not sure what to say to that. There really isn’t much he can say, considering Laurens is right.

“I will construct my actions and my choices as if I understand, then,” Aaron says, jutting his chin up in a sort of childish defiance.

Laurens brings a hand up to Aaron’s face, cupping it gently, and Aaron is afraid that he’ll flinch; he has to purposefully keep himself still. His eyes are locked on Laurens’, and they stand there, for a full minute, until Laurens must see see something that satisfies him, because he lets Aaron go. “Good,” he says, and it breaks the spell, Aaron slumps down on top of his bed, and tries to calm his rapidly beating heart.

“We could write,” he says. “I could write.”

“Hm?” Laurens asks.

“I could write small pamphlets to be circulated amongst the soldiers about how great our nation is going to be, how much it’s worth living for. That could at least help with the morale.”

Laurens smiles gently. “That sounds like a magnificent idea.”

And Aaron quells the rush of feelings that Alexander would have thought of this weeks ago, Alexander wouldn’t have been scared of Laurens, Alexander wouldn’t have hesitated to respond, Alexander would have known what to do.

Alexander isn’t here, so he’ll have to be enough.

~~~

Laurens meets with Washington the next day—to discuss arrangements and plans for the protection detail, and keep Washington updated on Aaron’s well being. He brings up the pamphlets, and Washington agrees, and Aaron begins to work right away. The most important thing is that these pamphlets be readily accessible to the men, so Aaron revises his work over and over, paints in bold strokes instead of long flourishing arguments of technicalities. He needs words that will make people feel things, words that everyone will understand.

Laurens also comes back with a small bundle of letters from Alexander; the distance from Saratoga combined with the difficulty of any sort of deliveries compromising Aaron’s location has meant that they’ve been delayed, but Alexander was still writing. Aaron is so relieved that he does not even bother to be concerned with how giddy he is. Laurens also manages to negotiate the delivery of updates on the status of troops, supply lines, presumed locations of the enemy, and other details of the war, so that Aaron is not cut out of the loop.

Aaron tears through every single letter, reads them and re-reads them until they look worn and old. He produces his first and second pamphlets, and Washington writes in one of his memos that they are a remarkable success. Even just hearing about the state of the troops and supplies in the bi-weekly updates makes Aaron feel a lot less trapped, the reprieve is almost pleasant. He requests some books—both to continue his studies in law, and some just for the pleasure of reading—and they are delivered with the next updates.

For the first time since Alexander left, things feel like they are starting to heal.

~~~

Laurens is the one who insists that he come to the winter’s ball, dragging him away from today’s maps and reports and numbers that Aaron has been pouring over since 8 AM. Aaron protests until it becomes obvious that he will get more work done if he gives in the Laurens’ nagging, and decides to make an appearance at the party and leave as soon as it is politely acceptable so that he can get back to work.

To be fair, they worked very hard to pull this celebration together; it’s at the house that the Schuylers are staying at, the guest list has been vetted by Washington personally, and amongst the officers who are partying, Aaron sees at least ten of his detail standing guard. The amount of work that has gone into making this revel seer-friendly seems almost excessive. It can’t be because people are worried about Aaron being stir-crazy; but if it is for the benefit of his image, to flaunt that he is alive and well and unafraid, and to allow senior officers to rub elbows with him, then why is everyone allowing him to be a wallflower?

He stays at the edges of the ballroom, sipping a drink, watching the people mingle. Laurens had left his side after the first half hour to do some mingling of his own, as he does have his own reputation and career to think about. The breathing room is a relief; he loves Laurens dearly, but the feeling of not being watched constantly is a pleasant one.

He’s almost done his drink, almost ready to get Laurens leave, when Angelica Schuyler approaches him.

Considering that the last time that he saw her, she was practically spitting in his face and cursing him for all eternity, he manages to stay fairly calm and composed and nods quite politely. She looks at him like she’s waiting for him to make the first move.

“You strike me,” he says, “as a woman who’s never been satisfied.”

That earns him both a smile and a glare. “I’m sure I don’t know what you mean, you forget yourself.”

Aaron shrugs. “You’ve been flitting across the room, flirting with everyone. Have you had a single intelligent conversation tonight?”

“Have you?”

“I suppose I haven’t,” Aaron says. “I’m never satisfied.”

“Is that right?”

“Well. There’s only so much that I can speak for the future,” Aaron says. “But I’ve never been satisfied.”

Angelica smiles again at that. “My name is Angelica Schuyler Church.”

“Aaron Burr.”

“I know.”

“Would you believe me if I said I knew as well?”

“It seems a bit redundant,” Angelica says.

“It would indeed,” Aaron says. “So what do you think about the Revolution?”

“Do you already know what I think about the Revolution?”

“I’m a seer, not a psychic.”

“Nor am I. I am married to one of the chief merchants supplying the Continental army. My father is a Major General in the Continental army, and has served in the Continental Congress. We are currently hosting a rather exclusive party for American officers. It would seem clear that my family is in full support of the Revolution. So I am a bit confused as to why you would ask.”

Aaron shrugs. “It seems rather hypocritical of me to accuse you of not having a single intelligent conversation and then not offer one myself.”

“Is that truly your motive?” she asks.

“No,” Aaron says. “Honestly, I have Clinton’s plans for the campaign for New York on my mind and could use another opinion on it.”

“My opinion?” Angelica looks truly intrigued.

“I don’t see why not,” Aaron says. “You’ve just laid our your own credentials. In fact, you probably have a better grasp on the subject than me. I’m locked up in a small room god-knows-where these days, no one tells me anything anymore. So if you’re interested—”

“Oh, I’m quite interested,” Angelica says. “So tell me why you said Clinton’s opinion, not Howe’s?”

Aaron grins. “The news will come in sometime over the winter, I don’t quite remember when. But Howe’s being replaced by Clinton. He’s resigning.”

“Well, raise a glass to that,” Angelica says. “So what are you worried about?”

“New York City,” Aaron says. “The next clear move, especially when France enters the war—and they do,” he says at Angelica’s quirk of her eyebrows, “is to move down and consolidate at New York. But since the Saratoga campaign, with a few more well-placed moves, we could control the Hudson River easily. So where they’re getting their supply lines—I’m just worried that the war is going to become a naval one.”

“We don’t have a navy, there’s not much they can do to us,” Angelica says. “And I doubt France would be stupid enough to try to pick a fight where Britain is in the stronger position. If we fight their troops off our land, we’ll win.”

“There’s so much that I can’t see,” Aaron says. “It’s frustrating.”

“But you knew me,” Angelica points out.

“By name and reputation,” Aaron says.

“Oh, but that’s no fun! What do you know about me?”

“I see that…” Aaron makes a pretend-serious face, and Angelica laughs. “Really, have you read Common Sense? By Thomas Paine?”

“Why?” Angelica says, and her eyes narrow.

“You have!” Aaron says. “It was a lucky guess. But it makes a lot of interesting points about serving an oppressed people, which is ironic considering the large portion of our population that is oppressed.”

“You are one of those abolitionists,” Angelica says.

“Amongst other things,” Aaron says. “Why should women like you be bereft of intelligent conversation on nights like these?”

“You think we should have more education?”

“I think you should have the vote,” Aaron says. “Ability to own land. Ability to do whatever work you wish, ability to fight for what you believe in.”

“For someone famous for his public neutrality, you certainly seem to have a strong opinion about this,” Angelica says.

“You don’t believe me,” Aaron says.

“I want to,” Angelica says. “Which is exactly why I take it with a grain of salt. Men say many things.”

“There are a million things I haven’t done,” Aaron says. “But I will do them. Just you wait.”

Angelica laughs. “Come,” she says, offering an arm.

Aaron takes it. “Where are you taking me?”

“I’m about to change your life.”

“Then by all means, lead the way.”

She leads him straight to her sister, Eliza.

Oh no. Of all the people that he desperately doesn’t want to face—Elizabeth Schuyler is perhaps the top of that list. He wonders if there is anyone that he has hurt more than this woman. He owes her the lifetime of happiness that he stole from her, and he knows not how to give it, how to say it, how to make up for any of it.

He is very, very lucky that he is practiced at keeping a neutral expression in place.

She curtsies, and looks up at him through her eyelashes. “Elizabeth Schuyler, it’s a pleasure to meet you.”

“Aaron Burr, the pleasure it all mine.”

He bows and takes her offered hand, and brings it to his lips.

The vision, strangely enough, is one of the most pleasant he has been forced to endure. More pleasant than this encounter, to say the least. He knows that Eliza out-lives him because he never saw her death in any of his foreknowledge; but here she is old, very old, and in her bed sleeping peacefully. There is a slight smile on her face.

Then he is returned to the present.

“I’ll leave you to it.”

Aaron turns around and Angelica is looking a bit too pleased with herself as she abandons him suddenly and he really, really, really only wanted to finish his drink and then make his escape, he did not sign up for this.

He turns back to Eliza, and she smiles sweetly at him. “I am afraid I am nowhere near the conversationist your sister is,” he says. “I am a bit at a loss of where even to begin.”

“She does make talking to strangers seem very easy,” Eliza says. “I have nowhere near her charm.”

“I disagree,” Aaron says. “You are a unique person, you need not be anything like your sister to be just as charming. Look, for instance, at your smile.”

“My smile?” And she smiles along with the words.

“Why, it is entirely without guile, and so it lights up the room,” Aaron says. “How could one see such a smile and not be enraptured by the kindness and earnestness of its owner for gifting the world with such a delight?”

“You flatter me.”

“Only that I might see your smile.” Aaron extends his hand. “Might I have this dance, Ms. Schuyler?”

There’s that smile again. “It would be my pleasure, Mr. Burr.”

Chapter Text

The evening is not as terrible as it could have been; Aaron and Eliza dance, they discuss music a bit, and then they talk about favorite books. It’s all quite innocent, quite trivial. Aaron promises to send her a letter with recommendations for his favorites, and all other works that he thinks she will like, and she promises to send one back with perhaps a few books of her own that he can borrow for his stay in Philadelphia. Laurens, of course, teases him mercilessly about it because Alexander is not there to. Aaron insists that he merely sees Eliza as a potential friend. Laurens replies that maybe he ought to be a bit more careful about not flirting shamelessly with potential friends, Aaron denies all flirting, and they leave it at that.

He writes to Alexander about it all, partially in reply to Alexander’s next letter:

You cannot imagine the woman that I met at a ball thrown by the family of General Schuyler—her name is Elizabeth, and she is the second of the Schuyler sisters. She is beautiful as she is graceful, kind as she is demure, yet she has a heart of steel and morals just as strong behind it. She is sweet, she is well-read, she is polite to all those around her, yet witty beyond belief; simply put, she is an incredible woman and the greatest blessing of any man to make her acquaintance. You must visit, Alexander, for I miss you terribly, but also because I wish nothing more than to introduce you to this woman. I have the very strong feeling that the two of you will get along marvelously.

With Eliza, as they are both living in the same city, it does not take weeks to exchange letters, so they can send one another letters nightly. Eliza eventually sends him a book of poetry, and asks him if he writes any, and he sees his opportunity:

And poetry! Such a beautiful and rich subject in and of itself, although I have little skill at it. You should meet my friend Hamilton, he has the most truly magnificent way with words. He could write a soliloquy on how the sky was yellow and I swear to you, the whole world would weep for the beauty of it. Colonel Hamilton has a mind sharp as a saber, he is perhaps the most brave and most passionate man I have ever known, and his charm and disposition are without match. He is my dearest friend, the closest thing to family I outside of my blood-kin, and I would love nothing more than to introduce the two of you.

It seems like all Aaron has is words, letters. He and Laurens start talking about the importance of immediate emancipation—he should have known, should have remembered, that Laurens had been Hamilton’s abolitionist friend and they could have bonded over this ages ago—but it matters little because they can bond over it now. Congress says that Laurens can have his black battalion if he can convince the state governments. But both of them want more than that.

Laurens suggests they write an anti-slavery pamphlet. Aaron suggests they do it delicately. They work on it for a week before Congress catches wind of what they are doing and tells them to save it for after the war. Or rather, Washington sends the note:

The work you have been doing has been tremendous in exalting the spirits of our men through this cold winter. Our unity is integral for securing foreign aid and for our future after the war. Congress too sees need of this, and they have attached a list of topics with which they hope you will write of.

Laurens looks like he wants to throw a chair across the room, or perhaps tear a mattress apart with his bare hands. Aaron is a bit more reasonable:

“It might just be bad timing, this might have nothing to do with what we’re working on.”

“And if it’s not?”

The petition to Congress for Laurens’ black battalion had been a week and a half ago, it almost certainly was not a coincidence.

“Maybe he has a point,” Aaron says. “This is a war about appearances, and we need to be careful about what appearance we’re giving to the world. We wouldn’t turn our canons around and fire into our own men, maybe that’s what we’re doing here, if we finish writing this.”

“So you’ll be their dog?”

The truth is, Aaron’s angry about this too, but mostly he’s angry that he was drawn into a project and raised his hopes when he should have thought this through more. He’s also somewhat angry that Laurens doesn’t seem to recognize that he is just as upset about this development. But he keeps a cap on it, because he is in control of himself.

He curls up the list of acceptable topics and throws it into the fireplace. It catches the edge of the log before rolling to the side, but ignites nonetheless. Then he raises an eyebrow at Laurens. “Is that an answer enough for you?” He tries to keep his voice level through it all.

“We’ve been working so hard,” Laurens says, dropping his head into his hands. “And you want us to give up because of the whims of squabbling rich old men. Alexander would have written and published it without hesitation, if he were here.”

Oh.

There goes Aaron’s desire to remain civil.

“Well that’s exactly why he’s not here!” Aaron snaps. “And I know I’m not Alexander! I know I’ll never be as good as Alexander! I know I’ll never be as passionate, as determined, as inspiring as Alexander, I’m well aware that I am not half the man that he is and that you’d much rather be out there doing great things with him than playing glorified babysitter for the extent of the war, but I can’t be Alexander. I can’t do what he would do, I have a responsibility to uphold within myself and that means sometimes waiting. I don’t care that if Alexander had my gifts, he would have won the war single-handedly by now. I can’t do that. I can only do what I know best, even if that means playing the puppet for rich, squabbling men until this war is over and everything that comes out of my mouth doesn’t have the potential to destroy this nation.”

Laurens looks like someone’s just struck him.

“Aaron, I—“

The full extent of what just came out of his mouth unfiltered, hits him. “Oh god, I’m so sorry.”

“Aaron, it’s—“

“No just, ignore that, ignore all that, I’m sorry, I didn’t—“

“I shouldn’t have brought up Alexander.”

What can Aaron say to that? It’s not your fault, we were both thinking it? Or, it’s alright, we both know that we’re both just pretending that we don’t wish that Alexander was here instead of the other, you don’t have to apologize because it’s true.

“You’re not…second-best to him, you know,” Laurens says.

Aaron raises his gaze to meet Laurens’ eyes, and the man continues. “You can be a lot quieter. And harder to understand. Alexander said you were shy when we first met, but I think you’re just a lot more reserved. And I know that we’re all…loud. But you don’t have to be. If that makes sense.”

It’s not true. Everyone only likes him now because he’s acting more like Alexander: Washington, Laurens, Angelica, Eliza, person by person he’s stealing Alexander’s life. He’s done this all before, and none of them had cared that he’d existed, but here and now they all do.

Laurens must read it off his face, because he continues. “I didn’t know you before. But now that I do…”

What gets Aaron is that Laurens never looks unsure of himself, never looks hesitant, there is very clearly pain written all over Laurens’ eyes and Aaron can’t stand that.

He steps forward and kisses the man.

Laurens is the one who goes very still this time, until Aaron steps back, staring resolutely straight ahead, which puts him about level with Laurens’ chest.

“You don’t have to…” Laurens begins, and Aaron doesn’t think it’s possible to feel worse, has any good ever come from actions without thinking?

“I’m sorry,” Aaron says, and it’s only Laurens’ hands on his shoulders that stop him from turning away.

“You have no obligation to…comfort me,” Laurens says. “And you certainly have no obligation to comfort me physically. I’m sorry if any actions I’ve taken have given you the mistaken impression that there’s any sort of…expectation of that between us.”

Aaron doesn’t say anything, and Laurens takes the lead; he allows himself to be drawn closer into an embrace. He listens to Laurens’ heartbeat, it steadies his breathing.

He sighs when he is finally calm, and pushes backwards a little, and Laurens immediately lets him go. “I want to go to sleep,” he says, and Laurens pats him on the shoulder before they both go between the motions of cleaning up their little desk, changing to sleepwear, and nightly cleaning routines. Aaron is done first, so Laurens blows out all the candles.

Despite his earlier words, though, sleep is elusive. He slips in and out of it, stares at the ceiling for more time than he cares to count, wondering what it would be like. To just write a pamphlet with his feelings about slavery, hell, to write a pamphlet with his opinions about equal rights, to not censor himself, not hold himself back, to write what he wishes he could scream from the mountains to the sea.

Laurens is sound asleep, he can tell by the even breathing on the bed beside his.

I can do it, it occurs to him. Here and now. There’s nothing stopping me.

He lights a candle carefully, quietly, nearly drops it, but there’s no stir from Laurens, and so he sits down, smooths out a piece of parchment, readies his quill, and begins to write.

On The True Nature of Freedom.

It’s a relief as the words start to flow from his pen:

I have written of the many great freedoms that this nation will offer all its citizens, the haven of Enlightened ideals and the beacon of Liberty that we will be to the world. Our greatness lies in our diversity and our unity: that men and women of different denominations, of different heritage, of different upbringings, lifestyles, and personal beliefs all reside side by side protected equally under the eyes of the law. We have no kings, we have no gentry, we have no conception of one man holding superiority over another because we recognize each man on the same fundamental level: deserving of the rights and freedoms this nation guarantees. Rich or poor, literate or illiterate, Catholic or Puritan or Quaker or Jewish or even non-denominational, we are all free citizens of a free nation, for this is the very foundation our nation is built upon, the very dream of the first settlers who sailed to these colonies.

That I am even free to write these words, to express this view, is a testament to the nation we are trying to build. That I might voice an opinion that others will condemn, this is a privilege that we all are bleeding and fighting for, and a right that we shall pass down to our children, and our children's children. We have banded together to protect this collective vision, and our strength will always lie in our unity. We will never be truly free if there is even one person living on this soil whose liberties are compromised, whose fundamental rights are denied to them.

From the very genesis of our nation, there exists a great rift between what we profess our ideals to be and the society that is in place, a rift that will only grow and that shall threaten to tear our nation apart. For when we begin to restrict the class of humanity upon which our fundamental freedoms apply, we compromise the very spirit of what our nation was conceived upon.

I am speaking of the rights of two factions of people in this nation who have been continuously denied their inalienable rights across the globe, of the grave injustice we must correct. I am speaking of women, and I am speaking of slavery.

He’s done it. He’s said it. He’s written it down, he almost laughs, he did it, he actually wrote it down.

From there, things start to come a bit more freely. He quotes a lot of Wollstonecraft, he lists historically great female writers, great female leaders, for every anticipation of an argument about female inferiority he has a direct counterexample, for he studied to find role models and answers for Theo all those years ago—all those years from now. He even throws in a: And have we ever seen as great of a war commander as Joan of Arc, who took up the sword herself, who elevated herself from the humblest of circumstances. For all those who argue that a woman could not fight in a war, they forget the day when a woman won a war. Or perhaps an example even from our enemies, for none can argue that Queen Elizabeth I did not win wars, single-handedly stitch her nation back together, and embark England upon a golden age.

The slavery part is a lot harder. He outlines Laurens’ lines for a black battalion to “earn” their freedom and speaks of making plantations perhaps the sort of places that men and women would want to work freely at, writes about how much money Britain has made from the slave trade and how putting an immediate end to it would be a detriment to their economy for years and years, but furthermore how morally wrong the entire practice is, about how it is impossible to face one’s god, one’s ideals, or one’s own self while imposing such despicable conditions upon another human being. If you cannot say with complete honestly that you would not mind your positions to be reversed, that you would find no misfortune in living the lives that slaves in this country already live, then the answer must be clear to you: this institution must be ended, and it must be ended immediately. If we lack the infrastructure and consensus to do this on a national level, then I call upon all who are reading this and own slaves to set the revolution into motion by setting your own slaves free.

And he finishes with a flourish:

There will come a day when there is true freedom in this nation, and true freedom around the world. There will come a day when all slavery is abolished, when all voices will be held in equal regard. There will come a day where neither race nor sex nor religion shall bar anyone from their inalienable rights. There will come a day when our descendants will look back and condemn what barbaric practices have inhibited even the least among us from living in the basic dignity and respect that we consign to all humanity. The advent of this day is not in question. Whether we shall be lauded as the heroes who brought it forth, or condemned as the villains who delayed it, that is the only uncertainty. Here and now, we are making history. I urge you to take part in the creation of a story you will be proud for countless generations to tell.

There’s….there are more emotions roiling inside of him, messy wishes that he doesn’t know how to articulate, but it’s as clear and as direct as he’s ever been, only ten pages, nothing like the hundred that Alexander would have wrote, but it’s not like anyone will read it. This is just for him. So it will be enough.

The next morning, he wakes late and the pamphlet is not there. He pushes it from his mind, tries to forget the words that he wished he could say, because he must have dreamed it. Laurens returns with breakfast and the bi-weekly update from Washington, and they go back to their lives as if the previous day had not happened.

~~~

Eight days later—eight days after being thoroughly trapped, having absolutely no news from the outside world, and Laurens acting stiff and formal around him, he is allowed out to have tea with the Schuyler sisters at their house. Aaron is immensely grateful for a break in the monotony, even though Laurens seems somewhat nervous about his guard actually having to do their jobs.

Angelica greets them at the doorway, the men take up positions around the house, Aaron and Laurens follow her into the parlor—she’s positively beaming the whole time—and then there is Eliza seated on a chaise, her hands arranged prettily in her lap, and she rises to greet them as well.

“I’ve missed you,” Eliza says, and then blushes as if it’s a bit too forward, but Aaron smiles back politely and says, “And I you, it almost feels like you are a mirage in this desert of dreary winter and locked doors. Oh, even a letter would have been like water upon a parched throat—”

“Alright, alright, break it up,” Laurens says. “Drama queen.”

Aaron shoots him a glare. “I’m not the one who tightened security protocols this week.”

Eliza just laughs. “Well, I’m very glad that they’ve been loosened, if only for the day.”

They settle down comfortably and a serving girl brings tea and biscuits, it’s better food than Aaron has had all week and when he says such makes a joke about smuggling some home with him, the sisters insist that they all stay for dinner. It’s so simple to just exchange pleasantries and quips, and the sisters’ high spirits are contagious. He and Laurens are more at ease than they’ve been since the…the second incident.

It’s during the flurry of rearrangement and table-setting and Laurens excusing himself to go to the bathroom that finally Angelica manages to pull Aaron aside and whisper to him, “I was wrong about you. Or, at least wrong to doubt you.”

Aaron composes his face. “Oh?”

“‘There will come a day where neither race nor sex nor religion shall bar anyone from their inalienable rights,’” Angelica says. “And ‘all voices held in equal regard’? I could kiss you.”

A lot of things fall into place all at once: why Laurens has been acting so cagey, why he hasn’t been allowed out or even any correspondence for a week, why Angelica and Eliza were so happy. Well, what’s done is done, if it’s published he might as well know how damage control is going.

“How has the circulation been going?” he asks. “I’ve been rather tied up all week, so it’s been difficult to get any news.”

“Everyone’s who’s anyone has read it,” Angelica says. “And the thing is, even though a lot of people are mad about it, no one is outright mad about it because of the huge surge of support amongst local women, who have been coming out to feed the troops or offer help with mending clothes or sometimes shelter for the winter, there’s talk of Martha Washington taking charge of some sort of organized women’s movement helping the war, and about 3,000 slaves have been freed already for the black battalion. It’s becoming the patriotic thing to do, to sacrifice your fortune for freedom, to put your full livelihood on the line if you’re a Southern gentleman who wants anything to do with politics. Congress is furious, politically, it’s a complete mess, but the momentum—“

And then Laurens is back and Angelica cuts off, and after a moment Eliza hurries into the room, a shawl thrown over her dress for the evening. She looks between Aaron and Angelica, then shakes her head slightly.

“Dinner is ready, shall we?”

~~~

It is the third week of February when Alexander comes back.

Aaron is not aware of this until Alexander pushes open the door of their room without so much as a knock. Aaron manages to turn around and catch sight of who it is and little else before Alexander and Laurens are shaking hands, some whispered words are exchanged, and Laurens leaves, closing the door on his way out.

“Alexander,” Aaron says, and his voice catches in his throat.

Aaron,” Alexander breathes, and he’s on Aaron like a wave crashing inland and obliterating everything in its path; his mouth is on Aaron’s, his teeth scrape Aaron’s lips then move to his neck even as his fists press into the small of Aaron’s back, pulling him in closer. The chair Aaron had been sitting on clatters to the floor behind him, and neither of the men take notice.

Alexander pushes in too close, Aaron overbalances, and they stumble backwards until the back of Aaron’s knees hit the edge of his bed. The pressure is relieved for a moment as Alexander tears his own coat off, then he’s back and his hands are tearing at Aaron’s clothes and his lips are everywhere and Aaron forgets how to breathe. He takes Aaron apart with the precision of a surgeon, and puts him back together with soft kisses afterwards, until they’re lying side by side with their limbs entangled, drifting in and out of sleep.

“Aaron?” Alexander says.

“I’m awake.”

“So tell me about this Eliza, this woman you’ve fallen in love with.”

Aaron tenses, and he hates himself for doing so, knows that Alexander will feel it immediately and will make assumptions. “I haven’t fallen in love with her, you’ve got it all wrong.”

Alexander rolls them both on their sides so that they’re facing one another, and places a hand on Aaron’s chest, right over his heart. “It’s alright, you can tell me, there’s nothing wrong with you—“

“She’s your wife!” Aaron blurts out, and blushes terribly for it. “You were supposed to be here to meet her but you weren’t and I befriended her at a party her father was throwing because I wanted to make sure that I introduced the two of you because she’s going to be your wife.”

Alexander lets out a startled chuckle. “So you’re not helplessly in love with her?”

“I’m—I was trying to—to create a good impression.”

“You sure you haven’t surrendered your heart to the first girl you met after I left?”

“No, Alexander, I am not in love with Eliza,” Aaron says. “Nor do I think I ever will be. She’ll always be your wife to me, even if you don’t end up marrying her, although I think you’ll really like her—“

Alexander cuts him off, shaking his head. “I’m not interested in you trying to set me up with some girl, Aaron.”

“You’ll change your mind one you meet her,” Aaron says. “The two of you fall madly in love. And she’s perfect for you, she makes you happy.”

“Maybe I am happy,” Alexander says.

“What, as a bachelor, never tied down so you can tousle with everyone?” Aaron says. “Trust me, you’ll outgrow it, you’ll want to settle down one day.”

Alexander pointedly ignores Aaron, staring into space over his head, and Aaron’s not quite sure where he’s gone wrong.

“You once told me that your son was the reason why you didn’t feel like death was always breathing down your back. He changes everything, he’s your world, Alexander. Settling down isn’t all bad.”

“What about you?” Alexander asks.

“I…had a wife and a daughter.”

“Had?”

“My wife will die barely a decade after I marry her, I’m not sure if I can…if I can stand to go through that again. And then my daughter…”

Alexander pulls him in closer, begins rubbing circles into his back. “You don’t have to talk about it.”

“Everyone who loves me dies,” Aaron says. “I’m not willing to…risk it this time.”

“People will talk if you don’t get married,” Alexander says.

Aaron sighs. “I don’t know, then. But I can’t lose another child, Alex, I don’t think I could survive that. I’d rather never have children than lose them. I’d rather never marry than…than lose her again.”

“You must have really loved her.”

“I did.”

“What was her name?”

“Theodosia.”

“Your wife, or your daughter?”

“Both, they were both named Theodosia.”

Alexander laughs. “I’m sorry, that’s just—“

“Philip, Angelica, Alexander Jr, James Alexander, John, William, Elizabeth, and Little Philip,” Aaron says. “You have no leg to stand on.”

“You know all the names of my children?” Alexander asks.

“Of course. I was the one that left them half…”

Half orphaned.

Alexander squeezes his hand.

“I would have supported them, if I had any money at all, but I couldn’t even do that,” Aaron says.

“Good thing no one’s dying this time around,” Alexander says. Then he shakes his head into the pillow. “Eight children. How did I even—?”

Aaron can’t bring himself to tell Alexander that Philip will die in a duel. It doesn’t matter, he can stop it from happening.

“Eliza was an incredible woman,” Aaron says. “Is. You should meet her.”

Alexander smiles. “Fine. I’ll meet her. Happy?”

Isn’t that the question. Here with Alexander, he can almost convince himself that he is, that there’s not a larger world outside of his forced captivity and that they won’t be able to hide here forever.

“I just want you to be,” he says.

“Well I am,” Alexander says. “But I’ll meet your Eliza anyway.”

~~~

Aaron introduces Alexander to Eliza. He smiles, she curtsies, he kisses her hand, and that should be that, right? Alexander is the center of their conversation over tea, as he is the only one who really knows how the northern campaign is going, until finally it’s Angelica who waves her hands and requests that they speak of somewhat less dry matters.

Eliza jumps in then, eyes focused firmly on her hands but smiling in the general direction of Aaron, as she talks about how she’s been inspired to try to design a system of universal education for both women and freed slaves, and her ideas for creating a volunteer network of young university students or graduates who can go from town to town and hold seasonal schooling for those in rural areas who are involved in farming. She falters when trying to explain how to find funding or motivation for such a program—but even a moderate amount of donations and a few volunteers could make the difference for many. She’s still staring at her lap when she’s finished, but the entire room is beaming at her. Aaron can see Alexander’s eyes in particular are alight, and feels a flash of relief. If there’s anything that Alexander can fall in love with, it’s political activism.

(He’s proud, too, that Eliza has read his pamphlet, that she hasn’t just read it but she’s designed an entire system that is quite frankly genius, he can already see incorporating programs into large universities like Princeton or King’s College that participating in volunteer teaching could earn applicants course credits, to encourage students to take part. It’s not just a pipe dream, it’s something that can work, something that was built because of words he wrote down on a page. Was this what Alexander meant about a legacy?)

The conversation continues throughout dinner, Alexander brings up dealing with the logistics of the potential migration either of freed slaves north, or accommodating their desires to go back to Africa, as well as whether or not some form of reparations could be made. Rather, Alexander insists that the next step was for reparations to be made to the freed slaves, as financial freedom is the easiest way to give them a universal choice as to what they wish to do with their lives instead of deciding it on a case-by-case basis, and it was only a question of convincing politicians and drawing the money from somewhere. He’s clearly itching for one of them to disagree with him so he can go into full-fledged debate mode, but everyone either agrees or knows Alexander too well to open that can of worms.

It is after dinner, when the men are about to excuse themselves to the library for fine scotch and conversations not meant for ladies’ ears (a practice Aaron will never not despise) and the ladies to do, well, whatever ladies do when the men have gone, that Angelica pulls Aaron aside to have words with him. They take a walk out back in the garden, for the night is less cold than previous ones have been.

Angelica cuts straight to the chase: “Are you going to ask for my sister’s hand in marriage, or aren’t you?”

Aaron looks at her blankly. “What?”

“You’ve been courting her for almost two months now,” Angelica says.

“We’re friends,” Aaron says. “I’ve been befriending her for two months now.”

“Bullshit,” Angelica says. “I’ve seen the way that you look at her when she smiles and you don’t think she’s looking. You write her letters every day, you’ve read every single trashy romance novel she’s recommended to you. If that’s not love—and even if you think you’re just being her friend, she doesn’t. She re-reads your letters and looks out the window and sighs every night, she’s like a lovestruck teenager, and everything you do is throwing oil on this flame. So what precisely do you think you’re doing?”

I’m repenting, Aaron thinks.

Something must show in his face, because Angelica sighs, then puts a hand on his arm. “Aaron, you are a lovely man. You seem to have upstanding morals. You have treated myself and my sisters as equals, with nothing but the upmost respect. You are interesting whenever you do decide to open your mouth. You’re not too sore on the eyes. You’re from a respectable family, you have money, and considering your abilities and the esteem that the public holds you in, I doubt that any wife or child of yours would ever go hungry after the war. My father loves you. If I weren’t married myself, I would ask for your hand. So let me ask you again, why have you not yet asked my sister to marry you? If you care about her—“

“I do care about her! I care about her an immense amount, she deserves to have the very best life, she deserves so much more than—”

“If you care about her, you’ll either ask for her hand or you’ll cut her off so she can move on,” Angelica says, eyes flashing. “I don’t want to hear excuses.”

Aaron stares at the ground. “The situation is more complicated than you could understand.”

“Then explain it to me,” Angelica says.

Eliza is an incredible woman whom I have grown very fond of over the course of getting to know her, and I want nothing more than for her to have the long and happy life that she deserves to have with my best friend, Alexander, you see, because I shot him and left her as a widow with seven children to care for and for almost fifty years she single-handedly fought to protect him as his political rivals destroyed his name and his legacy.

“I’ve had a vision where she is happily married to my best friend, Colonel Hamilton,” Aaron says. “As I care very much about the two of them, I do not wish to do anything that gets in the way of that.”

A parade of emotions flash across Angelica’s face: understanding, sympathy, surprise, then outrage.

“Colonel Hamilton?” she says. “As in the Alexander Hamilton right inside? Alexander 'the tomcat' Hamilton? You’re going to tell me that he doesn’t turn around the first chance he gets and cheats on her because he can’t keep it in his pants?”

Aaron swallows. “Well. Actually. There was a bit of a situation that can easily be avoided with the right warnings at the right times.”

“She deserves better than that,” Angelica says. “And she’s fallen in love with you. Are you really that obsessed with the future, that you can’t see what’s right in front of you?”

“I—“

“You don’t have to answer to me,” Angelica says. “Answer to her. Ask her to marry you or don’t, it’s your decision. But if you hurt my sister, I’m going to kill you.”

And then she turns around and stalks back inside, and Aaron is left saying to the empty night air, “Well. Alright. Nice talk.”

~~~

“Angelica is going to kill me,” Aaron says.

Alexander combs his hand through Aaron’s hair. “What now?”

“Angelica wants me to propose to her sister, or she is going to kill me. She threatened me after dinner.”

Alexander laughs. “She does strike me as quite terrifying when she wants to be.”

“You have no idea,” Aaron says. “So Eliza.”

“What about Eliza?”

“How do you like her?”

Alexander sighs, and rolls over, so that he’s practically on top of Aaron. “She’s perfectly nice. But I didn’t really feel a…spark.” His fingers trace abstract patterns on Aaron’s collarbone.

“Alexander…”

Alexander leans in for a kiss. “You know, maybe you should marry her.”

“You can’t be serious,” Aaron says.

“She seems to like you.” Alexander kisses him again. “She’s very sweet.” And again. “You’ve said it yourself, you’ll have to get married, or people will talk.”

“She’s—“

“Not my wife now,” Alexander says. “Come on, tell me you don’t like her at least in the slightest?”

“I’m not interested in her like that, Alexander—“

“So why aren’t you running off to your dear Theodosia?”

“Because I don’t—you know that I—I don’t want anyone else to die, and I don’t need anyone else to—“

“So if you marry, it’s going to be for convenience and image,” Alexander says. “Not because of interest. Elizabeth Schuyler is very convenient, will be good for your image, and you’ve already befriended her whole family.”

Aaron rolls away from Alexander. “Why are you attempting to convince me to marry this woman?”

“Maybe I just have your—our—best interests at heart.”

“I don’t know what game you are playing, Alexander, but—“

“I thought Eliza was very sweet,” Alexander says in a tone that brokes finality. “And might be very sweet for you. That’s all.”

~~~

Of course it can’t be all sunshine and roses, Washington sends Laurens with the next week’s memos and orders that he is to have a private meeting with Aaron tomorrow.

“You’re not allowed to take any form of credit for publishing that pamphlet,” is the first thing that comes out of Aaron’s mouth when he sees it. “I don’t care how much trouble I get in, he’s not sending you away too.”

Laurens assures Aaron that he hasn’t said anything yet. It does little to calm Aaron’s nerves. Neither does Alexander babbling about the irony of the new government trying to censor a publication that is literally about the importance of the freedom to state controversial opinions in the new nation, because it went on to state a controversial opinion. Alexander’s never really outright discussed the pamphlet with him, and it makes Aaron somewhat anxious. Did he miss something, did he misconstrue something, is there some fatal flaw that Alexander would have avoided? But he doesn’t want to broach the topic himself.

Laurens escorts him to the house and then to the large room that Washington has commandeered as an office, but takes him no further; it’s Aaron alone who pushes through the door, ready to face whatever consequences the grand sum of his actions have amounted to.

“Colonel Burr.”

“Your Excellency.”

There are pronounced circles under Washington’s eyes, and while neither a hair of his powdered wig nor stitch of his uniform is in disarray, Aaron gets the very strong impression that it is with monumental willpower alone that Washington is holding himself steady; he can see the weight of the entire nation outlined on Washington’s back.

He immediately feels guilty. Nothing that he’s been doing—from Lee to the pamphlet to his reticence in general—has accomplished anything other than to add to the immense burden this man has been carrying. He has not thought before his actions, and everyone around him is paying the price.

What’s he supposed to say? I’m sorry that my existence has caused so much more trouble than it’s worth? But Washington beats him to it:

“I’m proud of you, son.”

Aaron clutches the edge of his chair to avoid falling over. What?

“Martha and I have begun talking about making arrangements for Mount Vernon, we won’t be able to entirely transition until the war is over and we can properly supervise the process ourselves, but we want to eventually free all our slaves,” he says. “You’ve made some very good points. But more than that, you’ve made a movement. It’s very unpopular in certain circles, but no one wants to stand up and speak against it. The threat of going down in history as a villain, especially to men as concerned about their careers and their legacies as these men are, well, it is a very effective one.”

Aaron can’t tell if this is a compliment or a thinly veiled criticism. His words—what’s he’s done—the power of ten mere pages—

Ten mere pages from a seer’s pen, he realizes. It took one man, Constantine, a supposed seer in the right time and the right place and the right ranking, to start one of the greatest religious upheavals of history. He’s always known if he delved into the pool of the social influence he has as a seer, he could generate a lot of political pressure. He never imagined he’d be able to do this much.

No one else could do this much. The same way that the battles of Trenton and Princeton would not have meant nearly as much if he hadn’t “predicted” them. The same way that they have thousands more troops, that the very history of this war is being re-written.

He has all of that power.

Him.

It’s a terrifying thought and he wants none of it.

“We have 5,000 new soldiers in a freed black battalion that I am addressing Congress tomorrow in an advisory role for which commanders we assign to it, and what training and supplies we can send them. We will have an army in the South by springtime.”

But even if it was for all the right reasons, what if it wasn’t? There’s no one who could stop him. No one who could contradict him. Didn’t Washington see how…how dangerous he was? He couldn’t be…couldn’t be trusted, couldn’t be near any of that, this was not a cause for rejoicing, this was a huge threat to the security of the nation, the world, that Washington just couldn’t see—

Something must show in Aaron’s face, because Washington’s expression softens. “I remember when I was your age,” he says. “Desperate for glory, desperate to change the world. I do not blame you for taking your shot at it, for doing what others could not. What’s done is done, Aaron, and if this shapes the course of the war and the nation that we build afterwards, so be it.”

Aaron wants Washington to scream at him about what a fool he’s been, because why else would he have been locked away in his little room and told to never come out, he’s not a hero, he’s a threat and he’d rather people say it to his face than…than this perpetual limbo he’s been living in.

“Sir, when this season’s campaign starts again—“

“You will be resuming your duties by my side, although we will increase your guard detail.”

Aaron breathes out through his nose. “Sir, if it would be easier for you, I’ve written down all I know and have seen about the war, you would not have to deal with the political ramifications or direct inconvenience that is sure to arise about my—“

“Aaron.”

Aaron goes silent.

“If you are concerned for your safety—“

“I’m not, sir, I just…I don’t want to ruin everything again, considering how fragile the balance of orchestrating this war is and the politics behind founding a new nation, if my presence is going to alienate supporters I’ve already…I’ve already made such a mess, sir, and I don’t wish for you to have to continuously pay the price for it.”

Washington stares at him long and hard. “If you want to talk about the political implications, you must take into account the confidence you instill in the common soldier by being present and undaunted by the threats of this war. But I am not asking you to remain in my company for public image. It is very simple, Aaron, you are my aide-de-camp, you are under my tutelage and my protection, and I will not throw you to the lions in light of the first controversy that’s arisen around you. You still hold your job…and my esteem…if you so desire it.”

Aaron’s mind is whirling, weighing all of the pieces of what Washington’s been saying, all of the options that the General had. After the Pamphlet—after the success of the Pamphlet—to be seen by the men and Congress alike as moderately in support of what he’d done, of what he’d said, as a guiding hand to keep Aaron in check and direct his abilities and influence—that's the only role Washington can take that will not lead to ruin for the both of them. He’s forced Washington’s hand is what he’s done, and if there’s any genuine affection in Washington’s offer, it merely complements the political aspects of this decision.

Washington is an astute politician if nothing else, and an astute leader, he knows how to bring men together, knows how to play warring sides for unity. Aaron’s created this mess, but Washington can get them out of it. He just has to trust him.

“Yes, sir. Thank you, sir.”

~~~

The nights with Alexander seem to pass too quickly. March is a blur of meetings and planning, and come April, he will have to leave for the northern campaign and the Lord knows when they’ll meet again, and there’s a desperation that starts driving Alexander, constant motion, constant tension, even his slumber is restless. But he brushes it off, denies that it’s happening at all when Aaron confronts him. The same way that he’s brushing off Eliza. Whenever Aaron brings her up, the conversation ends in some way, shape, or form by Alexander shouting, “Well then you should marry her!” The situation gets even more complicated when General Schuyler comes down to visit, and Aaron and only Aaron is invited once more to the Schuylers’ and the context of the dinner makes it very clear that General Schuyler believes him to be courting his daughter, and tacitly approves. If Aaron doesn’t do something soon, he very well may have to marry Eliza.

He tries to weigh it in his mind, reasons for or against, but the fact that she is Alexander’s wife clouds any logical list that he attempts to compose.

Alright, he thinks to himself. So she’s Alexander’s wife.

Is there any other man besides him to understands that fact, who would step aside willingly when one or both of them realizes that they are in love with the other? Is there anyone else who can protect Eliza’s honor? Is there anyone else who would see her as an equal—a true equal—with the capacity to make her own decision, to change her own mind?

She deserves the best life. Is there anyone else who would be as devoted to preserving and safekeeping that, anyone who…

Anyone who owes it to her more?

“I’m considering marrying Eliza,” he tells Alexander that night, as they lie, limbs entangled, atop twisted sheets.

“Oh really?”

“Only because I’m the only person who will step aside if you come to your senses and realize that—“

“That we’re ‘meant to be’?” Alex snorts. “I don’t think so.”

“I won’t let you throw away your…your chance at—“

“Then don’t throw away yours,” Alexander says. “Marry the woman, she’s clearly enamored enough with you.”

“I can’t, not until the end of the war,” Aaron says. “But I will offer her my hand if she still wants me then.”

“Tell her before you go,” Alexander says. “Or she might not wait around for you.”

“What has she ever done to deserve such…callousness in the way you speak about her?” Aaron asks.

“Nothing,” Alexander says. “Only she’s all you want to talk about anymore, you lay in bed with me and it’s Eliza, Eliza, Eliza.”

“I’m trying to secure your future!”

“Yeah, well, maybe stop being so wrapped up in the future for once and be a human like the rest of us,” Alexander says.

Aaron turns away, and Alexander wraps an arm around him, and nestles up closer. “I love you,” he whispers into the dip of Aaron’s shoulder, the press of his lips on Aaron's skin muffling the words.

Aaron turns back to him, leans forward, so their foreheads are touching. “Alexander, I only want…I have only ever wanted you to be…happy, for…for everything to be enough and I know I’m not—“

Alexander shuts Aaron up by kissing him, and Aaron lets him. Quite frankly, it’s a lot easier than having this conversation right now.

~~~

Aaron asks to speak privately with Eliza the next time he is over with tea. They walk in the garden. It’s nearly April, and the flowers are blooming. He’s going to have to leave soon, and they both know it.

“Eliza, I…” he begins. She smiles encouragingly, so he continues. “I am aware of the extreme precariousness of my position, and with it the danger that I bring to all those who are close to me. I do not even know if I will survive this war, but…”

He takes a deep breath.

“I wanted to make my intentions clear to you that I would be honored for your hand in marriage if you still desire me by the time the war comes to an end. And as the practice of fathers giving away their daughters in antiquated and…and against the very ideals that…well. I was wondering if you wanted to, the two of us together that is, ask for his blessing.”

Eliza’s smile lights up the whole garden. “I would be delighted. Shall we now? Tell him of our plans, I mean. And Angelica. I’m aware of the importance of secrecy, but I want to scream it to the whole world!”

“Your father and Angelica sound like a very good start,” Aaron says, and they link arms and he tries to put as much force as he can behind his smile.

He owes this kind, resolute, and selfless woman everything, and he shall pay her back with his very life, if that is what it takes.

~~~

“I did it,” he tells Alexander that night.

“Good. Does that mean that you won’t talk about it anymore?” Alexander says.

“If that’s what you want,” Aaron says.

“That’s what I want,” Alexander says.

Neither of them can fall asleep, so they fall back upon one another with increased fervency, scratching solace from the angles and planes of one another’s bodies in a desperate attempt to stave off the fact that they’re running out of time.

“I love you,” he whispers to Alexander’s sleeping form far later in the night, tries out the words, the echo, rolls them around his mouth. It’s been so long since he’s come close to expressing such a sentiment to someone else.

“I love you,” he repeats.

Such a weak expression, such a weak attempt at capturing everything that they’d been to one another, at the fatal blows they’d exchanged.

“I love you.”

Whether or not it’s true is irrelevant. Because everything depends on it being enough.

Chapter Text

Towards the end of April, there are some skirmishes, but no serious battles quite yet. Through a combination of lucky guesswork and an extremely efficient and well-placed spy network of women, the American army is able to function as if it has been getting perfect predictions from its Seer.

Aaron is a nervous wreck. He’s very good at appearing composed, but now that Alexander has returned to the northern forces, Laurens is at his side constantly again, and nothing terrifies him more than the possibility that Laurens might be able to read him like an open book. The last thing he needs is Washington getting daily updates on exactly how not-okay he is.

Which Washington almost certainly is, because the General sits him down one day to try to calm his nerves, but it doesn’t do much good. Perhaps even does harm. The ground truth of the matter is that Aaron hasn’t had any more visions, and if the American forces suddenly start losing, Aaron’s credibility, the general support and confidence of the public, and the progress that has been made on the fronts of abolition and subverting sexism will go down the drain. So it’s very hard to comfort Aaron about any of this, because it’s true.

Then, on May 3rd, Lafayette returns with a French armada.

(Well, a very small armada, with an army of 7,000 soldiers, and a whole bunch of guns and ammunition.)

Aaron and Laurens both shout for joy when they see Lafayette, he runs over and embraces them in turn; Aaron first, they spin together from the momentum which Lafayette threw himself into his arms, then Lafayette kisses him full on the mouth, lets him go, and gives Laurens the same treatment.

I suppose it was inevitable, Aaron thinks. Have to collect the whole set.

When they arrive at the command tent, Rochambeau and Washington are already talking strategy. Aaron doesn’t wait to be introduced. “I have information, visions, that should give you a rough outline of the moves that Britain has planned for the now-global war, Spain is going to enter, they ought to officially declare war in June, but they’re—anyway, if you play this right you’ll be able to secure massive territorial gains by the end of the war. Anything I write will be outdated the moment you use it to change the future, but it—it can—“

Aaron suddenly realizes that the room has gone silent, and everyone is staring at him.

”You didn’t tell me your seer was so fiery,” Rochambeau says to Lafayette.

”He wasn’t when I left,” Lafayette says. “He has grown much in my absence.

Aaron wants to sink into the floor and die.

“Lieutenant General Rochambeau, if I might introduce you to Colonel Burr,” Washington says, and an aide near Rochambeau translates. Then to Aaron: “We were just talking about this season’s campaign, if you’d like to join us.”

Aaron takes one look at the maps on the table, and then he knows what’s going to happen. Not because of some vision, some supernatural flash of insight, but because he knows war, he knows Clinton’s tactics, and goddamnit, back when he was in Colonel William Malcolm's Additional Continental Regiment the first time around, he was good at this.

“Leave our growing army in the South in the South,” he says. “Train them. Britain will eventually send an army there to try to rally support from Loyalists and those who are upset over the growing abolition movement, and they will lose terribly. We want to downplay our strengths, draw them into specific positions—“ He looks frantically for a quill to scrawl all this down, before deciding it’s not fast enough. “We can set up the Battle of Yorktown, capture all of Cornwallis’s forces, if we play this right, the South isn’t the problem, what matters now is what Clinton’s going to do.” Aaron closes his eyes. It’s so, so obvious. “He’s going to draw his whole army, and whatever remains of Burgoyne’s forces, up to New York City. The next stage of this war—“ He swallows. “It’s going to be the Siege of New York City.”

The room is silent save the whispered translation to Rochambeau, but that drops off quickly. Everyone looks, well, shocked. He supposes that this is the most he has spoken at one of these meetings in months. But he’s excited, he’s proud, he’s sure in a way that he hasn’t been in months.

Finally, Washington says, “If everyone could clear the room, I would like to speak with Colonel Burr alone.” Rochambeau shoots Lafayette a questioning glance, and Lafayette just shrugs, but otherwise everyone exits without complaint.

Washington cuts straight to the chase. “How certain are you about everything you just said?”

“The battles in the South, if the British are manipulated into the correct positions, which they can be—I’ve seen those directly in visions. As for Clinton and New York—it’s his only chance, it allows him to rely on Britain’s naval power while he regroups and tries to draw us into disadvantageous positions and concentrate on the Southern campaign. We need to make sure we control the Hudson, because that bottlenecks their flow of supplies to what they can get in from New York Harbor. And while even with the French it’ll be very hard to set up a full blockage, we can still harass—“

“Aaron!” Washington’s voice cracks like a whip.

Aaron shuts up.

“I’m just trying to make sure,” Washington says carefully, “that you aren’t going out on a limb right now because you’re worried about how you are perceived by the French, or any misplaced notions about the frailty of our alliance.”

“No sir,” Aaron says. “I’m sure, sir. This is—this is the one thing I’m good for. Please, let me do this.”

Washington sighs. “Alright, have Laurens call the others back, we’ll pin down numbers and movements. How long will it take you to write down what the French should expect from the larger war?”

“A day, two at most,” Aaron says. “I’ll write it in French, so we won’t have to risk any mistranslations or information leaks.”

Washington nods. “Of course, of course. If there’s anything else you can think of—“

“Summer in the city,” Aaron says. “It’s never pleasant. The water supply especially can be…very bad. I’ve seen…I’ve seen outbreaks of malaria—“ He tries not to flinch, the Manhattan Water Company disaster was on his head, “—and yellow fever. Sickness will strike if we put the city under siege, and Clinton’s going to evacuate his troops, if things in the South go well for us, he’ll head towards Canada. Then—“ Honestly, Aaron isn’t sure what will happen next, then it will probably be winter. “Then that’s this season’s campaign.”

Washington looks at him patiently, like he’s waiting for him to stop speaking.

The humiliation rushes back, god, what happened to thinking before he opened his mouth? This is not my place, he thinks. Alexander should be here, not me, Alexander is sure when he talks, Alexander doesn’t let anyone scare him into silence, not me.

“You’ve done well,”Washington says. “There will be plenty of time to sort out these details. We need to coordinate with Rochambeau right now.”

“Right. Yessir. I’ll write those up those plans for the French, sir.” He goes to the door, fetches Laurens before he can dig himself deeper. He doesn’t know what’s come over him, he genuinely doesn’t know what’s come over him, what’s coming out of his mouth, what—

He’s acting like Alexander. He hasn’t just stolen Alexander’s position at Washington’s side, hasn’t just stolen Alexander’s wife, but he’s acting like Alexander. Is that what this all is, is he being forced to re-live his life in Alexander’s shoes as a punishment from God for what he’s done? Or is there no grand scheme, no intelligent design, but that time is a river that cannot be removed from its bed, and as Aaron has displaced Alexander from his role, he himself is being molded to fit it?

The thought makes him sick to his stomach, is that all he is, some puppet?

Talk less, he thinks. That’s all he can do, talk less. Wait. Find a way to give Alexander his role back, and then, for the love of God, not shoot him.

“Are you alright?” Laurens asks. “You look like you’ve just seen a ghost.”

The room is clear; Aaron must have been lost in his own thoughts for the entirety of the meeting. He shakes his head.

“I’m fine. It’s just…I have so much work to do.”

~~~

It all happens exactly as he said it would.

The minimal amount of information that he can actually provide to the French gives them all the edge that they need, and they are dominating the global war. Every week or so Laurens hands him another letter from a prominent French figure or nobleman praising his efforts, and apparently the King wants to award him some medal, and if Lafayette is to be believed, an honorary title. Or maybe not honorary. He’s a little worried that the French are going to invite him to visit and then just never let him go. It’s a little strange to him, that this whole country he’s never met is so enamored with him, but he supposes that he is the living, breathing fulfillment of the revenge fantasies they’ve been harboring for centuries.

Everything in the South goes according to plan—their army grows, and is prepared, and they lure Lieutenant Colonel Campbell’s forces into Savannah before laying siege to the city. Of course, unbeknownst to Campbell, local militia, women, and freed slaves were already positioned in the city acting like perfectly normal residents, a built in Trojan horse for when D'Estaing and Lincoln attack.

In New York City, it’s malaria that kills nearly a thousand troops, and hundreds of civilians. Clinton evacuates to Canada, clearly fearful that more traps have been set in the South via the Seer’s prescience. Alexander, with General Greene’s forces, swoop down from the north to join Washington and take the city, capturing 2,000 British soldiers and providing much-needed relief to the ailing populace.

Alexander is with him for the winter months, and they get down to work, trying to extrapolate what Britain’s moves overseas will be. They make a good pairing: Alexander, it turns out, is a tactical genius, able to make leaps of reasoning, and Aaron knows instinctively—no, Aaron guesses, but they’re educated guesses, he tells himself—Aaron guesses whether they're right or wrong and builds his advice on their framework. He’s studied this war, he’s had decades to observe British admirals and their tactics—and either way, the French keep winning, so the combination of informed guesswork and luck must be holding.

There are two options for the 1779 season. Clinton could try a sort of a pincer move, invade down from Canada and up from the South, but with the chain of forts that the Americans won in the Saratoga campaign, and the fact that at this point, the American forces outnumber his, this seems very unlikely. Or, he could try to fortify his position in the South, entrench himself, and wait for reinforcements from Britain. All he needs to do is win a few key victories to prove to the world that America’s seer isn’t unbeatable, and he has a chance of turning the tide.

Without any free ships, it will take the larger American forces weeks to travel from New York to the deep South. The combination of Aaron’s uncertainty and the fact that Clinton’s plans will change if all of Washington’s forces move, Clinton is able to capture Charlestown and win decisively at Waxhaw Creek.

Aaron has a flash of insight. “Draw them further inland,” he says. “They’ll be cut off from their supplies and trapped.” But they need to feel like they’re winning for that to happen, and truth be told, they are winning, Aaron knows nothing of what battles are to come or how to win them. It’s a chaotic shitshow, it’s the middle of June by the time all of Washington’s troops are in place, and by that time, the heat is grueling. More men have been felled by heat stroke than in battle. The only solace of it all is that Alexander is once more by his side—and that’s only because the demand for aides who can translate correspondence to and from French is so high, that Alexander is even busier than him.

At least their chain of local militias and units of freed slaves are cutting supply lines, harassing the British quite effectively. At least they’re starting to establish an information network, fight to a draw at Camden. Confidence begins to wane. Then after day in and day out of planning, they win a crushing victory at King’s Mountain, defeat a full third of Cornwallis’s army in an hour, and the faith of the American people comes rushing back. Lure the British inland, they realize, and it'll be worth the supposed losses it takes to do that. As if Aaron hasn't been saying that for weeks and weeks. The local militias re-double their efforts, the army is revitalized. But it’s not enough, the last two months have demonstrated exactly how fragile public opinion really is, and both Aaron and Washington are now exceptionally aware of how important not losing anything is.

Aaron stares at the fabric of the roof of his tent—his and Alexander’s tent—as it’s “too dangerous” for him to sleep in the open like all the other men, despite the overwhelming heat. Alexander never gets back before two, three in the morning each night. Meanwhile, Aaron doesn’t sleep anymore so much as he slips in and out of nightmares, he knows that he wakes up screaming more often than not, as the old visions from Monmouth haunt him. It can’t be good for the nerves of the men guarding him, that the man who can see the future is waking up screaming every night, but the Americans keep winning all their skirmishes. Aaron never screams after Alexander enters the tent; for some reason, the younger man’s body wrapped around his own is the one thing that calms him. He remembers, almost fondly, the days when he knew that nothing would kill Alexander, because Alexander had to be alive to show up to the dueling ground. Now none of their futures are assured.

It’s after a week straight of nightmares about being captured by the British at Monmouth and being tortured for American plans that Aaron wakes up babbling he knows nothing, he only sees people’s deaths when he touches them, and it hits him. He doesn’t need to wait around for a vision, he can stitch one together from his actual abilities.

Aaron, will you promise me something? Don’t—don’t ever do this to yourself again.

Well. Alexander’s broken half the promises he’s made, why shouldn’t Aaron break this one?

He doesn’t realize that he’s still sitting up, chin resting on his hands, when Alexander returns to the tent. Alex says, “Aaron, are you alright?” and Aaron starts, tries to wipe the guilty expression off his face. It’s hard to see in the dim lighting anyways, he’s probably safe.

“Fine, just thinking,” Aaron says.

“Same nightmares as usual?” Alex asks.

“Yeah,” Aaron says.

Alexander reaches out to sling an arm around Aaron’s shoulder and draw him to his chest, and Aaron flinches back and curls into himself. Alexander instantly goes still.

“Have you had another vision?”

Aaron laughs. “No. I haven’t. That’s the whole problem.”

“Then what’s changed?” Alexander says, watching Aaron closely.

He has to tread carefully here. He settles on obfuscating. “I remembered something. From my…my long vision, my old life, whatever you want to call it. Ways that I can figure out what’s going on without having visions. And end this war.”

Alexander is silent for a long time, then he says, “You mean you want to go around shaking everyone’s hands until you’ve seen enough visions of death to piece together where battles will be.”

It’s Aaron’s turn to be silent.

“Tell me that I’m wrong,” Alexander says.

“You’re wrong,” Aaron says.

“You’re lying,” Alexander says.

Aaron sighs. “Yes. I’m lying.”

Alexander reaches towards him again, and this time Aaron lets him, lets him manhandle Aaron until they’re both half-sitting, half lying down, and Aaron is propped up on his chest. Aaron can hear Alexander’s heartbeat, and despite himself, he begins to relax.

“You would do it,” he says. “You’d be brave enough, you’d do it without hesitation.”

“You think this is about bravery?” Alexander says.

“It’s about doing what needs to be done,” Aaron says.

“Except this doesn’t need to be done!” Alexander says. “You don’t need to destroy yourself—“

“How many men need to die before you realize—before everyone realizes—that it—that it’s worth it—that it really is worth it—“

And fuck, Aaron is terrified, he’s trembling, he remembers…he remembers throwing up, he remembers blacking out, he remembers how it took him months to recover, but this isn’t about him.

“And what if you die?” Alexander says quietly.

Aaron closes his eyes, breathes out through his nose. Isn’t that the question. “I am more than willing to die,” he replies, his voice even softer than Alexander’s, and the moment he says it he knows that it’s true. He’d gladly crucify himself if it could endow even a morsel of redemption for his sins.

I am more than willing to die.

Alexander’s grip tightens around him. “But I need you alive.” Alexander’s voice is simply wrecked, and for the first time Aaron’s ever known him, past and future alike, he sounds like he’s on the verge of tears. “I need you alive,” he repeats.

Aaron lets one of his hands drift to Alexander’s, and interlaces their fingers. He remains silent, though. What can he possibly say? The only way I can know that you’ll live, is if I die. Alexander wouldn’t particularly go for that. That’s the problem, isn’t it, everyone is more than willing to die, no one is willing to let go.

Aaron’s being selfish, he knows he’s being selfish, he knows from experience how much more terrible it is to be the one who outlives the other, but what had he ever accomplished in his life? A grand total of nothing. Alexander could accomplish more in a year than he could in a decade, if the world could only have one of them, it would be better off with Alexander.

He becomes aware that the tent has fallen into silence, and Alexander’s breathing has evened out. He tries to match his own to the rising and falling of Alexander’s chest. Alexander will survive, he could survive anything, Alexander will move on.

~~~

Aaron wakes up to sunlight streaming into an empty tent the next morning. It must be past ten, and well past when he usually is woken, so he’s surprised that he was let sleep in. He pulls his uniform on, and steps outside as quickly as possible.

Laurens is waiting for him.

“What’s going on?” he asks.

Laurens hands him a pair of gloves, very nice gloves—they’re clean, long, there are no holes. Aaron feels his stomach drop. “I’m just escorting you to the General’s tent this morning.”

Oh no. Oh no. What has Hamilton done.

“This is not necessary,” Aaron says.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen Alexander as upset as his was this morning,” Laurens says. “You do know that you can talk to us, instead of letting yourself get desperate enough to—”

He desists when he catches sight of Aaron’s face, and thank God for that, because Aaron is upset enough at his own cowardice and doesn’t particularly need it passed around the entire camp. Everyone is giving them a wide berth, though, and Aaron cuts off his wayward thoughts before he can even consider the damage that might have been done. He steels himself. He’s ready. He can face Washington, Washington might even agree to his plan.

His resolve melts the moment Laurens holds open the tent flap and he ducks under it and straightens up and sees Washington’s face. The General looks old, tired, a little bit weary.

“Sir,” Aaron says, keeping his chin held high despite himself.

“Son,” Washington says, and Aaron knows that he’s lost before this can even begin.

Alexander would talk his way out of this. But Aaron has nothing that he can explain, no perfect words, no unshakeable spirit. He never wanted to be in this war, he was forced to drop out last time, he’s not particularly surprised that this particular brand of failure will mark him this time as well.

So he looks at the ground instead. Anything not to see the disappointment on Washington’s face.

“I would like to apologize you to,” Washington says. “We have taken little to no heed of what the pressure of this war might do to you. We’ve put far too great a burden on your back. You always seem so…aloof of the wear and tear that your duties might bring to you, but I realize now it is because you keep your cards very close to your chest.”

“Sir?”

“I’m sending you home, Aaron,” Washington says gently. “Where you can rest and recover.”

“Home?”

“General Schuyler has a very nice estate in Albany,” Washington says. “It’s nowhere near British forces, and easily defendable. And I believe you had become close with Elizabeth Schuyler? The family certainly sees you as one of them, and has offered to take you in.”

His tone brokes finality. Not that Aaron has the spirit to argue, shame pounds in his ears with each heartbeat.

“Laurens has already gathered your things, you leave immediately,” Washington says.

Aaron finally forces himself to speak. “Yessir. Please tell…please give Alexander and all the other aides-de-camp my regards.”

Washington smiles. “Of course.”

And then Aaron is dismissed, Laurens is holding open the tent flap again, and they’re leaving before he even has the chance to say goodbye.

~~~

Thus Aaron and his guard are sent secretly to General Schuyler’s mansion up in Albany. They’re forbidden any correspondence or news from the outside world, to ensure their location isn’t compromised. Eliza and Peggy are there—Angelica is out at John Church’s side, running his finances, after having a very pointed conversation with him about equality and the fact that she is clearly better at it—but the two of them make perfectly lovely hostesses. There’s good food, there are clean, soft beds, there’s a whole library filled with enough books that even Aaron hasn’t read them all.

He still wakes up screaming most nights, clutching the sheets, searching desperately for Alexander, before he realizes he’s alone. But eventually, he relaxes into the comforting lull of domesticity. He plays chess in the library with Peggy, and she very quickly proves that she is almost exactly as good as Aaron. She’d be far better, really, if he didn’t play mind games about predicting her moves, but he needs an edge somewhere. It becomes an afternoon ritual for everyone to place bets on the outcome of the matches.

Aaron tries to keep a respectable distance from Eliza, and it’s fairly easy at first, because everyone is treating him like a spooked animal, but eventually Eliza takes to curling up next to him on the couch in the library while he reads, sometimes with her own book, sometimes reading his alongside him. He drapes his arm around her shoulder one time and realizes it’s a lot more comfortable, and then suddenly they’re always sitting like that, and they take turns for who holds the book.

Comfortable. Aaron can see himself slipping into this so easily, letting them orbit closer and closer until they’re one unit, letting himself feel…at ease. He cares for Eliza, he realizes, he cares for her deeply, and the world isn’t “love” or “don’t love.” They have something that reminds him of the quiet days he spent with Theodosia, not the days when he looked at her and felt like the butterflies in his stomach could pick him up and fly him away, but the days when they just passed one another sugar for their tea, the Sundays they’d make breakfast together in the kitchen, having given all the servants the day off, the days that they’d spend hours quietly reading in the library, the warm body lying quietly on the other side of the bed that they’d always be for each other, the quiet ear and sound mind when one or the other needed to talk. They coexisted.

Aaron and Eliza coexist very well.

He’s not falling in love with her, he knows that feeling, he knows it very well and he won’t, he can’t. But there’s a small warmth in his chest when she comes into the room and smiles at him, and that’s enough, and even though it scares him, he smiles back.

~~~

Fall comes, and it is gorgeous. They get to watch the full cycle of the leaves flushing gold, orange, red, and brown, and crisp rain freshens the air and washes away the stickiness of the summer. The stars are bright and clear at night.

He and Eliza start taking walks in the late afternoons, touring the grounds or the nearby woods, and Laurens and his men are always discrete enough that it feels like the two of them are alone. Only one day, they don’t turn back as it begins to get dark, and Aaron glances at her, a question, and she just takes his hand, an answer.

They reach the lake just as the sun is setting.

There are low clouds above the horizon, so the sky is flushed pink and deep purple, the reds and oranges fade out as the molten sun sinks below the hilly horizon and night begins to creep in from behind. The lake itself is as still as glass, and it acts as a mirror, and for a moment, just a moment, the whole world is so beautiful that there are tears in Aaron’s eyes.

“We used to come here when we were children,” Eliza says. “Angelica, Peggy, and I. We used to swim during the summer, watch our father and brother try to fish, lie out here at night and count the stars. They all forgot about it when we grew older, but I still come back here. It’s like every rock has a memory, the one where I scraped my knee, the one where we’d always go diving off of, the flat ones we’d lay ourselves onto to dry off in the sun.”

He squeezes her hand.

“I used to sneak out at night sometimes,” she says. “Try to imagine what my life would be like. Angelica liked to play it like she was the only one who was expected to marry rich, but we all were. I used to dream about what I’d do if I didn’t have to, if I had the freedom to do whatever I wanted. But really, all I wanted to do was start a family. Live somewhere quiet. Raise children, get to see them growing up, get to…to be a part of all of those lives and hopes and dreams, to have a quiet little house that everyone called home and would come back to at the end of the day. Not that I—I still want to—to travel, maybe, to do things, to teach or—or the abolition movement, I want to be involved, but.” She laughs. “At the end of the day, all I really wanted was the raise a family.”

“To live under your own vine and fig tree,” Aaron says. “Or that’s the fancy biblical term, I guess. I know the feeling. I—I never wanted to be involved in this war, not really. Or to be the…sole focus of the public eye for so long. All I really wanted was…was peace, was to live in a free nation, a society that…that didn’t need me. So that I could just…run a small law practice, maybe, have a family, have some semblance of a normal life. Be at peace.”

“I guess you never really did have a choice about all of this,” Eliza says. “With your visions.”

“We can make it happen,” Aaron says. “The future isn’t set in stone.”

“Run away together?” Eliza says, and she laughs again. “I’m not sure if my father could take another heartbreak like that. Especially since he already approves of you.”

“It’s the thought that counts,” Aaron says. “But think about it, after the war, you and me, a small law practice to support us, and little house in Harlem. A family. Nothing else pressing that we need to do, other than live our lives.”

“But what about everyone who can’t?” Eliza says softly. “What about all of the freedoms that you wrote about?”

“I guess that’s why this is a dream,” Aaron says. “In a world that already has freedom. I’ve just seen…I’ve seen people’s duties, their ambitions, their obsession with legacy destroy them and everyone around them, I won’t let that…I won’t let that happen to any family of mine.”

“I’d stand by your side,” Eliza says. “Every step of the way, for every battle you’d fight, I’d stand by your side.”

“You shouldn’t have to,” Aaron says. “You shouldn’t have to give up your dreams for anyone.”

“Maybe I want to share a new dream,” Eliza says. “Build one that’s a little less selfish.”

“I’m not the hero you think I am,” Aaron says. “I’m not really the hero anyone thinks I am.”

“General Washington sent a letter along with Laurens, explaining about your…visions,” Eliza says. “The fact that you’re holding my hand right now, the fact that…what you’ve done for the war, what you dream for yourself and for this country, it’s incredible. That you’re even here…it’s a miracle. Stay alive, that would be enough.”

He lets out a shaky breath, he looks at Eliza, and he realizes…yes. Yes, he does want to stay alive, he wants the chance to…to do something he can be proud of, not even a legacy, just to make at least one person’s life better.

“Thank you,” he says. Then: “I love you.”

It’s not even entirely a lie.

Eliza smiles, that same sweet, earnest smile that he’d originally complimented all those months ago in the ballroom. “I know,” she says. She leans into him as a breeze picks up over the lake. It’s a simple act, sharing warmth, but it feels like…a lot more.

Alexander.

Alexander or Eliza, he couldn’t give himself to both of them, couldn’t atone for both of their lives, and both fate and Alexander himself have pushed him towards Eliza, is it so wrong for him to…to not fight this? To not say no to this, to allow himself this one—he’s not even sure what this is anymore, he just knows that there’s no way out of this mess without someone ending up heartbroken.

It won’t matter until the end of the war, but surely Alexander knew—surely he knows—that the moment either of them got married, it would have to end. Whatever they have, whatever they had, it was never something that could last. Friends, partners, allies—that’s all they can be to one another. And he’ll be the best friend Alexander has ever had, he’ll make it up to him in other ways, surely the tomcat couldn’t have expected their little fling to be anything more?

He wraps an arm around Eliza. This is the path he is on now, he has no choice but to follow it.

~~~

He spends the winter in Albany with the Schuylers. Angelica returns and trounces everyone in chess, and on clear days, she insists Laurens and the men take her and her sisters out to a shooting range and teach them how to shoot. Angelica is a quick study, Peggy throws herself into it with enthusiasm, Eliza seems to find it distasteful but is the best of all three of them. Aaron usually bundles up and comes out with all of them, but brings a book and reads.

“Take a shot!” Peggy says one day. “Join us, come on, doesn’t America’s great seer need to know how to protect himself?”

Laurens looks over at Aaron quickly. “He hasn’t spent very much time on the field,” Laurens says. “For his own safety, he might not be comfortable—“

“Maybe I just don’t need the practice,” Aaron says, and Angelica and Eliza chip in with “oooooooh”’s.

Laurens hand him a Brown Bess. “Do your worst.”

Aaron takes a moment to get used to the feel of the weapon, its balance, its weight. He checks and makes sure it’s loaded properly, and fiddles with the trigger. Then, when he’s ready, he points it at the bullseye and casually hits it straight in the center.

He’s always been a good shot.

“I’m not entirely useless,” he says, and then he goes back to his book, a slight smile on his face.

~~~

In April, Washington sends for him. The war ought to be over soon—ought to be decisively over soon—but for some reason, it’s stretching on. Perhaps because King George doesn’t want to admit defeat, perhaps because England is afraid of losing holdings across the world to Spain and France, but either way, it stretches on, and the longer it stretches on, the more expensive it will be. Washington wants it to end now.

Aaron’s greatest use as a Seer is the advice he can give to the French and the Spanish, because overseas losses will be what pressures British to end the war and cut their losses. He’s flying by the seat of his pants on this one, but it’s all working so far, so he tries not to think so much as he writes out letters full of tactical advice and half-baked “predictions.” You’re not a liar if you’re right. And he keeps being right.

The Americans push Clinton’s forces northward, towards Virginia, because the French can then swoop in with a naval fleet in Chesapeake Bay, and they can end the war decisively at Yorktown. But they’re missing something, they’re missing a spark, Aaron wants to give them an edge more than just “the war is supposed to end at Yorktown.”

So he takes a page out of Hamilton’s book, and he writes.

An open letter to George the Third, by the Grace of God, King of Great Britain, France, and Ireland, Defender of the Faith, and so forth.

Your Highness, I hope this letter finds you in good health. Despite our estrangement, many of us do not look upon you or your people spitefully; for many of us have family ties or friendships that stretch strong across the sea, despite the fact that it had seemed too far for the basic rights of English citizens to span. But this is all water under the bridge, for our nation wants nothing more than to cultivate friendly foreign relations with yours.

I say “our nation” because it seems rather evident to the rest of the world, at least, that we are an independent and self-governing nation of states that has successfully repulsed your attempts to subdue us. We have defeated your army, sir, and to put it frankly, we have done so quite conclusively. Your troops no longer occupy our soil, they are panicking and retreating from the very edges of it, and there is nothing you can do to to enforce your will upon us. We have never asked for particularly much from you, merely recognition, and respect of our territory. Nothing more than what two peacefully coexisting nations ought to grant to one another.

What I find perplexing, Your Majesty, is why you insist on continuing this war despite the fact that you have lost. We are no longer engaging in a fight for our independence; we have already won our independence. Our conflict ought to be concluded, for it is concluded on our soil; you merely insist on remaining at war with our ally France. If I might give you some advice begotten from my power as a seer: you have already lost a considerable amount of territory to France and Spain, if you end the war right now. If you choose to continue the war, that amount will only increase. You face humiliation oversees and bankruptcy at home. Please, Your Majesty, for you own good, consider your people and their wishes. Refusing to do so is what got you into this mess in the first place.

I hope that I can see you an express my regards in person at the peace negotiations.

Respectfully Yours,
Aaron Burr

The Americans love the letter. Alexander loves the letter. Aaron is pretty sure that he couldn’t make it more bitingly sarcastic if he tried; in fact, he is sure, because he tried.

King George, on the other hand, throws a fit of rage so colossal that Aaron is surprised that they did not hear him screaming from across the sea. Apparently, there were rooms wrecked, tables overturned, a small fire, a member of Parliament defenestrated, and then he refused to come out of his royal bedchambers for a week. Whether or not this is an exaggeration matters little; what does matter is the fact that he sends Clinton orders that the war is meaningless, he doesn’t care about the colonies, he doesn’t care about territory in other British holdings overseas, the only thing he wants is Aaron Burr’s head on a plate, and Clinton is to focus the full might of the entire British army and navy upon this single goal.

Fight until you’re all dead, I don’t care, spies report the orders read. I want Aaron Burr dead and damned to hell, then and only then can this bloody war be over.

The British are backed to the sea at Yorktown, though, because they were expecting to retreat and try to find somewhere to land again. Clinton changes his tactics at the last minute to heed the King's orders, brings his navy in, and the French are able to win decisively in Chesapeake bay and set up a blockade. The fighting stretches on for nearly a week, but the American forces are more gleeful, more inspired, than they have ever been, and the redcoats are somewhat miffed to be dying simply because the King is mad at the Seer. It's their turn to be outgunned, outmanned, and outmaneuvered. They fight on, but there is a weariness in their movements.

Except the tide keeps turning, they get tired, they wane, they get messy, the dead bodies pile up and Aaron wants to be sick because this is more of a massacre than a battle, American forces drunk with the taste of oncoming victory rushing forward and slaughtering battalion after battalion of British troops, the fact that Clinton seems to be taking the order of fight until every last one of you are dead seriously—

After a week of fighting, a young man in a red coat stands on a parapet. They lower their guns as he frantically waves a white handkerchief. And just like that it’s over. Parliament has sent word that King George has been overruled, they wish for peace negotiations immediately with America, as well as eventual negotiation of a worldwide treaty.

Alexander is alive. Laurens is alive, they’re all alive, and they watch as the British troops evacuate and they’ve done it, they’ve really done it, it’s only 1780 and the war is over, they’re free, women and freed slaves flood the streets alongside the soldiers, everyone’s drinking, laughing, crying—they did it. It’s over.

We won.

Chapter Text

The wedding is very small, a private affair. It happens in April, just as the flowers start blooming. Sally is too unwell to make the journey from Litchfield to Albany, so Aaron has no blood-family there. Laurens and his guard stick around, though. Those twenty men have quite grown on him—he knows how Harrison likes to joke about all the drinking and other wild misadventures he’d had back in the day, but he misses his wife and loves his four-year-old son more than anything in the world, and thinks of no one before them. How Williams will never eat salt on his food, and Milton will clean everyone’s weapons every night because he can’t stand things out of place, and Reeder just wants to buy his mother a nice house so she can live in peace and comfort far away from her in-laws, where she’s been staying since the death of her husband. Bergeson used to raise hounds before the war; Trent worked in a brewery and has promised them beer whenever they visit. To which Harrison replied that he’d be broke and his business run to the ground within a week.

These men have been with him day in and day out for nearly four years now. They’re almost a family in and of themselves, and Aaron realizes with a start—because the utter lack of privacy has been difficult to get used to—that he’s going to miss them when they’re gone.

Lafayette travels up from Philadelphia to throw Aaron what is probably supposed to be the prenuptial celebration of the century, he even snags Hercules Mulligan from New York City for backup, but it’s rather difficult as Albany is not a bustling metropolis and Aaron, as Lafayette puts it, is about as excitable as a wet fish. He would have been perfectly content studying in the library—he has a bar to pass now, after all—but his reservations eventually melt and he laughs and gets dizzy drunk and belts terrible songs along with the rest of them.

(Laurens deals with practically carrying him home, and forcing him to drink more water despite his protests of but I'm supposed to be getting drunk, didn't you hear?, arranges him so that if he throws up in his sleep he won't choke on it, and then proceeds to wait and watch him just in case. Lafayette skips out on that part, preferring to go get drunker with Mulligan, and everyone can hear them enter the house at a little past four in the morning, hitting furniture and singing the same songs as when Laurens, Aaron, and most of the guard left them.)

The day of the wedding arrives in what feels like a blink of an eye. Laurens is Aaron’s best man, Angelica is the maid of honor, Mulligan insists on getting to throw flowers, Peggy and Lafayette argue about who gets to be the ring bearer until Eliza puts her foot down and says each of them get to carry one. Aaron is a bit confused about what all this fuss is over, until Angelica pulls him aside and tells him that everyone just wants to make him feel like he has a family here. He has to excuse himself, because he tears up a little at that.

It’s a simple ceremony, but it’s beautiful in its simplicity. Eliza is glowing and unquestionably the most stunning person in the room in her white gown, but Aaron can’t look anywhere except her smile. “I do,” she says; “I do,” he replies, and then it’s over. He’s kissing her. Her lips are very soft.

“I now pronounce you husband and wife.”

Alexander.

Alexander is down in Philadelphia with Washington, frantically translating important correspondence to and from French, and he sends a cursory note that he is far too busy to get away.

Alexander.

Aaron had wanted to talk to him after Yorktown, wanted to cut it off cleanly, because the war was no longer an excuse for their desperation, but it was hard to remember that with victory sweet on his tongue and Alexander’s body wrapped around his. And they’d fucked all winter as Washington moved them all to Philadelphia to deal with Congress again, they’d gripped each other tight enough to leave bruises and pressed every inch of their skin together, they’d shared breath like they were running out of time. But come February, the roads were clear enough for Aaron to travel to the Schuyler mansion, and he and Alexander had talked, if it could even be called that. Aaron had stammered that the war was over and he was about to get married and they really ought to grow up and stop sleeping around as if there were no consequences, Alexander had looked shocked and hurt and Aaron had tried to clarify that he really did love Alex dearly, how Alex really was his best friend, but hadn’t they both gone into this fling knowing that it was never going to last? Times change, responsibilities come, and even if they didn’t the two of them would never be able to actually remain together, not when they have their reputations and careers to think of—that was about when Alexander had stormed from the room, and they hadn’t really spoken since. Aaron gets a terrible headache every time he tries to think about it, so he’s stopped trying.

Alexander.

His name itself is a headache, and Aaron misses him, Aaron misses him dearly, with all of his pride and passion and possessiveness, he misses how they worked together, he misses how they fit together. He doesn’t understand why Alexander is so upset, it was only sex.

“Alexander will come around,” Laurens says, when Aaron asks him if he did the right thing. He pointedly doesn’t answer the question of whether or not it was the right thing, though.

No one can possibly understand what I’m going through, Aaron thinks. They don’t know what I’ve seen, what I’ve done. They don’t understand how this is all for the best.

He won’t let Alexander Hamilton destroy Eliza’s shot at happiness.

~~~

Angelica gives the toast after dinner. Aaron misses most of it because he’s concentrating on the warmth of Eliza’s hand in his, happy, happy, this is supposed to be the happiest day of your life, the mantra pounds in his head.

“To your union!” Angelica says.

“To the union!”

“To the Revolution!” Lafayette adds. Angelica glares at him.

“And the hope that you provide,” she continues.

The hope that they provide. To women, to slaves, to everyone suffering under oppression. This is bigger than him. He has to remember that, this is bigger than him, this is all bigger than him.

“May you always be satisfied,” Angelica says, and she winks at Aaron, a reference, he supposes, to their very first conversation.

Then the party begins: drinking, dancing, more and more rowdy jokes from the men in the corner who are doing more drinking than dancing. Some of their wives have come up for the party, but many of them are either unmarried or have small children that could not make the journey, so they make up for it by enjoying the free alcohol and one another’s company. Aaron and Eliza have the first dance, then the second, then the third, and then Peggy wants a dance and when she and Aaron are finished, Eliza is whirling around the dance floor with Lafayette and Aaron makes his way across the room to get himself a drink.

He’s off to the side, very much enjoying watching his friends having this much fun, and the radiant expression on Eliza’s face, when Angelica approaches.

“So,” she says.

“So,” he replies.

She smiles. “Are you satisfied?”

He surveys the room again. Eliza is happy, she looks so happy as his bride.

“Yes,” he says. “I’m satisfied.”

~~~

Laurens and Lafayette eventually drag him over for one last round of drinks, or rather one last couple dozens of rounds of drinks, which Aaron finds somewhat absurd as they already precisely did this when they dragged him out as a bachelor, but he surrenders without much resistance, because they’re here, and they’re his friends, and that means so much to him.

He almost doesn’t see the new figure that enters the room, until Lafayette elbows him and he turns around and his heart drops through his stomach and—

“Alexander!” slips out of his lips unbidden.

“Aaron Burr, sir!”

“I didn’t think that you would make it.” Aaron winces, of all the things to say—

Alexander just shrugs. “Wasn’t sure,” he corrects. “I came to say congratulations, to you and the new Mrs. Burr.” He glances at Laurens, Lafayette, and Mulligan. “I see the whole gang is here.” He looks a bit unsure, a bit out of place, and Aaron supposes that the situation is strange—Alexander’s friends are standing at Aaron’s side, Alexander is the one in the position of outsider

Aaron hands him a glass of whatever expensive wine they’re all drinking, then clinks it to his own in a mock toast. “Well, I’m glad that you did.”

“You are the worst, Alexander,” Lafayette says. “Where were you when we needed you? We could barely get him to go out at all!”

“Doing very important work,” Alexander says. “Oh, the Washingtons send their regards.”

“How’re the treaty negotiations going?” Aaron asks.

“Out of our hands,” Alexander says. “The full global treaty is being settled in Paris, Congress has just finished deciding on our representatives. Benjamin Franklin, John Jay, John Adams, and Henry Laurens.”

Laurens makes no motion at the mention of his father, so Aaron plows on.

“Jay is a good man. Franklin…is impressive. So there are at least two people with good heads on their shoulders there. I still can’t believe that the war is over,” Aaron says.

“What are you planning on doing?” Alexander asks.

“I’m staying here for the summer,” Aaron says. “The plan being to pass the bar by the end of August, then Betsey and I can move down to New York City, I can set up my own little law practice, enjoy life as a free citizen.” An idea hits him. “Come with me, or rather—stay with me. We’ll get our licenses together, we’ll start a practice together. Eliza adores you and the Schuylers have hosted us all as guests for months, I’m sure we could squeeze one more into the house.”

Alexander smiles, but shakes his head. “I’ll think about it.”

Aaron's heart falls, but he tries not to let it show on his face. “You know,” he says, “you once told me that ‘I’ll think about it’ was my way of saying no.”

Alexander grins back, and it’s a lot more sincere this time. “Well, good thing I’m not you, then.”

And suddenly, Aaron feels a pang of wholehearted longing—he’s selfish, he’s too selfish to let Alexander go, they haven’t had nearly enough time, if only—if only he hadn’t wounded Alexander’s pride, if only Alexander could see that the sex didn’t matter, nothing had to change—

But Alexander, he takes and he takes and he takes and he’s never satisfied, that's what they all say, isn't it, that's how it's written, and now Aaron has taken himself away from him. Aaron knows from experience that Alexander—Alexander doesn’t forgive easily.

He’s not sure if he can survive losing Alexander again.

“Hey.”

Aaron looks up.

“Congrats again, Aaron. Smile more.”

“I’ll see you—“

“I’ll stay.”

Aaron’s eyes widen. “What?”

“Not here, I want to rent my own place, I’ve got some savings and I’ll have my officer’s salary. But I’ll stay in Albany, and I’ll study with you. Not like I have any other plans.”

“But you’ll stay.” Aaron can’t keep the excitement from his voice, he wants to surge forward and embrace Alexander and kiss him.

“Yes, I’ll stay,” Alexander says. “I didn’t know that I was this sorely missed.”

Quite sorely missed—Aaron still has nightmares, ones where Alexander gets shot, ones where the President of his vision gets shot, ones where Laurens gets shot, drowning. Wandering aimlessly, ending at the door of the church where Alexander was buried.

If the look on Laurens’ face is anything to judge by, the man is thinking the exact same thing. Alexander has been, to date, the only effective means to allay the nightmares. He’s been sorely missed indeed.

“Go back to your wife, it’s getting late,” Laurens says. “I need to get these two to bed before they make utter fools of themselves, and talk with Alexander.”

Aaron nods, and glances back at Alexander, and Alexander makes the move, leans forward and sort of awkwardly embraces Aaron with one arm, then waves him off. Aaron returns across the room to Eliza, and links arms with her.

“Shall we?” he says, keeping his voice even, upbeat.

“Alexander came,” Eliza notes. “Does this mean that he’s decided whatever the two of you were fighting over wasn’t worth it?”

“Something like that,” Aaron says. “I never thought it was worth fighting over, I was just foolish and wounded his pride.” That’s all he’s done, he tells himself once more. Wounded Alexander’s pride. Perhaps if he says it enough he’ll start to believe it.

“I still find it hard to to understand sometimes how the two of you are so close,” Eliza says. “Not that I—I love all your friends, I think they’re marvelous, but you only ever seem to speak highly of him, and he only ever seems to act rudely in return.”

“He grows on you,” Aaron says. “And he…he was my first friend. Bothered me about my studies, it was the first time someone had treated me like a person instead of The Seer. And then I had a vision where…he died, and it was my fault, and it made me realize that nothing was quite worth losing him.”

“I suppose you have a different perspective than the rest of us,” Eliza says. “It must be hard to hate people when you know just how little time we all have.”

“There are some things that are never worth fighting over,” Aaron says. Alexander’s son Philip, the Reynolds Pamphlet, Alexander’s whole life—families were never worth tearing apart, Aaron’s learned that the hard way. “A lot of things worth fighting for, but not worth fighting over. Life is too short for any of that. But it’s all we have, life, it’s too precious of a gift to waste it in…in fear of death. Do you want to know a secret?” He must be drunk, for babbling this much, but he can’t seem to stop.

“What?” Eliza says.

“The two of us live very long lives,” Aaron says, and then he leads her from the room. This is the first night of the rest of our lives, he thinks. And surprisingly, it’s a somewhat comforting thought.

~~~

Aaron and Alexander pass the bar together in August with flying colors. They actually have to argue before a panel of judges that their service in the war ought to substitute for the normal three-year period that it takes for one to obtain a license, but their names serve them well, and their request is granted. They move down to New York City together, rent an office together, Aaron and Eliza buy a house with help from her father and Aaron’s trust fund, and Alexander rents an apartment nearby, he doesn’t really specify where. He spends most nights over at Aaron and Eliza’s house; Aaron and Alexander return from their office still discussing cases, half the time continue discussing it at dinner—Aaron had always firmly insisted that dinnertable conversation ought to include everyone, until Eliza points out that why is he assuming she isn’t interested in the cases they’re discussing, especially their plans for pro-bono cases for women, slaves, or the recently freed, and Laurens rolls his eyes and says he's used to it. After that, Alexander is unstoppable. The conversations continue after dinner and into Aaron's office and often well into the night, and then it's too late to send Alexander home, both Aaron and Eliza insist, so he will either stay on the couch that they've bought for the office essentially for this purpose, or in the guest bedroom with Laurens. ("We need a bigger house," Aaron tells Eliza. "Become a famous lawyer and earn one, then," she replies. As it is, eight of the men who belonged to Aaron's guard are being housed on the same street, courtesy of Congress, and they're also invited over to dinner every Friday, and they really do need a bigger table already. And a bigger kitchen.)

On September 24th, Aaron receives a summons from Congress, that he is wanted at the negotiations of the Treaty of Paris. The letter is followed by a personal note from Washington: It is believed strongly that your presence will please our allies, to whom we owe much, and tilt the scales in their favor for the negotiations. I have not been able to secure the passage of your guard, as the French are providing their own protection for you and Congress is worried that the men who have protected you are not refined enough; I was, however, able to make the case for Colonel Laurens and a few other trusted officers to accompany you. The letter continues to list five names and, notably, no Hamilton. Aaron supposes that Alexander is a bit too abrasive to send to delicate treaty negotiations.

Aaron is terrified to break the news to Alexander and Eliza, but both take it in stride: Alexander shrugs and says somebody’s got to run the law practice while he’s away, and Eliza kisses him and tells him how proud of him she is, that they both knew he would have to go off to who-knows-where sometimes on important duties, but as long as he came home at the end of the day, that would be enough. Aaron has to bite back his own pleas for her to come with him, because nowhere will the threat of assassination or kidnapping be higher than when stranded in a foreign city, stripped of his usual guard, and flaunted in front of the British delegation. Technically, King George never removed the bounty of a dukedom from his head.

“Take care of him,” Alexander says to Laurens as he and Eliza are seeing him off. Aaron glares.

“I’ll try my hardest,” Laurens says.

“Take care of him,” Aaron says to Eliza, and she giggles.

“I’ll try my hardest,” she says, then Aaron and Laurens are boarding the ship, and they stand on the bow and wave to Alexander and Eliza until the two of them are specs on the horizon.

Laurens helps Aaron to their cabin afterwards, because Aaron thoroughly does not have sea legs, and being on deck doesn’t help. It was still worth it, Aaron decides. Still entirely worth it.

~~~

When they arrive at Nantes—(“I thought we were going to Le Havre?” Aaron asks, and Laurens shakes his head. “We sent a decoy ship there, and told the captain mid-voyage to change course, couldn’t take any chances with the British, not on the high seas”)—Aaron is no longer sure how worth it it was, as he has not left the room in days and has had a somewhat difficult time keeping track of the days and he is made exquisitely aware that he does not like ships. Then to top it all off, there’s a parade waiting for them. A literal parade, waiting for them. Aaron feels terribly out of place with his rumpled clothes and slightly green countenance, but then Lafayette appears like an angel from heaven and ushers them away from all the French officers to whomever’s home they’re staying at tonight.

You’ll have to attend a small dinner later,” Lafayette says. “But I will make sure there is a bath drawn for you, and fresh clothes, and you will have some time to rest before you must make your appearance.

The bath and rest do him good, but he’s still bleary-eyed when he shows up to dinner. The night passes in a blur of names and faces and long-winded introductions that Aaron quickly forgets. He wears the long silk gloves that Angelica acquired for him, and is eternally grateful to her for them, because everything is overwhelming enough without witnessing a bunch of strangers’ deaths. He finishes one glass of wine, and then another, and the alcohol helps him feel more detached from his surroundings and act the part of charming and gracious guest. He does note that neither Lafayette nor Laurens consumes a single drop of alcohol, that they are constantly alert and constantly at his side. I have friends, he thinks. I have people who care about me, who are trying to protect me.

The next morning they are whisked away in a carriage towards Paris, and the next few days are spent in the same manner as previously: traveling during the morning, stopping at some fancy house by mid-afternoon, staying for dinner, sleeping on expensive feather beds, rinse, repeat. Somewhere along the line all of Aaron’s clothes are replaced by fancier ones, and the overly rich food destroys his appetite. Aaron can see Laurens and Lafayette conversing when they think he’s not looking and he wonders when he’s become this small, helpless thing in everyone’s eyes. It’s suffocating; he almost prefers when he was looked at with distaste, or ignored, at least then he had his autonomy.

But he’s not really upset with Lafayette and Laurens, he’s upset with this whole country, with the luxury on one side and utter stricken poverty on the other and how despite all that they all seem to love him mindlessly.

This is an honor, he reminds himself. You owe them all this.

The night before they are supposed to reach Paris, he is housed somewhere far too fancy, he's not sure where, it was dark by the time they got there and he wasn’t paying much attention, and then first thing the next morning he is taken over to Versailles to dine with the King. Or learns that he already was at Versailles. There are no words for the palace—palaces—although Lafayette assures him that some of them are merely apartments, did he not remember where they stayed last night? In court apartments, apparently. In the light of day they’re far grander than what he remembered, and the buildings look huge, he wonders how many such rooms are tucked away. He is hurried through—well, the thinks they are gardens, but they might just be a big decorative courtyard to impress visitors, and it certainly impresses him: the hedges, the fountains, the grand doorway that he’s taken though, they leave him breathless. Everything smells of piss and perfume, and Aaron wants to choke.

Breakfast itself is supposed to be a small, private affair, which apparently means that King Louis, Marie Antoinette, their children, some...siblings? cousins? distant relatives?, Marie Antoinette’s twelve ladies in waiting, and another dozen and a half nobles have been invited. There also are apparently viewing rooms above where more members of the court not important enough to join them can watch. Aaron tries not to think of how gruesome they all look, what with Louis’ rolls upon rolls of fat spilling from his fancy attire despite its design to hide it, or the garish colors of the women’s gowns, the smell of powder, the sharpness in some of their eyes and the vacuous glaze in others. They all have such well-defined lips, Aaron wonders if it’s part of the fashion. They titter at him to one another in soft, sharp voices that he can’t catch, he only hears the laughter that comes afterwards.

So,” is the first thing King Louis says to him, “do I have a long and happy reign over this prosperous nation?

Aaron wants to break down laughing hysterically or slam his head against the table, is it not obvious to them how out-of-touch they are to reality, the implications of their own gluttony in the face of the fact that their people are starving, the anger that will inevitably boil up and consume them, the fever that will burn this country to its core?

Or did I forget,” King Louis says, “you are American, you don’t like Kings.

I don’t like institutions that employ their power to oppress others,” Aaron says. “And I don’t like dual standards. I believe that a reign can be long and prosperous if all citizens are free and equal in the eyes of the law.

Aaron hears sharp intakes of breath around him, and it strikes him that, is it court policy to have people executed who talk back to the king like that? It might be court policy for him to be executed, or placed under arrest, or more likely he has just ruined everything in terms of their alliance, all because there apparently exists a limit to how much he is willing to suck up to abhorrent hypocrites.

I worked with Jefferson for nearly ten years, he thinks. And I can’t say one fawning thing to a king for the sake of my whole nation?

Then King Louis starts to laugh, and suddenly what he’s said is the funniest thing anyone at the table has heard, everyone is smiling and joining in and a few people start applauding.

The seer really is a cheeky thing!” King Louis announces. “I like that! Won us the war, didn’t it? And there will be plenty of prosperity to go around with all the new territory you’ve won us.

The look on his face is far too open, far too dumb, for Aaron to believe that the King is threatening him. He’s probably just repeating what his advisors have been telling him for weeks. But Aaron hears the threat nonetheless: this is exactly why he is here, to ensure France gets what they want.

Aaron smiles politely, raises his glass. “I’ll drink to that.

Chapter Text

The night before the negotiations are to begin, Benjamin Franklin comes to see them. Which is worrisome in its own right because no one is supposed to know where they’re staying, but he’s bundled almost beyond recognition and exchanges a few words at every door that he’s stopped until he’s sitting in the makeshift living room and Laurens has to go fetch Aaron, who’s writing in his journal before he was going to go to bed, and was thoroughly not prepared for this sort of meeting. He’s in his pajamas, for Christ's sake.

“John Jay is planning on—in fact, I think he has been negotiating with the English alone, to get us a better deal,” Franklin says. No introduction, no greeting, just straight into it. “That’s one of the reasons why you were called here, because the French are ready to get very mad at us, somewhere over the course of the war they decided that it better be profitable for them. Here is the list of Jay’s desires, demands, whatever you want to call it—“ He puts a single sheet on paper on the table. “—and I can go over the things that the French will want, but they’ll make it very clear tomorrow, it’s a lot more than Britain will give them without us here. Spain, at least, seems satisfied with their piece of the cake, which is essentially Gibraltar and maybe a bit more territory in the West Indies, and the Dutch have made a trade agreement that they’re finalizing separately. So this is between us, France, and England, and England is very ready to deal just with us not only because it gives them the advantage territorially, but because anything that’ll get France vilifying you is something they want to invest in. You’re their trump card right now—France’s, that is—and if we want to remain in a close alliance with France in the future, you’re going to have to play.”

Aaron bites back a, I think you mean be played.

“What does France want?” he asks.

“More than they’re getting,” Franklin says. “Which right now is a bit of captured territory from the French and Indian War, Tobago, and Senegal. They’re getting cheated is what they're getting, but it’s also a lot harder to hold a colony than to capture a colony, and they’re in a rather tight financial situation right now, so they can’t exactly threaten to just keep everything they’ve gained—mind you, they’ve gained with Spain’s help, and now that Spain has what they want they're ready to sit that one out—and have Britain take that seriously.”

“What do they want me to do?” Aaron asks.

“You’re the Seer, I was rather hoping you’d come up with something,” Franklin says. “There’s only so long that I can delay the finalizing of these negotiations, Jay and Lord Shelburne have been getting lunch together for the last three weeks, and Adams seems to be ready to join them. Vergennes—he was of huge assistance to us during the war in our original negotiations for an alliance, but don’t be fooled, he has ulterior motives in this too, but he’s getting increasingly angry with us because the majority of the financial burden of this war has been on France, and we don’t really have the means to repay them right now. Vergennes is my friend and I would rather not leave this country with him angry at us, and the only way to do that is to keep all of the negotiations joint negotiations, which is what we initially agreed to do. France can’t afford another war, they just want to get their due from this one.”

“So I need to…?”

“Support the French tomorrow, get them whatever they want,” Franklin says. “Make some threats, tip the negotiations in their favor. And if you can't do that, at least convince the rest of my dear fellow ambassadors that they'll get just as much if they stick to joint negotiations than if they go behind France's back for this one. Or at least expect Vergennes to do it all for you, he might not be polite enough to wait for you to do it first. The American ambassadors have been screwing America’s foreign image. You’re our one hope to salvage friendship with everyone from this.”

“I thought Britain was going to hate me no matter what,” Aaron says.

“Britain is ready to buy peace,” Franklin says. “Invest in it. Money trumps pride.”

“And France is…?”

“Feeling rather abandoned by us, really, you don’t catch on quickly, do you? You’re going to need to, or else you’re going to get eaten alive tomorrow.”

“That’s quite enough, Mr. Franklin,” comes Laurens’s voice from the doorway. “We are prepared for the meeting tomorrow, and wish to get to it after a good night’s sleep. I can show you the way down, if you’d like.”

“I know the way out,” Franklin says. “I’m just trying to make this easier for you.”

“I appreciate it, Mr. Franklin,” Aaron says. “And we’ll see you tomorrow.”

~~~

He doesn’t get a good night’s sleep. He is entirely unprepared for the negotiations. And Franklin has not made it easier for him, in fact, he is now hyperaware of everything that can possibly go wrong and it’s making him sick.

Which is even worse because this is an unofficial gathering over lunch, a nice little get-together so everyone can get to meet Aaron and catch him up on how the negotiations are going because technically he’s just an honored guest who’s here to shake all of their hands, and not someone who has any power in the situation.

Franklin is right about one thing, the second round of dishes have barely been brought to the table when Vergennes jumps straight in with a “Oh, and I loved your open letter to their King George, I have a copy from one of the original printings, it is framed in my office, such eloquence, have I got the translations right, phrases like ‘panicking and retreating at the edge of the territory,’ so moving, but no, my favorite is ‘you merely insist on remaining at war with our ally France. To advise you by my power as a seer: you face large territorial losses to France and Spain if you end the war immediately. Continuing the war, this will only increase. You face’…how to put it, how to do justice to it, the original words were so evocative…’humiliation oversees and ruin at home.’

The room goes silent to that.

“Surely we aren’t holding the propaganda spread in an attempt to bring the war to a close as a bargaining chip in territory negotiations,” Lord Shelburne says. “We don’t even know if Colonel Burr wrote it, or if it’s—“

“I wrote it,” Aaron says.

The room goes silent again.

You have not been taking us seriously enough,” Vergennes says. “So we thought that you, perhaps, needed a reminder.

“It is important that the terms of this treaty be decisive and pleasing to all parties involved,” Aaron says. “That’s why I’m here, is it not? To hear your proposals, and try to offer any insight I might have on the long-term effects.”

“Yes, well—“ Adams tries to stick in, and Franklin glares furiously at him, but it’s Vergennes who cuts him off.

Unfortunately, not much progress has been made on the joint negotiations in these last few months.” He stretches the world ‘joint’ out, and Aaron can feel Franklin’s eyes from across the table, and he’s very glad that he was given a warning before being thrown into this shark pit.

That will be resolved by the time I leave,” Aaron says, angling himself so it looks like he’s talking to Vergennes personally. And speaking in French, of course, the French is a nice touch.

He wants to be sick then and there.

He pushes the nausea down.

That is wonderful to hear!” Vergennes says, and almost everyone else at the table who is not French, and even some of the people who are French, look varying degrees of ‘extremely uncomfortable.’ “Allow me to tell you where the negotiations currently lie.

There is a beautiful reprieve of about half an hour where Aaron is able to just listen to the increasingly large stipulations that Vergennes managed to slip in to his listings of what territories may or may not be up for discussion. By the time he says that France wants all of Canada back, Shelburne cuts him off with a:

“You are insulting us all with these childish demands, bandying the Seer like they’re some pawn to scare us into submission? It’s embarrassing. We can negotiate like real men—”

Do you truly want to negotiate? Because the Seer is in France now, how would you feel about another war?

France can’t afford another war, Franklin had said, had he been wrong or—

I am here to stop another war!” Aaron says. “I am here to stop another war,” he repeats in English. “And if you are not going to take that seriously, then perhaps these negotiations are in more dire straits than originally supposed.”

“Perhaps we could discuss this over breakfast sometime,” Lord Shelburne says. “As it seems much is being lost in translation here.”

“The negotiations are to be joint,” Aaron says. “I intend to respect that. Not to mention that my guard might mutiny if they hear of me setting up a private meeting with the British delegation.”

Shelburne’s eyes harden, and Vergennes grins, but Aaron looks towards the American ambassadors to try to figure out if what he’s said has accidentally started an international catastrophe. Adams looks mad, but John Adams always looks mad if he remembers correctly. Henry Laurens has the same cool, calculating expression on his face that he’s had the whole time. Jay looks mildly annoyed, and has been watching Shelburne like a hawk. Franklin meets Aaron’s eyes, and gives a small shake of his head, no.

Aaron’s blood runs cold, he didn’t ask for this, he didn’t ask for this and he was thrown into a room and not told what to do and now he’s going to let his whole country down—

‘Give it twenty years, then France’ll have all of Europe,’ he wants to spit out, but he can’t say that, can’t indicate what’s coming, hell, he doesn’t even know if what he’s doing here is right, if getting France what they want isn’t going to make everything so much worse in the next decades.

“Of course,” Shelburne says. “We have nothing but friendly intentions towards you, now that our nations are at peace. But we understand if it takes you a little while to come to terms with that.” Aaron’s not sure how this has managed to sound so derogatory, but it does, and Aaron feels like a child in a room full of adults who has managed to spill something all over his clothes.

“This would all go a lot more quickly if you’d lay out the terms that you’ve already discussed, and which parts you have problems with,” Aaron says. “I just want to help with the treaty.”

Shelburne grins. “Your own delegation didn’t fill you in on the details?”

My own delegation didn’t bother to come see me, Aaron thinks bitterly. “I find it much preferable to see these things myself,” he says. “My visions tend to be very…personal. So I’d like to hear, from all your points of view, what you’re hoping for and what you’re planning on doing.”

Shelburne lays out his own plan. It’s a lot more concise, a lot more generous to the Americans, and a lot less generous to France. It’s a corner that he’s purposefully backing Aaron into, almost elementary in its setup: Aaron can side with his own ambassadors and the United States will be cut off from France, which is more of an embarrassment than a damage, or he can stand up for France and insist on their getting more territory to the United States’ detriment, for which he will undoubtedly be branded a traitor at home, and would destroy his career in politics. And his respectability and everything he’s worked so carefully to build. Shelburne is offering all territory east of the Mississippi when Vergennes cuts him off.

Today was just for lunch, we have plenty of time later to get into the details. I have other matters to attend, and this meeting has already gone hours over.

“Of course,” Shelburne says, but Aaron can’t help but feel that he’s won.

“It was very nice to meet all of you gentlemen,” Aaron says, and he smiles charmingly and makes as if to shake all of their hands. Half of the French get their heads lopped off, Vergennes doesn’t, at least, he seems to die of some sort of illness, and Aaron braves through the Spanish and Dutch ambassadors to get to Shelburne, because this is his last chance for some leverage—

Shelburne finishes pulling on a single white glove, then takes Aaron’s hand. He knows, of course he knows.

“It was a great pleasure meeting you, American Seer,” he says. “I look forward to the speedy resolution of our negotiations.”

~~~

The moment they get back to the apartments, Aaron’s composure breaks; he runs to his and Laurens’ room, latches the door shut, and promptly throws up in the chamber pot. And then he keeps throwing up in the chamber pot, he’s not sure how long. He regains consciousness of his surroundings minutes, maybe hours later, he can’t tell, but there’s a persistent pounding on the door matching the persistent pounding in his head and he wants it to stop.

He hears a crashing sound, and a litany of swearing, then there is a cool hand at the nape of his neck, and another applying firm pressure to his shoulder, steading him. He’s still dry heaving. Is he still dry heaving? He can’t tell, his body is shaking too hard.

“You’re okay, it’s okay, it’s going to be okay.”

At least he can still recognize that it’s Laurens’ voice.

Is there any chance he could have been poisoned?” Laurens says.

No.”

That’s Lafayette’s voice, Lafayette must also be in the room.

There is no blood in the bile, he did not eat or drink anything suspicious, nor is he dead yet. I am no doctor, but I do not believe it could be poison.

“Aaron? Talk to me,” Laurens say.

“Seers…never…lie,” Aaron gets out, before he’s heaving again. Nothing comes up.

Laurens, at least, gets it immediately. “The negotiations. The pressure on him to use his status as a seer to get France more territory. They want him to lie about the future to secure the deal.

Is he just upset?” Lafayette asks. “Or is this…tied to his powers, do all seers have this reaction if they misuse their abilities?

I don’t know,” Laurens says. “We just need to get him through this right now. Can you get me a bowl of water, and a clean cloth?

Of course.

The hands are moving him again, re-arranging him, and he lets himself go limp.

“Aaron? Aaron, it’s okay, nothing said today was official, you’re not an ambassador, it’s going to be okay, just calm down, try to breathe, are you…does it hurt anywhere, are you hurt, can you squeeze my hand if—oh, Lafayette, thank you so much.

He’s being tilted upwards again, and something is pushed against his lips. “Water. Drink.”

He tries to curl up, and the cup is removed before its contents can be spilled.

Maybe we should give him something a little stronger?

We are not getting him drunk, Lafayette, you never stuck around to deal with him when he was properly drunk, Alexander and I did, it’s not pretty. He throws up a lot more, for starters.

I don’t know what else to do.

I don’t either, I just—

Aaron tries to grab on to Laurens tighter, he’s not sure if his fingers are digging into Laurens’ flesh, if he’ll leave scratches, bruises—that’s all he ever does, leave bloodied the lives of the people around him.

“Hey, shhhh, shhhhh, you’re okay.” Laurens draws him in closer, and Aaron sighs into it, he can feel his body relaxing bit by bit.

He is not going in tomorrow,” Laurens says. “Tell them he’s sick, tell them he’s had a terrible vision, I don’t care, but he’s not going in tomorrow, we can talk to Franklin or Jay in private if he’s feeling up to it, but we’re not leaving these rooms until we know exactly why this happened, and it is clear to everyone that he is not a pawn to be used and discarded here.

That will be difficult to do,” Lafayette says. “But I will do it.

You own ships, right?

Yes, why?

If worst comes to worst we’re going to get him out of this shit country—oh, sorry, I mean—

Do not apologize, the way that it is being run is shameful. Nothing you have seen is cause for you to have a good opinion of this place. I have ships, I will make sure they are ready.

There’s a pause, then Lafayette continues: “He seems to be calming down.

I’m going to try to get him to sleep, you make the arrangements for tomorrow,” Laurens says. Then there’s another shift of movement, and Aaron is not on the ground anymore and the only sturdy thing is Laurens’ chest, and then he’s on a mattress. There are hands tugging his boots off, and his outerwear, he’s being pulled back, laid out, and—

“No.”

The hands immediately stop moving him and he reaches for them and then they’re back and holding his again. “Don’t go, don’t go, please don’t go.”

“Aaron, you need to sleep,” comes Laurens’ voice.

“Can’t leave, you can’t leave me, please, please don’t—please stay, please—“

“Aaron, open your eyes, I’m going to be right here in this room, my bed is right here next to yours, it’s okay, it’s—“

“Don’t leave!”

Aaron hears a sigh, and the hands pull away and he whimpers and tries to curl into a ball around the blankets and then there is the sound of shoes hitting the floor and the bed dips down and Laurens is back. There’s another sigh, and then gentle pressure that untangles him from all of the blankets, he’s moved around for a moment as Laurens tries to get the covers over both of them, and then his head is resting on Laurens’ chest and Laurens’ arm is around him and he can breathe again.

Laurens’ heart beats steady in his ear, and Aaron begins to match his breathing to the rise and fall of Laurens’ chest.

“It’s alright. Shhh, it’s alright, it’s alright.”

Aaron falls asleep like that, and he doesn’t have nightmares that night.

~~~

When Aaron blearily opens his eyes the next morning, he is still very entangled with John Laurens, a very awake John Laurens who is looking at him with an expression of controlled worry on his face.

Aaron weighs whether or not it is worth it to get flustered over the fact that he has been stripped to his underclothes and be clinging to John Laurens’ chest right now, and decides that he is already going to drown in the tidal wave of humiliation for the grand sum of everything that happened yesterday, and, considering that, it’s really not worth it to start that internal meltdown early. Laurens is warm. He doesn’t want to scream and flinch away and cover himself up to fulfill some arbitrary standards of propriety right now, he’s too tired for that bullshit.

“How are you?”

Oh, that’s interesting, Laurens’ chest sort of rumbles when he speaks. The thing is, Aaron doesn’t want to answer, Aaron wants to fall back asleep so he does not have to think about exactly what happened yesterday.

“Aaron, can you speak?”

He sighs, because he really, really shouldn’t put off shouldering his own responsibilities any longer. “Yes.”

“Are you alright?”

“I’m trying not to think about that.”

“Do you know if…?”

“Was that a natural reaction to being a seer, or me just losing my mind?”

“So you could understand me and Lafayette, that’s good.”

Aaron swallows. “I don’t know. Which one it was, I hope it’s a natural reaction for all seers, I really hope so, John, I—“

Oh no, he is not ready for first-name basis, it is too early in the morning and Laurens is supposed to be Laurens and he didn’t ask for any of this.

“You have to realize how dangerous I am if it’s not.”

“You look about the furthest thing from dangerous to me right now,” John says.

“I could say anything,” Aaron says. “I could say anything for myself, or for anyone else. Loaned out to the highest bidder, it doesn’t matter, anything that comes out of my mouth terrifies them and they’d rather listen than chance that it’s not true, I could do anything, I could say anything, and the people love me, armies would rise on my command because they’d believe that I could win them anything—“

“Alright future emperor of the world, you’re sounding a bit like a megalomaniac,” John says.

“I’m dangerous.”

“Yes, you’re dangerous, and you probably even understand how dangerous a lot better than me. But you’re also still human.”

“I’d be safe if I weren’t able to lie,” Aaron says. “I wouldn’t need to worry about any of this.”

“Let’s act as if you can’t,” John says. “I don’t want to chance a repeat of last night.”

“I should. Get up. And wash up and. Are we seeing anyone today?” Aaron asks.

“Franklin,” John says. “Lafayette for some reason decided to confide at least somewhat what happened to him instead of making excuses and leaving the cards in our hands, so he’s coming over to try to straighten it out with us. I think he feels partially responsible for bringing up the Jay thing—“ John’s voice twists around Jay’s name.

“Don’t be too mad at Jay, he’s one of our greatest allies against slavery,” Aaron says.

“Well, he’s not helping us right now,” John says.

“He’s trying to do his best for our new nation,” Aaron says. “That’s what he cares about.”

“And I care about you, which currently puts us at odds,” John says.

Aaron stops breathing. John feels it—of course John feels it, Aaron remembers exactly why he hated having conversations with Alexander in bed, because Alexander could feel every one of his reactions that he’d be able to hide if they were talking from across the room like normal people—and John stills as well.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t—you took me by surprise,” Aaron stammers. John leans down and kisses the top of his head, and Aaron sighs and relaxes back into him. It’s a nice moment, but it’s just that: a moment. “I really should get up, though, and get washed.”

John untangles their limbs for him, and is pushing himself up on the bed, and Aaron scrambles up himself, and they just kind of look at each other. Aaron hopes it is the sort of look that conveys ‘and then we’re never going to talk about this again and pretend that it didn’t happen,’ because that seems like the best thing to do.

He makes his way to the bathroom, washes his face, and decides that it is worth it to draw water for a bath and get the sour smell of dried sweat from his skin. When he’s suitably clean, he gets dressed in his simplest clothes, and Laurens and Lafayette are waiting for him with a simple breakfast: hard-boiled eggs, plain bread, butter, and some fruit. They’re both dressed as well, everything is back in its appropriate boundaries.

Benjamin Franklin should be here within the hour to discuss what to do with you,” Lafayette says.

I thought he was coming this afternoon?” Aaron asks.

Lafayette gives him a look. “It’s a little past two in the afternoon, my friend.

Aaron takes a deep breath. “Alright. Thank you.

He spends his remaining time writing: writing first what he can remember from the Treaty of Paris itself, then the differences in what France and Spain won this time around. He isn’t sure specifically what France is asking for this time around, because Vergennes was undoubtedly exaggerating, but that makes it even harder for him to lay it all out. What's in their favor? France and Spain had controlled the channel, they would have been able to potentially win an invasion of Britain, they successfully invaded most of the West Indies—it was only a matter of what Britain was willing to give to get things back, what—fishing rights or trading deals or….he’s written it all down for the ambassadors before, but he hopes desperately that writing it down again might reveal to him something that he’s missed in all of this, some piece that might just fix it.

It couldn’t be—that couldn’t be all, though, even if it just were territory that wouldn’t explain what an impasse they were all at, what would Alexander think—?

The money.

Plain and simple, just money. France is bankrupt, or they’re going to be, the timescale is basically irrelevant. France is bankrupt and wants Britain to help them pay for the war, not in that many words, but they’re going to collapse if they don’t correct their financial situation. Or maybe they haven’t thought of that, or maybe that won’t placate them, it’s just—more land isn’t going to solve anything for anyone, and anything that he says could—

“Breathe,” Laurens says.

So he does. Careful breaths in and out. Tries not to think about what he’s doing.

Franklin arrives at three on the dot. Aaron must have either started at his entrance, or in some way, shape, or form looked pale and shaken, because Laurens reaches over and grabs his hand and squeezes it. Franklin raises an eyebrow at their linked hands, but otherwise doesn’t comment.

“Good afternoon, gentlemen,” he says.

“Good afternoon, Mr. Franklin,” Laurens says. Aaron just stares at the table, the humiliation washing over him in waves.

“Mr. Burr, we do not have much time, so I will ask you directly: did you tell any lies yesterday?” Franklin says.

Laurens had said Lafayette had filled him in, he didn’t mention how much, and Aaron prays with ever fiber of his being that nothing specific in any way to his…reaction…got brought up. The situation seems to be getting worse by the second, and he clutches Laurens’s hand as tightly as he can.

“Technically, no.”

“The more that you can tell me, the more that I can help take care of this for you,” Franklin says.

The more that he can help take care of this. The French Revolution is going to be a mess, and anyone who tries to get in its way will be crushed. Lafayette will be crushed, he realizes. If Lafayette knows anything of what’s coming, he will try to stop it, and he’ll be executed.

“Everyone leave the room,” Aaron hears himself say. “I will speak with Franklin, and Franklin alone.”

Laurens squeezes his hand one more time and then lets go, and Aaron stares resolutely downwards, not wanting to see the expression—or any potential disappointment—on his face. He waits until the door is closed, then speaks again.

“What I’m about to tell you, it’s…I know that this needs to be used for negotiations, but you can’t…if this gets out, if the wrong people either try to stop it or use it, hundreds of thousands of people will die. The French Revolution is perhaps the messiest, most unstable event in modern history.”

“So they do follow us to revolution,” Franklin says.

Aaron laughs. “Oh, you don’t know the half of it.”

~~~

Aaron tells him everything. The original intentions of the Revolutionaries, the Committee of Public Safety and the Reign of Terror, the Jacobins, the wars across Europe, the Republics and how they collapsed over and over and the reinstatement of kings and how the cycle would begin again, the rise of Napoleon, the Napoleonic Wars—all jumbled together, the words pour out of his mouth as he tries to outline it to the best of his ability, tries to remember what he never bothered to quite pay attention to last time. It’s hard. But he does his best.

“I’m not sure if it’s possible to stop,” Aaron says when he’s finished. “But I know a lot of good men might die trying, if they knew. And if the wrong people know, France could be…France could be conquered, the entire power balance could be thrown—our own country’s freedom and strength comes from the fact that we get to develop without anyone really bothering us, we’re not strong enough now to win another war.”

“They perceive us as far stronger than our martial strength,” Franklin says. “No one wants to start a war with us; everyone is courting us for alliance. Because of you.”

“I can’t have visions on demand,” Aaron says. “And I can’t win anyone any more wars. And if they knew that—“

“Our position would collapse,” Franklin says. “I see the problem.”

“Giving France more territory would probably make them more unstable,” Aaron says. “Which means if we threaten with my powers that they need more territory, that’s going to make me look…well, like I didn’t know what I was saying. King Louis’ head is going to end up in a basket in the next decade, give or take a year. The whole country is essentially bankrupt right now—more money would put off the Revolution if it went to the starving peasants instead of lining the pockets of the nobility, but I just don’t see how that will happen. And—“

“I think I’ve heard enough,” Franklin says. “I can finish the negotiations with this, at least unofficially. There are two things I need to clarify. Will France accept an offer of money, straight off the table?”

“Your guess is as good as mine,” Aaron says. “Not if they think it’s in any way linked to them being seen as weak.”

“Will Britain be able to make the money up easily?”

“Incredibly easily,” Aaron says. “If they give us what we want, the ‘generous deal’ that Jay’s been buttering them up for, trade between the United States and Britain becomes even better than it was in the days when we were colonies, especially at first, and they’ll make a lot of money, putting money on the table shouldn’t hurt them at all.”

“Good,” Franklin says. “I can work with that. Give me…six days. You will stay here, indisposed, because you’ve had a terrible vision consisting of what you’ve just told me.” He puts up a hand to cut off Aaron’s protests. “I’ll tell them a bare minimum of details. Believe it or not, I know how to handle myself. I’ve been doing this since before you were born.”

“It seems I have no choice but to trust you,” Aaron says.

“Your friends chose the right person to trust,” Franklin says. “I’ll see you in a week. And I’ll send a note if I need more time.”

~~~

Six days. And Aaron can’t go out, can’t do anything, and has to act indisposed around the other officers of his guard.

(That part isn’t too hard, these men keep a careful and polite distance from him, and clearly think he’s made of spun sugar, especially with his performance the prior day. All he has to do is shuffle a little whenever he walks out of his room and they give him a wide berth. He misses the men of his old guard, the ones who actually knew him, who weren’t afraid to joke around with him. He hates everything about this trip, but he bites it back, because that doesn’t matter, and making that known won’t help anyone now.)

He and Laurens have been confined to essentially a room for a week before during the war, during that winter in Philadelphia, and now they have Lafayette as well to visit, and all of the new bottles of wine he tries to tempt them with.

It shouldn’t be too difficult, but it is, because Lafayette’s here, Lafayette’s here and—

And he’s a festering cesspool of guilt for all that he’s not telling Lafayette, everything about the French Revolution. Alexander would never forgive him—hell, Laurens would never forgive him—if they knew he would ever purposefully keep information from them to save their lives at the cost of American independence. Why should Lafayette be any different?

But I’d do it, he realizes. I’d do it in a heartbeat, and at least they’d be alive.

He feels a lot less guilty after he decides that.

On the second day, Lafayette brings them both a chess set. Lafayette has been incredibly invested in the game since Peggy trounced him and he spent the two months leading up to the wedding attempting to beat her back. Aaron’s tricks don’t work quite as well against him, but he and Laurens are well-matched. They all talk lightly about how to end slavery, both in America and in France’s colonies, how to present it to landowners as a viable economic option, they get on a side-tangent about whether or not France should have colonies and the influence of colonialism on global affairs for half a day. They speculate on the far future. Lafayette sneaks in his wife Adrienne to meet them, and his three-year-old son Georges Washington de Lafayette.

Send him to America sometime, we’ll foster him for a year,” Aaron says.

You? You are a walking disaster, and Alexander even more so, and Eliza will be busy enough,” Lafayette says.

Then come with him!” Aaron says.

I’d like that,” Georges says, still tugging on his mother’s skirt which he had not let go of since the beginning of the visit.

All of you should come,” Aaron says. 'And get the hell out of this powder-keg of a country before you die terrible deaths,' he doesn't say. He knows that Lafayette survives, he thinks that his son does as well, and he has explicitly avoided touching Adrienne in any way, shape, or form, because he doesn’t want to know.

Adrienne leaves shortly after lunch, and Georges is getting tired, and they have a long carriage-ride home. Lafayette brings out another bottle of wine, and suggests a game of chess where one drinks every time they lose a piece. It’s fun, it’s good honest-to-god fun to just spend time with the two of them, watching them go at it against each other.

We’re going to drift apart, all of us, Aaron realizes. Lafayette will always stay in France, and there’s no way Laurens will remain my glorified bodyguard forever. The way our paths are currently set, we’re going to drift apart.

It seems cruel that the universe finally gives him a group of friends, only to take them away from him, not through death but through life.

You can’t know that they’ll leave, he tries to tell himself. But he knows.

So he spends the rest of the week memorizing them: the way that Laurens stiffens when he’s losing at chess and how his eyes narrow in concentration, how cute Lafayette’s accent is, especially because they’ve all started slipping between English and French especially when they’re tipsy and the drunker Lafayette gets, the more outrageous his accent is, and the drunker Laurens gets, the more he’ll overannunciate everything. Then Lafayette’s eyes crinkle and he’ll reply all rapid-fire, words blurring into another and Aaron laughs, he laughs with them, because he might never have the opportunity to do this again.

I have friends, he thinks. I have friends. I have friends.

~~~

Franklin sends a note on the sixth day that they’re wanted for another session of official negotiations, and then they’ll probably be able to leave.

It’s in some building that Aaron doesn’t recognize him; Lafayette tells him it’s the Hotel d'York, and that most of the meetings have taken place either here or in Versailles or in more casual atmospheres over meals. Their meeting locations have been pseudo-secret ever since he and Laurens have made an incredible racket about warding away assassination attempts.

It starts out with the usual pleasantries, but there’s something different about the atmosphere, even the Spanish and the Dutch are paying attention, but Vergennes’s smile is wider than normal and he’s gesturing constantly with his hands, and Lord Shelburne’s eyes are sharp, and are focused mostly on Aaron. Aaron’s not sure what’s happened, but Vergennes is also very pointedly ignoring Franklin, and Aaron is pretty sure that Franklin must have spent the week speaking just with the British and either Vergennes has been out of the loop and is pissed, or there is something even bigger and more complicated going on here. It makes his head hurt.

They bandy back and forth for a while about Canada, who gets to keep what, where the lines will be drawn. Vergennes comments early on that France is willing to stay out of Canada entirely, but they want Saint Vincent and the Grenadines back. Shelburne waves the comment away with a vague, “we can see to something like that.” The United States is offered an extremely generous amount of territory—both to the North and East of the Appalachians, then Vergennes very pointedly remarks, “Of course, the English buy peace, rather than make it.

And Lord Shelburne turns towards him. “Why, yes. Speaking of buying peace, while it may seem a bit…unorthodox, but we are willing to offer you a sum of 300,000 livres directly to compensate your…financial efforts in this war, and to secure a territorial deal that might be a bit more generous towards us, in regards to these negotiations.”

Vergennes raises an eyebrow. “You’re putting money on the table?

“The Seer has been…indisposed for a week because of another frightening vision,” Shelburne says. “We want to secure these negotiations as quickly as possible, ensure that there’s no more fighting or…instability. Depending on how we re-arrange the map of the West Indies, I’m sure we’d be glad to go all the way up to…800,000 livres, perhaps 1,000,000?”

Vergennes actually whirls around and glares at Franklin, and Franklin tilts his head and gives him a very pointed look, and Vergennes’s eyes narrow and they’re clearly having a silent conversation that no one else understands, and Aaron is suddenly tired of it all, because he can read in Vergennes’s body that this is going to work, it’s going to work perfectly, he was just too proud to ask for it and too proud to accept it immediately, but it’s more than France could have hoped for in any other situation.

"When should we expect it paid in full?" Vergennes asks. "How do you intend to come up with that sort of sum so quickly?"

"Ideally, we'd pay it in monthly amounts, over the course of two or three years," Shelburne says. "That sounds reasonable, does it not? Although we can give it to you in fewer sums, or all at once, but then it would probably be a lower amount. The territories that we want the most, of course are these—"

And he has a list and everything, and from the way Aaron glances at it and what he remembers from the nightmare of the meeting last week, this is a slightly different ordering of Britain's priorities from before, and Aaron can't tell if it's to sweeten the deal or trick France into settling for less. Vergennes is looking it over very critically, and Aaron is quite worried that either way, he's going to take it to be the second one, and then they delve into negotiations piece by piece of exactly what money and exactly what land ought to be exchanged, obscure fishing rights are brought up, trading rights, timing for the sums and penalties if they're late, and Aaron feels like he's suffocating because he's done here, he doesn't have to be here, the agreement was over before he even entered the room, Franklin saw to that, and he's tired of being reminded of just how out of his league he is.

“You all have already actually compromised,” Aaron says. “If you want to posture for a few more weeks so that you can all retain your respective dignity, go ahead, but you do not need me here for this. My wife Eliza is expecting, and I’d very much like to get home.”

There’s a rather stunned silence, then Shelburne says, “Of course. We thank you for coming out to speak with us in the first place. We trust that the treaty shall be finished and signed within a month, but I think we can adjourn for the day.”

Vergennes adds a rather stunned, “Congratulations,” before gathering the rest of his delegation to speak in the corner in hushed tones, then trickle out of the room.

Franklin immediately comes over to Aaron. “Did Lafayette tell you your wife was pregnant?” he asks. “We’d agreed to keep it from you until the negotiations were over.”

“I—what?”

“That your wife is pregnant,” Franklin repeats. “You said ‘my wife is expecting’—“

“Wait, what? I said ‘my wife is expecting me,’ as in she is expecting me to come home quickly and in one piece.”

“You said your wife is expecting,” Laurens says.

“I—can we get back to the part where Eliza is pregnant?”

“That’s generally what happens when you marry someone and start sleeping with them,” Laurens says. “They become pregnant, do you need me to explain any more.”

“No you don’t, I—I need to sit down, I’m going to be a father.”

Laurens helps him over to a chair. “Yes. Congratulations.”

“I—Eliza is pregnant,” Aaron says. His hands are shaking. Franklin is watching him very carefully, and Aaron feels a bit like prey, but he’s too surprised to look anything but surprised.

“Let’s get out of here, and find Lafayette,” Laurens says. “He can start making arrangements for us to return home.”

“Gentlemen,” comes another voice. “If I might interrupt, I would like to speak to my son.”

Laurens visibly stiffens besides Aaron.

“Of course,” Franklin says. “Jay and Adams wanted to go over a few points with Mr. Burr, both to assure that we get everything we’re supposed to in the negotiations, and to talk about future relations with Britain.”

Aaron shoots Laurens a distressed look, but Laurens nudges him forward and Aaron is helpless to do anything but follow Franklin and leave him at the mercy of his father.

What land they’re supposed to get, as a bare minimum. Where they’re getting fishing rights. The parts that they can probably ask for more. The fact that the British want greater economic ties with the new nation, even though there will almost definitely be a bit of tension because of Aaron’s mere existence, but money generally trumps over pride.

Laurens comes over after about fifteen minutes, and his hands are fists, and his knuckles white. “Let’s go,” he says, and Aaron excuses himself from Jay and Adams.

Lafayette is waiting in the drawing room with Aaron’s small posse of guards. They exchange a few quiet words, then Laurens blows past them all and slams the door on his way out. Aaron makes as if to follow him, and Lafayette grabs him by the wrist.

Come,” he says. “We are going to get lunch, and give our friend John the space to think.

It’s four in the afternoon,” Aaron says, which he supposes is more polite than whining ‘I’m worried about him, and no one lets me be alone when I need time to think.’

Then it is the perfect time for a late lunch,” Lafayette says, batting his eyelashes at Aaron innocently. “We will eat simply. Fresh bread, cheese, wine, fruit, honey to drizzle on it. You will like it, you have not been eating enough. It is nearby, we can walk.

I don’t have a choice in this.

No.” Lafayette gestures to the door. “After you.

One of the officers checks outside to make sure there’s no ambush waiting in the street, and then Aaron walks through the door that Lafayette is so kindly holding open. The streets are moderately clear, it’s the middle of the afternoon on a Thursday, and their location has been kept secret. Still, the group moves as quickly and discretely as possible.

Gentlemen, are you going to get food?

Everyone halts, jostling one another in their attempts to turn around, to see Benjamin Franklin chasing them, and appearing somewhat out of breath.

Yes, we are, care you join us?” Lafayette says. Aaron groans; Lafayette’s distraction has gone from on the order of one hour to at least three.

Oh! Well, only because you asked so nicely,” Franklin says. He turns to Aaron. “I have to say, I’ve been eager to have a conversation with you about matters other than the negotiations.

You want to ask me about my abilities.

Why, yes,” Franklin says. “Do you mind if we switch to English, I don’t want anything to be lost in translation.

“Believe it or not, I can speak English,” Lafayette says. “Colonel Burr was an excellent teacher during the war. So you will not be leaving me out, not that I have much interest in imposing on this conversation.”

“Well, we’ll trust you with the food, then, and I’ll provide the distraction!” Franklin says. “Mr. Burr, what we spoke of three days ago and your performance today have made me very curious about the manifestation of your powers.”

“You’re very direct,” Aaron says.

“I don’t have a lot of time,” Franklin says. “You’ll be leaving soon, and I expect you’ll be very busy when you return to New York. This may be my only chance to have a conversation with you, I’d like to drop the niceties and make the most of it.”

“Then carry on,” Aaron says.

Franklin makes an annoyed sounding huff. “No one has ever done a comprehensive study on seers, there is so little knowledge of the phenomenon itself, especially considering how important it has been to shaping our history, and almost all information we currently have is hearsay and exaggeration—“

“You do not need to convince me of the importance of filling a gap in information that I have felt most acutely since I was a small child,” Aaron says. “Ask away.”

“How do your powers manifest fully?”

“I have visions of a person’s death involuntarily, when I first touch their skin. This was the sole ability that I was tested and confirmed for when I was four. I have discovered since that I can touch animals and if I…concentrate, I can see their deaths as well. I have had other visions that allow me to know more large-scale things, but I don’t have them regularly.”

“What about what happened back there?” Franklin asks. “Saying something that is true, even when you had no way of knowing?”

“It’s rather hard to tell,” Aaron says. “Considering that I say a lot of things, and most of them are not verifiable whether they are true or false.”

“Are your predictions changeable?”

“Yes.”

“The death visions, or the other visions, or the things that you say, or all of them?”

“The death visions certainly, and the other visions certainly,” Aaron says. “It’s how we won the war two, three years early. It’s rather hard for me to say about the things that come out of my mouth, because—“

“Most of them aren’t verifiable in the first place,” Franklin says. He stares off into the distance for a minute, then shakes his head as if rousing himself. “Do you associate any of your visions with any form of religious experience?”

“No,” Aaron says. “I just see things. There are no voices outside of what the people in my visions are saying, no angelic proclamations, nothing. Just what happens, happens.”

“Would you say that you believe in God?”

“On that subject, I am coy,” Aaron says, and Franklin stares at him sharply, like he can tell that there is a reference to something Aaron’s not telling him.

Aaron considers, for just a second, confiding in Franklin that his visions might be memories, and then he thinks better of it. He knows nothing of this man’s intentions, other than a strong devotion to the concepts of ‘science’ and ‘progress’; but he knows from Alexander how toxic ambitions can be to anyone that happens to be in the way. This is his life, and anything getting out about his unique situation might ruin it.

I could leave something behind for future seers, Aaron thinks. So no one would have to go through this again.

But what is ‘this’, what is he even going through, it feels so…strangely personal, and he doesn’t want to bare his soul to a stranger. So he presses his lips together.

“We’re here,” Lafayette says, gesturing to a small cafe. “There’s a garden in the back, closed off, and we can have it to ourselves. Go, sit, I will fetch us food.”

“You know, there’s another conversation that I’d like to have with you,” Franklin says.

“Oh?”

“Your opinions on some of my pet…projects. You might have something to say that provides insight, and as I said, this is a singular opportunity for me to learn, well, things I wouldn’t have access to otherwise.”

“I cannot speak for the verifiability of anything I say—“

“Yes, yes, I know,” Franklin says. “Now, to start…”

~~~

It’s a four-hour distraction, not a three-hour one, as Franklin describes his observations on demographics, charting of a great current in the Atlantic, experiments in electricity and the wave theory of light (after a solid half hour of being told why light ought to be a wave and not a particle, Aaron throws up his hands and says “can’t it be both?” and Franklin narrows his eyes and scrawls something down in the notebook that he’d pulled out), prevailing winds and effects on weather, thermodynamics, and plans for a postal system, all in great detail, and to the extent that Aaron feels like he’s learned more in that sitting than he did in his two years at Princeton. He barely gets a word in edgewise, but Franklin thanks him profusely for his comments, and then finally let them all go. Lafayette has a carriage waiting for them to take them back to where they’re staying.

When finally arrive, Laurens is in his and Aaron’s room, and the door is propped closed, but it’s also not locked. Aaron steps inside, and closes it carefully after him; Laurens doesn’t speak.

It’s been years since Aaron’s been in the position of having to comfort anyone; what’s he supposed to do, say that ‘everyone dies but you won’t for a while’? If Laurens is anything like him, that won’t be particularly comforting.

“I’m going to be resigning as the head of your guard after this trip,” Laurens says stiffly as Aaron hovers in a corner.

“I’m…sorry?” Aaron says.

Laurens turns away and punches the mattress that he’s sitting on, and Aaron bites his tongue. “Do you want me to…go?”

“No, it’s fine,” Laurens says. “I’ll be fine.”

“You don’t have to…you don’t have to hide how you feel from me,” Aaron says. “You can talk to me, or not, or just…act upset around me, I’m not made out of glass, I’m not going to break.”

Laurens shoots him a look.

“I actually fought in the war. I protected myself my whole life without a guard. I’ve dealt with being in politics. I’ve lived through the death of my wife and my daughter. I’ve died. Believe it or not, I can handle myself.”

“Well, forgive me, but it doesn’t really show,” Laurens says. “You faint, you throw up, you wake up screaming half the time, you’re not really the pinnacle of strength.”

“I can handle myself,” Aaron says. “I’ve dealt with it all alone before, behind closed doors, and you know what? It’s a hell of a lot more pleasant to not be alone when you’re going through shit. So talk to me, or don’t talk to me, it’s not like you owe me anything, but you better know that I’m here for you. And so is Lafayette, and so is Alexander, and I’d bet Mulligan would say the same thing too.”

Laurens laughs. “You know, you’re kind of cute when you get all angry and self-righteous.”

“I live to serve,” Aaron says.

Laurens doesn’t say anything for a moment, and Aaron chances a step forward, then another step. Then he slides onto the bed next to Laurens, and tries to put his arm around his shoulder. Tries being the key word, as Laurens is curled up and it's a bit hard to reach.

Laurens sighs, and leans down into him, and Aaron adjusts his arm so it’s around him properly.

“My father says I wasted the whole war,” Laurens says. “That there’s no glory in being a bodyguard, and it was a shame to my station, and that I’m to come home immediately and try to salvage my reputation. I’ve done nothing, I’m a disappointment, you know, the usual.”

“Yeah,” Aaron says. “I know.”

“Kind of makes me wish I did die during the war,” Laurens says. “At least then I’d get my glory. And no one would bother me.”

“I’d bother you,” Aaron says. “I’d reach beyond the veil of death just to bother you.”

“What have I done that’s worth living for?” Laurens asks. “Besides riding on the coattails of my friends’ glory?”

“I don’t really know what makes life worth living,” Aaron says. “Just that death is a rather permanent solution to things that are often rather temporary problems.”

“My father’s not going away any time soon,” Laurens says. “And I…I thought I’d grown—thought that all the time being away from him, that being in the war, meant that maybe I’d grown a backbone. And then a few words from him and it’s like I’m a little kid again and everything I’ve worked so hard to build is gone.”

“My grandfather never beat me,” Aaron says. “But there were times I could tell that he wanted to, was one of the reasons I learned to be so quiet. I guess he was less…strict before my grandmother died, I remember running around and playing a lot more then, but she died when I was so young. I don’t think I remember her face.”

“My mother used to protect me,” Laurens says. “She’d never stand up to him directly, but she’d look at my drawings and actually compliment them instead of throwing them away like they were a waste of space and she’d let me run around and play outside and climb trees when he was gone, and she never yelled at me.” They sit in silence for a full minute, then: “I miss her.”

Aaron tugs him in closer. “You’re stronger than you think you are. Not the outside strong that you act when you’re taking care of us all. On the inside, too, you’re stronger than you think you are.”

“It doesn’t feel like that.”

“It doesn’t have to, to be true.”

Laurens smiles. “You know, for someone so oblivious, you claim to know an awful lot.”

“I’m the seer, I know everything,” Aaron says. “Also, I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Laurens’ grin widens. “No, you wouldn’t.”

“If you stick around, we can finish what we started,” Aaron says. “End slavery, for good. So what, you have to go back to South Carolina. ‘State’s Rights’ is going to be the mantra of racist scumbags hiding under Enlightenment intellectualism for years to stop us from progress. So beat them at their own game, fight them on their own level.”

“I’ve been trying to convince the State Congress for—“

Join the State Congress,” Aaron says. “Keep working, never give up, this is bigger than you. That’s what I…what I tell myself, when I’m feeling small. ‘This is bigger than you.’”

“We’ll never be free until we end slavery,” Laurens says.

“Yeah. So don’t you dare give up. The world needs John Laurens. We all need John Laurens. And we’re never going to give up on you.”

“Please, go on, continue to profess your undying love for me,” Laurens says.

Aaron is quiet for a moment. “Do you want me to profess my undying love for you?”

Laurens stiffens, and Aaron is terrified that he’s said exactly the wrong thing. “Not today,” Laurens finally says. “I think there have been weighty things said today.”

“Want to get stupidly drunk with Lafayette while I make sure neither or you do anything too stupid?” Aaron says. "Let your hair down, let me be the responsible one for once?"

“You do know what a security risk that would be,” Laurens says, and Aaron's not sure if he's talking about himself getting drunk, or the idea of Aaron being the responsible one.

“Well, you’re not in charge of my guard anymore, so it isn’t your problem, is it, Mr. Laurens?” he says.

“You make a very good point, Mr. Burr,” Laurens says.

Aaron stands, and offers Laurens his hand to pull him up. In the end, they get stupid-drunk in Aaron and Laurens’s room; Lafayette has a stash of good whiskey, so they don’t need to go out and compromise anyone’s safety, and Lafayette doesn’t want to share it with the rest of the officers that make up Aaron’s guard, so they don’t drink it in the common room. They all end up sprawled together on Aaron’s bed, Laurens between Aaron and Lafayette, with his arms around both of them.

“I love you guys, you know that, right?” Laurens says.

Lafayette leans in and kisses Laurens’s forehead. “Yes. We know.

~~~

The next morning—or rather, mid-afternoon—the entire party sets out to return to port. Lafayette accompanies them (”I have nothing to do here right now other than brag of my association with you, I would rather actually associate with you”). It’s nothing like the journey out: they ride from dawn to well past dusk, there are no fancy carriages, they stay at inns instead of country estates. “There’s a decoy procession headed towards Nantes,” John says. “We want to be gone before they realize we’re on the ship.”

Everything isn’t magically better—there are long periods of time where John rides ahead, and is silent. (Aaron isn’t sure when ‘Laurens’ went to ‘John’ in his head again, only that he indisputably has.) But that’s how life is, everything doesn’t get magically better, there are good days and bad days and all you can hope is that the good days become good weeks, and you remember during the bad days that the good days still exist.

This is bigger than us, Aaron reminds himself. And John Laurens will have a lot of good days. It’s worth it, it’s all worth it, it has to be.

Lafayette accompanies them to the docks, then kisses them both on the cheek. “I will bring freedom to my people, go work to bring freedom to yours,” he says.

The trip home is no more pleasant than the trip out, but it at least seems to pass faster; whether this is because they don’t change direction mid-course, or just because Aaron’s memories of the trip out have blurred into an unending nightmare, he’s not sure. Maybe it has to do with Franklin’s Gulf current.

But they reach New York, safe and sound, and it’s only mid-February. John gets all his bags together, helps him up, and gives him a little nudge towards the deck.

“You’re not even going to come down to the docks, say hello to Eliza and Alexander?” Aaron asks.

“The ship is heading out immediately,” John says. “I think my father was worried that I’d run away with you.”

“Why, Mr. Laurens, I’m a married man,” Aaron says, and the two of them laugh at that.

“It’s alright,” John says. “There’s a lot of good that I can do down in South Carolina. I’ll do exactly what my father wants, become a proper politician, run for the state Congress, and then kick a hive of bees by proposing emancipation legislation.”

“You’ll be incredible,” Aaron says.

John smiles. “I know. Now go, everyone’s getting impatient.”

In a singular rush of boldness, Aaron grabs both of John’s hands with his own, but he freezes as the moment stretches onward, trying to get the words unstuck from his throat.

“Laurens…”

“Aaron.”

“Don’t forget to write.”

And if they stand there for a moment longer might be considered proper, well, neither or them are going to comment.

Chapter Text

Philip is born just as the summer starts to get hot.

(“What should we name the child?” Eliza had asked. “If it’s a boy, we’re naming him after your father, not mine,” Aaron says, and to her “Why?”, he continues, “Because my father’s name was also Aaron and Alexander will never stop teasing us if our first son’s name is also Aaron Burr.” They discuss girls’ names, which leads to a discussion of all of the powerful women in their families, which leads them to a discussion on the current progress of women’s rights in general from Angelica’s increasingly annoyed letters from England about how they actually seem backwards because she can’t run her husband’s business as easily anymore, and Alexander comes into the room and then the question of ‘progress of oppressed people’s rights’ remains the topic of the conversation for hours, and Aaron and Eliza realize that they never actually decided on a girl’s name.)

But the child is a boy, so they name him Philip.

Philip smiles, and Aaron feels something in him break.

My son.

He makes sure to let the child wrap his small hand around one of Aaron’s fingers—

That same dueling ground that he knows so well, the same sun glinting off a pistol raised towards the sky, a gunshot—he’s trying to scream ‘WAIT’ but it’s not him—

He’s shaking slightly as he resists the urge to yank his hand back, and instead keeps his face schooled into a smile. He knows that Eliza’s first son, coincidentally named ‘Philip,’ had died in a duel, he shouldn’t be surprised. He’ll just have to enforce the “no dueling” policy on more people than Alexander. This can’t put a dent in his happiness, not when he has a son, not when there’s so much life, all he can see is life, not death. And for once, he’s not afraid.

He gathers Philip up into his arms.

“Alexander!” he calls, and Alexander peeks his head in from the next room. “Look at my son!”

Alexander enters the room, closing the door carefully. “He’s beautiful.”

“Would you like to hold him?” Aaron asks.

Uncertainty flashes across Alexander’s face, but he still smiles and nods. Aaron transfers the gurgling baby to his arms.

“You’re the godfather!” Aaron says.

“Yes, you’ve told me a thousand times,” Alexander says.

Aaron just beams at the three of them, Alexander, Eliza, and his son.

I have a family, Aaron thinks, and he cannot imagine a happier feeling in the world.

~~~

The law practice takes off, and Aaron and Alexander are busier than they’ve ever been before. The first thing they need to decide is the ratio of cases that they’re taking in order to make money, and cases they are taking pro-bono. The second thing they need to decide is which of the pro-bono cases they’re taking; there are women in abusive relationships who want divorces, women soldiers from the war trying to get their pay, slaves who claim to have been freed to fight whose prior masters are revoking that, or black soldiers wanting fair pay. They’ve mostly stuck with family law while Aaron’s been busy with the new baby, but they’re getting both more attention and more requests, so that won’t hold much longer.

Aaron wants to help everyone, so he steps back, puts what he feels aside, and evaluates logically what he ought to do. What they ought to do.

Firstly, they need to choose their pro-bono cases such that each case will have the greatest possible political impact. That will, in the long run, do the greatest good for the greatest number of people.

Secondly, if they are taking a large number of cases on the basis for their political impact, every case that they take will be under scrutiny for its political implications. Which means that they will have to be very careful in what cases they take that are not pro bono. Either that, or Alexander should handle all of the cases that make them money, or they should take another partner to handle all those cases. Aaron doubts Alexander will be excited for either of the latter two, but that does put a serious limit on which paying cases they’ll even be considering.

He and Eliza don’t particularly need a large income, at least not for a while. Which means that how many cases they actually need to take to make a living is entirely dependent on how much money Alexander needs, or wants.

Aaron’s not quite sure how to bring this up with Alexander, the last thing he wants is to seem calculating and callous in the face of what they’re trying to do. But he doesn’t know any other way to proceed. He’s not fueled by passion in the same way Alexander is. He’s not sure how to word everything in a way that doesn’t seem like an insult to all that they stand for.

Luckily, Alexander takes care of that for him. “We need to talk,” he says, and Aaron feels his stomach drop, but apparently Alexander means talk about business.

“Now that you’re back, everyone’s going to be watching what cases we take on extremely closely. So I think we should decide right now what cases we’re looking at.”

Aaron nods, and Alexander continues. “While you were gone, I took on a few cases with very high-paying clients. Ownership disputes with Loyalists and seizure of land mostly, that sort of thing, the point it, I should have enough money to scrape by for the next few years or so—“

“You can move in with Eliza and me if that would save you rent—“

Alexander shakes his head, and Aaron feels a flash of annoyance. The man already stays in their guest room more often than not, after dinner and discussions about work or the future of their nation, or drinks, and inevitably Alexander will think of something and need to write it down and it will be far too late by the time he’s finished for him to leave. Sometimes Aaron tries to stay up with him in the study and falls asleep on the couch, sometimes Aaron doesn’t even bother with the lost cause and retires at a reasonable time with Eliza, but either way, Alexander is always there in the morning.

Well, Alexander is an adult and Aaron has no hold over him; if he wants to spend his own money on keeping an apartment, it’s none of Aaron’s business.

“We should take on the cases that will have the most impact,” Alexander says. “If we set precedents, people trying to follow in our footsteps can take the rest of the cases.”

For some reason, Alexander saying what’s supposed to be his line—the line that he was so scared to say himself—touches a nerve. “We need a strong central government if we want the law to actually protect people,” Aaron says. “Federal legislation will always be more progressive than individual states’ laws, it’s the only way to move the country forward, to move it forward in strides.”

Alexander laughs. “We need a strong central government if we want to be an actual nation. You might have gotten France off our backs in terms of foreign debts, but our economy’s stalling, we don’t even have a uniform system of currency, we’re struggling to pay our army’s wages, it takes all thirteen states to approve any legislation so we’re basically permanently in a gridlock, should I go on? We’re a mess. But that ball’s in your court, you’re the Seer, tell the country we need a new government and they’ll give you one.”

“You can’t be serious,” Aaron says.

“I’m very serious,” Alexander says. “You’re a national hero, second only to Washington, and he’s resigned as Commander in Chief and back to planting tobacco in Mount Vernon. People want someone to tell them what to do, they will listen to you. God, what I’d give to be in your place right now, I could get so much done.”

Aaron suddenly feels nauseous. “You could get so much done? You would wield the power that you have over people to try to get your own agenda pushed?”

“Our agenda!” Alexander says. “A strong central democracy, a prosperous nation, freedom for all men, more rights for women—“

L’enfer est plein de bonnes volontés ou désirs,” Aaron says. “St. Bernard of Clairvaux. The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

“So now you’re preaching at me?” Alexander says. “Really?”

“I don’t want to fight with you,” Aaron says.

“Then don’t. Write instead. You weren’t afraid to do that during the war.”

“Things were different during the war,” Aaron protests. There were lives dependent on his every word, every action—winning really was more important than any of his self-imposed measures.

“Yeah. I’ve noticed,” Alexander says curtly.

“I don’t know what I’ve done to deserve your—“

“You stand for nothing!” Alexander says. “Maybe you have your beliefs, but whenever it really matters, you stand to the side and let other people choose for you. Did you even publish your famous pamphlet on equality, or did Laurens have to do it for you?”

Aaron tries not to look like the wind has been punched out of him. “I stand for something,” Aaron says. “I stand for people’s right to choose their own futures.”

“And what if they choose wrong?”

“What right do I have to decide if they’re right or wrong? Where do you draw the line?”

“Where do you?” Alexander says. “During the war—“

“During the war, people were dying,” Aaron says. “That’s where I draw the line.”

“So are you going to go off to France the moment their Revolution starts? Are you going to try to fight in every revolution in the world, every war? What are you going to do, choose the winner, just to save lives? Isn’t that worse? You’re a hypocrite just like the rest of us, Aaron, so get the fuck off your high horse and admit that you’re just scared.”

“I would rather miss an opportunity via inaction, that hurt someone due to action,” Aaron says.

“You mean you’d rather pretend that it’s not your fault if you hurt people due to inaction,” Alexander says. “Because it gives you your perfect excuse not to try.”

“If I use my power—“

“Everyone uses their own abilities to get what they want!” Alexander says. “You just happen to have the ability to see the future! You want to go religious on me? Jesus told people what to do, the pope tells people what to do, Martin Luther and Calvin and every single preacher tells people what to do. Constantine, Joan of Arc, all your precious Seers, they all told people what to do. Refusing to step up into your role—“

“As what? What exactly do you think I am, Hamilton? A saint? A prophet?”

“A Revolutionary. And the revolution isn’t over.”

“I am not the man you want me to be,” Aaron says. “And if you plan to force me to try to be that man, you will only be disappointed.”

“Yeah. I’ve gathered,” Alexander says.

They go back to talking about what cases they should take, and Aaron tries not to feel the sting of Alexander’s judgement. You knew that he wasn’t going to forgive you, Aaron thinks. You knew you were living on borrowed time with his goodwill. Get over it.

~~~

“Alexander hates me.”

Eliza lets out a sigh, and shifts so that she is facing him. “Alexander doesn’t hate you.”

“He thinks that I’m a useless hypocrite who stands for nothing,” Aaron says, and promptly feels like an idiot for saying it.

“He thinks that you’re a saint, and that he can’t possibly compare,” Eliza says. “He thinks that you’re a better lawyer, a better writer, a better man. That you’re more thoughtful, more patient, that you have more self-control, more honor. He doesn’t hate you, he’s just scared you left him behind.”

“I wouldn’t be here if not for him,” Aaron says. “He’s the one who cared about everything, he’s always been the one who cared about everything. Hamilton has beliefs, I have none.”

“What would you say you have, then?” Eliza asks.

“Guilt, mostly,” Aaron says, and he realizes in that moment that he wants her to stay. To choose him and what he is, what he’s become.

“Guilt?”

“Of not being able to stop what I’ve seen,” Aaron says.

“You’ve done an incredible amount,” Eliza says. “You’ve saved thousands. And you’re doing an incredible amount right now. Surely you’re being too hard on yourself?”

“If I weren’t the Seer,” Aaron says, “or if I were never close to Washington, if I didn’t want to go into politics, if I were just a lawyer. Would you still love me?”

“If you weren’t the Seer,” Eliza says, “or if you were never close to Washington, if you were just the Prodigy of Princeton College, and the best lawyer in New York, would you really be content with staying at home, and doing no more?”

“I don’t need a legacy,” Aaron says. “I don’t need money. I just want some peace of mind. Isn’t this enough?”

Eliza leans over and kisses him chastely on the lips. “Look around,” she says. “At how lucky we are to be alive right now. In a time where Angelica can run a business, Peggy can shoot a musket and beat a Marquis at chess, slaves are being freed, where our country is free. Where our voices matter. Now that I’ve seen this, I’d never want to live any other way.”

“What if you were happy, in a world without this?” Aaron says.

“Am I not happy now?” Eliza says. “Do I not get to make this choice?”

Aaron is silent.

“What’s bothering you, love?” Eliza asks.

“What if I’ve seen a world where—where I wasn’t—where I was quiet. Was just a lawyer. Where Alexander was the one that everyone cared about, where Alexander was the voice that everyone listened to, where Alexander was the one who made things happen, what if I’ve seen a world where—“

“Were you happy?” Eliza asks.

“For a time,” Aaron says. “We all were happy, for a time.”

“But you and I, were we—“

“It wasn’t you and I,” Aaron says. “It was you and Alexander.”

Eliza’s voice gets very small. “Well. I find that very hard to imagine. Alexander is very nice, I’m sure, but I just can’t see—which is to say, even if—I just can’t see us together.”

“I just—“ Aaron sighs. “Are you sure that you’re happy?” At least one of us deserves to be happy.

“I’m happy,” Eliza says. “And I believe in you, whatever you choose to do.”

From the other room, Philip starts crying, and now it’s Eliza’s turn to sigh. “I’ll take care of that. You get some sleep.”

Aaron nods, but his eyes stay fixed on the ceiling for a long time, and it’s nearly morning when he finally drifts off to sleep.

~~~

There’s a letter on his desk the next morning, at the office.

“Alexander, do you know what this is?” Aaron says as he picks it up.

“No,” Alexander shouts from the other room. “It’s your mail, why would I read it?”

Aaron rubs his temples, and then his opens it. There are two sheets of paper. The first reads:

To the Honorable Council and House of Representatives, in General Court assembled, for the State of the Massachusetts Bay, in New England:

The petition of several poor negroes and mulattoes, who are inhabitants of the town of Dartmouth, humbly showeth,—

That we being chiefly of the African extract, and by reason of long bondage and hard slavery, we have been deprived of enjoying the profits of our labor or the advantage of inheriting estates from our parents, as our neighbors the white people do, having some of us not long enjoyed our own freedom; yet of late, contrary to the invariable custom and practice of the country, we have been, and now are, taxed both in our polls and that small pittance of estate which, through much hard labor and industry, we have got together to sustain ourselves and families withall. We apprehend it, therefore, to be hard usage, and will doubtless (if continued) reduce us to a state of beggary, whereby we shall become a burthen to others, if not timely prevented by the interposition of your justice and your power.

Your petitioners further show, that we apprehend ourselves to be aggrieved, in that, while we are not allowed the privilege of freemen of the State, having no vote or influence in the election of those that tax us, yet many of our colour (as is well known) have cheerfully entered the field of battle in the defence of the common cause, and that (as we conceive) against a similar exertion of power (in regard to taxation), too well known to need a recital in this place.

We most humbly request, therefore, that you would take our unhappy case into your serious consideration, and, in your wisdom and power, grant us relief from taxation, while under our present depressed circumstances; and your poor petitioners, as in duty bound, shall ever pray, &c.

John Cuffe,
Adventur Child,
Paul Cuffe,
Samuel Gray, X his mark.
Pero Howland, X his mark.
Pero Russell, X his mark.
Pero Coggeshall.
Dated at Dartmouth, the 10th of February, 1783.

And the second has an address, and a single sentence, in quite different handwriting:

If we may confer as soon as possible.
Respectfully yours,
Paul Cuffe

“I think this is a case,” Aaron says. “Although it’s the strangest request from a client I’ve ever seen.”

“Are you going to take it?” Alexander peeks his head in from the doorway.

“It’s in Massachusetts. And the date suggests—this is nearly eight months ago, I’m not sure why—I mean, I’d have to leave immediately, and I’m still not sure if there’s anything that can be done.”

Alexander leans forward and snatches the papers from his hand, and looks them over. “Well, if time is of the essence, you should probably go. Talk to the client, at least. This looks like exactly the sort of case we’re looking for.”

“Does nothing about this strike you as strange?” Aaron asks.

“Then take your guard,” Alexander says. “Although I doubt you’ll need them.”

Aaron looks at the petition again, then at Alexander’s face. “Maybe I ought to take this case,” he says slowly. “It does seem right up our alley. You’ll be alright keeping the offices running?”

“Like I always do,” Alexander grumbles.

That gives Aaron pause. “Would you…prefer to go?” he asks.

“No, no,” Alexander says. “You’re a lot more recognizable, and the letter was addressed to you.”

“Alexander, are we…” Aaron pauses. “Are we okay?”

Alexander raises an eyebrow.

“We’re not…are we fighting right now?”

“I think if we were fighting, I’d have a bullet in my chest,” Alexander says flatly.

Aaron freezes, and an expression flashes across Alexander’s face too quickly for him to read. And then Alexander just looks concerned, and puts a hand on Aaron’s shoulder. Aaron flinches. Alexander looks hurt at that, but Aaron’s finding it hard to care because he can’t breathe and he just wants Alexander to leave.

You knew this already, he reminds himself. You tell Alexander your deepest fears, your deepest secrets, and he will use them against you.

And he’s not wrong.

Alexander’s talking, but Aaron can’t really hear him; he’s too dizzy, his knees are weak, he’s either staring at the floor or the ceiling right now, he can’t tell. There’s a roaring in his ears and he wants to throw up.

He wants Laurens, at least with Laurens he only ever felt pathetic, and not like a monster.

But you are a monster, are you really so quick to forget why you’re here? What you’ve done?

“Aaron—“

“I’m fine,” Aaron grits out. “We both have work to do, Alexander, there is no need to make a fuss.”

“But—“

“Don’t worry about it, Alexander. I will attempt to maintain a tighter grasp on my emotions in the future, it was never my intention to make you feel unsafe around me.”

“Aaron, I—“

“Hamilton, let it go,” Aaron says. “You’re right. And if I remember correctly, you don’t apologize for doing what’s right.”

It’s Alexander’s turn to flinch. “Aaron, I didn’t mean that—“

“As much as I didn’t mean to put a bullet in your chest?” Aaron says. “Alexander, drop it. You win. I’ve hurt you more than you’ve ever hurt me.”

“We don’t even know if that vision was real,” Alexander says.

“I don’t even know if this world—this life—is real,” Aaron says. “It doesn’t matter.”

“Aaron, I—“

“And you have no reason to be engaging in this form of circular argument with me. I am neither fragile nor innocent, Alexander, you don’t need to pull your punches.”

“God, would you just shut up for one minute?” Alexander shouts. “Not everything is about your damn guilt complex.”

“You’re the one who brought up—“

“I know! I know what I brought up! God, Aaron, are you really that dense?”

“I will add that to the list of adjectives you ascribe to me.”

“I’m mad at you because you discarded me like a dirty towel the moment the war ended!” Alexander says. “Like it all meant nothing to you—“

“What do you mean?” Aaron says. “I thought you didn’t want to come along to the Treaty of Paris. If you—if you would rather have our practice be Hamilton & Burr instead of Burr & Hamilton, or if you don’t like how we’re divvying up the cases—“ Aaron stops. “This isn’t because we stopped having sex, is it?”

Alexander just glares at him.

“Alexander?”

His silence is answer enough.

“Alexander, you should have just told me—“

“Oh, I’m sorry, I thought that it was obvious—“

“I never wanted to hurt you—“

“So you just left me alone and heartbroken to go frolic up to Albany and marry your perfect wife?”

“You told me to—“

“And if I told you right now to leave her and be with me, would you?”

“Alexander, I have a son,” Aaron says softly.

Alexander deflates. “Right.”

“Alexander, you’re my best friend, that never changed,” Aaron tries again. “I really didn’t think—if I had known that it meant so much to you—“

“I don’t need your pity,” Alexander says.

Aaron takes a deep breath. “Would it be easier if we…went our separate ways?”

“Why would you say that?”

“Because if I met Theodosia,” Aaron says, “I would not want to keep her in my life. Wounds do not heal if they’re constantly being re-opened.”

Alexander’s mouth opens and then closes, and then his eyes narrow. “That’s a rather drastic assumption to make of your own relative importance to me,” he says. “A simple ‘I’m sorry’ would do.”

Aaron presses his lips together. “In that case, I am very sorry.”

“Well! Nice talk!” Alexander says. “You have work to do, I have work to do, we can…confer later. If we need to confer. Or tell me before you’re leaving. You really should take at least a few of your guard, you can never be too careful.”

Aaron nods. He picks up the two pieces of paper again, traces out the words. He wonders if Eliza would want him to go.

He thinks of Theodosia, how she understood, how she didn’t judge him at all when he had doubts about going to the Constitutional Convention, how she listened, how she knew. How he never questioned for a moment whether she loved him for being him, how sometimes it feels like she was the only one who loved him for being him.

He thinks of Alexander, he thinks of Laurens, he thinks of Eliza. His wife.

Of Philip.

(Of little Theo and the gloves that Theodosia made so that he could hold her.)

He tries not to think about the fact that Theodosia is alive right now, that he could have just gone to her, that he could have shared what little time they could have together, but instead he’s in this mess—Eliza’s dreams that he can never live up to, and Alexander’s disappointment in what he thinks could have been.

”What about you?” Theodosia had asked him.

Wounds do not heal if they’re constantly being re-opened.

So he pushes her from his mind.

~~~

It takes Aaron three days to ride to Paul Cuffe’s house in Westport, Massachusetts. He doesn’t really want to take guards, maybe precisely because Alexander had been so adamant about suggesting it, maybe because he hates the idea that he has to go anywhere with guards. But Hercules Mulligan swings by the Burr residence before Aaron can set out and says that he has business in Boston and was sending his assistant Cato along that road anyways, and Aaron doesn’t quite know how to politely refuse this—hell, he doesn’t even know how Hercules Mulligan knew he was going—well, rationally it was probably Alexander who told him, but Mulligan likes to maintain his aura of all-knowing spymaster even after the war—but either way, Aaron’s thoughts are too scattered for him to properly turn Mulligan’s insistences down.

He also doesn’t know how to politely ask whether or not Cato is still enslaved.

Cato doesn’t speak much, but it makes all the silences uncomfortable, it reminds Aaron of things that he doesn’t want to think about. Aaron tries to concentrate on the case instead, although that only reminds him of how little he actually knows about this, how little research he’s done, how he’s more familiar with New York laws than Massachusetts ones, and how he’s fairly certain that at best he is going to make a fool out of himself.

He designs a lesson plan for when Philip gets to the age in which it would be appropriate to teach him how to read instead. Brainstorms ideas for what authors he wants to raise Philip on, he’ll have to talk to Eliza about how rusty her Latin and Greek are because Philip will need all the help he can get. Does Eliza even know Latin and Greek? Does she even want to learn Latin and Greek? These questions occupy him.

It’s late in the afternoon on the fourth day by the time they make it to the given address, a small farm near the outskirts of town. Aaron’s not quite sure what else to do, so he walks up to the door and knocks.

It’s answered by a tall, well-built man with a broad face and dark skin.

“Paul Cuffe?” Aaron asks.

“John,” the man replies. “Paul is at the docks. Who are you?”

“Aaron Burr, sir?” Aaron says, and John’s eyes widen. “I’m here about the petition that you submitted to the Massachusetts State Legislature?”

“That petition was already denied,” John says. “So I’m not sure what you’re doing here.”

“I received a letter from Paul Cuffe,” Aaron says. “I’m not sure if—that is to say, if he were—if you were—putting together a legal case, an attempt to sue the state, this might be something I have some form of expertise in, and this seems precisely the sort of case that my partner and I specialize in—“

“We don’t have the money to pay big fancy lawyers to sue the state for us,” John says, and starts to close the door, but Aaron wedges a foot in.

“Money isn’t an issue,” Aaron says. “Please. Paul sent for me, at least let me stay to meet him.”

John gives him a long look. “Alright. I can’t imagine what he’d want with you, but you can wait until he gets back.”

“Can we—“ Aaron swallows. “Can we come in and sit down?”

John opens the door. “Feel free.”

Cato ties up the horses, then follows Aaron into the house. They both sit down at the kitchen table, and then Aaron, with nothing better to do, takes out all of his papers and fidgets. His mind is racing to fast to make any reasonable progress on anything he ought to be doing; but he can at least look as if he’s being useful.

An hour, perhaps an hour and a half passes, and the light begins to fade outside, before anyone else comes home. Whoever it is—Paul, or another sibling, or a child, or maybe a spouse—is shouting up to John as he walks through the door.

“—and it’ll sail just fine, David won’t come with me because he’s worried about pirates, but I say that—“

He stops when he catches sight of Aaron at the kitchen table.

“John?”

“They’re the lawyers you sent for,” comes John’s voice from the other room. “About the petition. Aaron Burr and his help.

“Friend,” Aaron says. “Dangerous to travel alone.”

Paul Cuffe’s eyes narrow, and he steps fully into the kitchen. He’s shorter than his brother, more compactly built, but the kinship is unmistakable: he has the same dark eyes, thick nose, and hair shaved close to his head.

“Aaron Burr,” he says. It sounds like a challenge.

Aaron stands up, and in his haste, he knocks his own papers all over the table, and he is about to outstretch his hand before he realize that he took his gloves off to better try to rearrange his papers. He grabs one from his pocket with shaking fingers and slips it on as quickly as possible before offering his hand.

Cuffe looks at him with disgust. “So I’m not even good enough for you to touch?”

Aaron flushes. “I see people’s deaths when I touch their skin,” he says. “I assumed that you might prefer the…privacy, of not having a stranger witness your final moments.”

Cuffe shakes his hand, then they both sit down, and Aaron re-stacks his papers. Cuffe is sitting on the edge of his seat. He looks so young, he can’t be older than twenty-three, but there’s a sharpness, an intelligence, a determination

Aaron feels completely out of his depth.

He takes a deep breath. “We’re here to talk about the logistics of the Burr & Hamilton firm representing your case against the Massachusetts state government—“

“You’re a bit late,” Cuffe says. “Our petition has been denied.”

“There are other paths,” Aaron says patiently. “I can look into it, I can—I have connections, and if I take this case it will gain more attention. It won’t be written off.”

Cuffe snorts.

“What?”

“You won’t want to hear it,” he says.

“Try me,” Aaron says.

“‘You have connections. The case won’t get written off.’ You might as well say it. Because you’re born into a different class than us.”

“Because I’m the Seer,” Aaron snaps.

“Do you really think that if you were a slave or a freedman, but still the Seer, that anyone would have listened to you?”

Aaron is silent.

“Yeah. I thought so. You have quite a lot of nerve, coming here.”

“Excuse me?”

“You know, I served in the war,” Cuffe says. “Read your pamphlet. On the True Nature of Freedom. Very sophisticated title, very sophisticated stuff. I spent three months rotting in a British prison, but that still couldn’t get me down. I was so excited when we won to see what was going to happen. And then you did nothing.”

“I’ve had—“ His wife. His newborn son. And he’d been taking cases.

“You’ve had a home to return to is what you had,” Cuffe says. “So you could put aside all your fancy words and live in domestic bliss, while the people who fought by your side got to return to their masters because their families hadn’t been freed. You don’t get to champion our cause when it’s convenient for you, and be surreptitiously silent the moment you’ve gotten what you want.

“I have to say,” he spits. “It was a brilliant piece of wartime propaganda. You got your spy network, you got your black battalions and legion upon legion of us lining up to die for you, and then you got lauded as a hero for it.”

“I—“ The words are caught in Aaron’s throat. “If I push too hard, people will stop listening to me, I—“

“And that’s the worst thing that can happen to you,” Cuffe says. “People will stop listening to you. While we’re denied basic human rights.”

There’s not much Aaron can say to that.

“You know what the worst part it?” Cuffe says. He doesn’t wait for Aaron to answer. “Your day of equality that you wrote about, if you ever really did see it, if it even ever comes. When they look back, you’re not going to be one of the villains of history. They’re going to go back and cite your words as to why you were a great man, ahead of your times, a savior of the people. As if words were enough. You’ll be remembered as a hero for something you never did, and our words will be written over.”

“I can—which is to say we can—we can take your case, set a precedent, work within the legal system—“

“We don’t need your assistance handed down like scraps from the high table,” Cuffe says. “You want to work within the legal system? The problem is the legal system.”

“Then do you want me to—is this a call for a Constitutional Convention?” Did Alexander send him here to try to motivate him? A new form of government—is that what this is all about?

“This isn’t about you,” Cuffe says. “And the sooner you understand that, the sooner you might do something actually useful.”

“Then why did you call me here?” Aaron asks.

“I didn’t,” Cuffe says. “Now if you would kindly get out of my house.”

Aaron shoves his papers back into his bag, and stands. “Well, I am sorry for the inconvenience,” he says. “It was enlightening to hear your opinion.” Then he presses his mouth shut before he can say anything else. Cato follows after him.

It’s only outside, untying the horses, that either of them speaks.

“It’s dark, too late to head back,” Cato says. “We should find an inn here for the night, and head out tomorrow.”

It’s more words than Aaron has heard Cato say this whole trip. “Don’t you have business in Boston?” he asks.

Cato just stares at him. Well, at least he’s not going to be dragged along another day and a half’s worth hard riding just to keep up pretenses.

They ride in silence all the way into town, and Cato just watches as Aaron secures them a room for the night and a meal at the tavern. The owner of the establishment is quick to recognize Aaron and offer the best room in the house for free, and says Cato can sleep in the stables until Aaron points out that he goes nowhere without his guard.

“Then he’ll have to sleep on the floor, because we just don’t have the room,” the innkeeper says, and Aaron feels sick. They’re led to a table, brought food, then left alone.

Aaron picks at his food, but he’s having a hard time eating it. What’s he supposed to say to Cato? That he can have the bed? As if that would make up for anything? Or, ‘oh, I’m sorry that the man who was best friends with my friends, a man who I’ve shared drinks with and who threw flowers at my wedding, owned you, but are we cool?’

Aaron aggressively shoves stew and bread into his mouth. He can feel Cato judging him. He wants to defend himself—if he came out as an abolitionist, no one would listen to him, he really is trying to help, Paul Cuffe of all people doesn’t know how complicated these things are, how careful Aaron has to be if he wants real power. Cuffe doesn’t have the sort of perspective to understand how this works

“Sometimes sacrifices have to be made,” he says, more to himself than anyone.

“A lot easier when you’re not the one making the sacrifices,” Cato replies.

Aaron starts, and accidentally meets Cato’s eyes, then he can’t look away. Guilt churns in his stomach.

“Silence has meaning,” Cato finally says.

“I’m not—I’m trying to—“

Cato shrugs. “I know. What do you want me to say, that you’ve earned a pat on the back?”

“I’m—“ Aaron falters.

“You’ve done more than many,” Cato says. “I appreciate that.”

“What am I supposed to do?” Aaron asks.

Cato shrugs. “You listened. That’s a start.”

~~~

The three day ride back to New York City passes in silence. Aaron returns directly to the offices when they get back, and Alexander is there. He seems a lot calmer than when Aaron left. Aaron almost wants to ask if he sent him, but he decides it doesn’t matter. “Cuffe didn’t want us to take the case,” he says, and then they go back to business as normal. They take Deborah Sampson’s case about receiving her wages from the Continental Army, and it puts them in national scrutiny because Congress is struggling to pay anyone anything, and Alexander starts very publicly calling for a Constitutional Convention. Angelica points out in a letter that the fact that Aaron isn’t saying anything might be a sign to people that a Constitutional Convention isn’t the right way forward; Aaron releases a brief pamphlet talking about the advantages of a stronger central government: infrastructure, roads, trade, foreign relations, currency, paying back war bonds—strength, prosperity, and development, essentially, and articulation and protection of freedoms. That there are large problems and deep questions going into the future that unity will allow them to address.

I am careful to speak out about this sort of thing, Aaron writes, because I do not wish for my voice to overpower our democracy or wield influence over the people. It is my duty as a Seer to speak out when the future is dire; not to choose the future that I believe is best. I have seen a Constitutional Convention, and I have seen its success. That does not mean it is what this nation ought to choose: we ought to weigh the pro’s and con’s on shifting our government, and make our own choice.

He ponders for hours whether or not he should add on a final line: It is my opinion as a person, not as the Seer, that a Convention of this form is not only beneficial but is necessary for our nation.

He chooses not to. Why do today what he could do tomorrow? Delay might give a clearer light as to what is best to be done, and this pamphlet is going out on a limb enough.

So he leaves the arguing to other people, refuses to comment or give speeches or write anything grand, returns to his practice, but it’s enough. The conversation has been sparked, the idea is in people’s minds, but the general opinion seems to have been shifted towards having a Constitutional Convention. Aaron knows it’s because he spoke up and he hates it; this is everything he feared, everything he hated. Everyone’s watching his every move to try to infer his opinion from every little thing that he does; it almost reminds him of back before the war when British soldiers tailed him everywhere, and if this is how life is going to be every time a contentious issue comes up—he decides not to follow that train of thought.

He returns to writing his closing for the Sampson case, because Alexander is letting him take lead on this one.

Laws do not apply simply when you wish to follow them; moral standards are not to be held only when convenient. Equality for all men—as written in our very Declaration of Independence—does not mean equality for us when it benefits us. Much like this, those who do the same work, ought to be treated by the same standard. Deborah Sampson fought and bled on the same grounds that men did, she saved lives and she took as much part in freeing this country as any man in our army contributed. For that to be written off because of her sex is a disservice to all of us. Gentlemen of the jury, you are faced today with setting not only an incredibly important precedent, but in affirming a fundamental doctrine for this nation: if we are to have ideals, we must stand by them at all times.

Aaron puts his quill down, and sucks in a breath. These words will be remembered, these words will be quoted, these words will be spread.

These are not his words, not really; the voice of Paul Cuffe is still ringing in his head.

We’ll take a case like that case, he thinks. We’ll find someone in New York or someone else in Massachusetts who will sue the state.

But it doesn’t matter; Cuffe is right. He’s the one who’s going to be credited for those words; he’s the one who’s going to be lauded for all of this, while the voices—the voices that actually said these things in the first place will be erased, forgotten. History obliterates all it paints.

But he can make a difference, and that’s the point, right? They want the vote, don’t they, right? His voice is the one that matters now, isn’t it? He can’t—he can’t be a spokesperson if he can’t speak.

He picks the quill up, and he keeps writing the statement, but he feels hollow inside.

Chapter Text

Aaron’s invited to the Constitutional Convention.

Alexander is not.

Aaron frets for a whole day about how to have that sort of conversation and what is he going to say and how is Alexander going to feel, but Alexander just waves him off with an, “it’s fine, besides, I’m way too abrasive and opinionated, they clearly think the both of us would be too much to handle.”

“Do you have anything you…want me to say there?” Aaron asks. “Any ideas that you want to get across?”

That gives Alexander pause, and he asks for a day to write an outline of his plans down and that he’ll give the specifics to Aaron, and then he doesn’t give Aaron anything the next day, or the day after.

If you stand for nothing, Burr, what will you fall for?

It’s not that surprising, Alexander probably just thinks that anything he writes, Aaron will be too afraid to say. Which is frustrating because it’s not true, Aaron has had months to think about this, months to steel his resolve over and over, that he isn’t going to let this opportunity slide.

He kisses Eliza goodbye, tells her to take care of Alexander, but also to take care of herself—he frets for days about leaving her alone with Philip and the new baby, little Angie, until she nearly shoos him out of the house on the day of. “I’ll be fine,” she says. “And you won’t be very long. There’s no need to worry.”

A small group of guards is escorting him down, although at this point Aaron thinks it’s more because people are worried about him traveling on his own because he's a human disaster when it comes to taking care of himself, and less because of any worry about any sort of attack. That and Harrison wants to visit his sister in Philadelphia, and Milton is stir crazy and wants to get out of town. There’s an actual military regiment coming to joint the escort and will be stationed around him and around the Convention itself, but Aaron trusts the men that were around him during the war far more, so this is the compromise. They leave early in the morning to make the most of a full day of travel, and Aaron can’t help but feel a twinge of nervousness at leaving Alexander behind. He has no idea what’s waiting for him in Philadelphia, but he gets the feeling that this is not going to go nearly as smoothly as the last time.

~~~

When Aaron arrives at Philadelphia, he drops his luggage quickly at the home of the family who is hosting him—he’s told it’s a semi-secret location, for his own safety, and that there will be an escort available whenever he wants it, but they’re not forcing him to be under armed guard at all times. But he doesn’t care for getting settled in right now; he has a mission. Namely: find George Washington and tell him about his vision of the coming war. Washington is the most powerful political figure in the country, and people will listen to him. Especially about a war. More than they’ll just listen to Aaron alone, he needs someone from the South on his side. Washington is his best chance; he’s not sure if anyone else will even talk to him.

It’s easy enough to find the Pennsylvania State House, and easier still to stalk through the hallways until he finds the room that has been delegated as Washington’s office. There are voices behind the closed door, so Washington must be meeting with someone, but Aaron doesn’t really care. It’s easy enough to burst in.

Aaron is right about Washington meeting with someone; both Washington and a young James Madison start and then turn to look at him. Washington clears his throat.

“Aaron, I didn’t expect to see you.”

“It’s important,” Aaron says.

Washington sighs. “Well, I was just telling Mr. Madison here about his duties as record-keeper for the Convention. We’re instituting a policy of complete privacy so that all delegates might speak their minds without fear, and I don’t want anyone else’s notes getting out.”

“I need your help,” Aaron says. “We have to get slavery written out of the Constitution, and guarantee the right of all free men to vote. And women if we can, I mean—”

“Aaron, I told you during the war,” Washington says. "Our priority here is the creation of our new nation, and that is contentious enough as it is, you need to save your crusade for a time when the fate of our nation is not on the line, and we can discuss this calmly and rationally as—“

“The fate of our nation is on the line!” Aaron nearly shouts. “I’ve had a vision of the worst war our country will ever face, of an army marching to the sea and burning everything from plantations to cities along the way, of battlefields so littered with bodies that you can’t see the ground—“

“Enough!” Washington says. “You were asked to attend this Convention to consult upon matters of grave danger in our nation’s future. If you truly think this matter is so pressing that you must endanger our unity now to bring it up here, I have learned that I cannot stop you. But you must not ask—“

“Taxation without representation,” Aaron says. “That’s why we declared independence from the British. Because we found it unfair that we were paying taxes but didn’t have a say in our governance. We took up arms because of it, and we were seen as heroes, revolutionaries. A year and a half ago Paul Cuffe submitted a petition to the Massachusetts state legislature. Do you know what he was asking for? Freedmen were being taxed and wanted the right to vote. They were denied. Denied. By the very men who rose up as heroes and fought for that exact same thing. This isn’t about slavery, you’re asking me to sit and watch as we build our country on a foundation of hypocrisy to cater to the interests of—“

“Aaron, this is not the time to have this conversation,” Washington says. “We can speak more privately at a later time, but I urge you not to act rashly in this. You don’t have nearly the experience to—“ He sighs. “I know that things seem black and white when you’re younger. But this is a bit more nuanced. Please try to remember that.”

Talk less, smile more, don’t let them know what you’re against or what you’re for. He’s spent a whole lifetime remembering that, and look what good it brought him.

“I’ll see you at the Convention, sir,” he says. And then he storms out.

~~~

“Burr!”

Aaron stops mid-stride in the hallway, and Madison catches up with him.

“The new Massachusetts state constitution, have you read it?” he says. His panting at jogging a few feet to catch up to Aaron turns into a cough, which turns into a full minute of him trying to catch his breath.

Aaron just glares disdainfully. “Well? What about it?”

“Article I. All men are born free and equal, and have certain natural, essential, and unalienable rights; among which may be reckoned the right of enjoying and defending their lives and liberties; that of acquiring, possessing, and protecting property; in fine, that of seeking and obtaining their safety and happiness.”

“Yes,” Aaron says. “Didn’t your dear friend Jefferson write ‘we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal?’ Except, you know, the ones you consider beneath you.”

“Article IX. All elections ought to be free; and all the inhabitants of this commonwealth, having such qualifications as they shall establish by their frame of government, have an equal right to elect officers, and to be elected, for public employments,” Madison pants. “They have the vote.”

Aaron freezes. “What?”

“Massachusetts wrote into their constitution that all free men can vote.

It’s like the wind’s been knocked out of him for a second. He followed Elizabeth Freeman’s case—after all, his brother-in-law, Tapping Reeve, had been Bett’s attorney, along with some young up-and-coming lawyer named Thomas Sedgwick. Aaron had tried to offer legal counsel in correspondence, until Sally had sent him a letter that had essentially translated into ‘kindly back off, we are both ready to kill you, you’ve written more to us in the last three months than you have in three years and this is excessive.’

Tapping and Sedgwick had won the case, though, and it had set the precedent to essentially outlaw slavery in Massachusetts. But as Cuffe had pointed out, it was one thing to ban slavery, another thing to give free men the vote.

“Could you—“ Madison starts coughing again, and Aaron somewhat worriedly goes over to him and takes him by the elbow and begins walking with him.

“Why are you telling me this?” he asks a bit more gently.

“What you were saying about a vision of the war,” Madison says. “Will you tell me more about it?”

“Why?” Aaron asks.

Madison stops and meets his gaze directly. “Because this might be the single greatest threat that our country is facing, and I think it is insanity to invite the Seer to the Constitutional Convention specifically to advise us on the course of our nation’s future, and then to ignore all warnings you give.”

Aaron raises an eyebrow. “You want to actively hear what I have to say, despite the fact that the punchline is 'we need to end slavery,' after George Washington told me to get out of his office because my proposal is too divisive.”

Madison sighs. “Is that not what I just said?”

“You’re from the South,” Aaron says. “Isn’t this directly against your interest?”

“It’s directly against my interest to have my home burned to the ground by a raging army of men,” Madison says. “Perhaps outlawing slavery is the solution, perhaps it is not, but I’d like to hear exactly what your vision was about before I make that judgement.”

“What do you want to know?” Aaron asks.

“Do you have any idea when it happens?” Madison says.

“Not for a little while,” Aaron says. “Maybe sixty, seventy years if we’re lucky. But it’s not that far off. If we don't live through it, our children will.”

“Is it a slave uprising?” Madison asks. “Because that degree of all-consuming—which is to say the burning of properties as an army marches—“

“No,” Aaron says. “This isn’t just an uprising. The whole country is involved, and it’s more than just—families are torn apart. Brother fighting brother. The entire world goes crazy. And it’s—the root that it all grows from is that slavery is allowed in this country.”

Aaron can see Madison is deep in thought, so he adds, “And slaves all flocked to join one particular side, I’m fairly sure the side that won. Although it—the whole country is in chaos, there’s a senator beating another senator half to death with a cane on the Senate floor, the President gets shot in the back of his head while he’s out with his wife watching a play, I’m not even sure if we as country get through this. It’s more than just a war, Madison, it tears our nation apart. And the South will burn.”

“You’re sure this is about slavery?” Madison asks.

“Yes,” Aaron says. He wracks his memories for the later years of his life. “I’ve seen the lead-up to it as well, the country is divided into ’slave states’ and ‘free states,’ the South begins to get paranoid that restrictions will be put on either the slave trade or they’ll be forced into emancipation, so there’s a massive rush for territory and—the Missouri Compromise, that’s the start of it, where the territory Missouri is let in as a slave state and Maine as a free state—but it keeps getting worse, people fighting to settle just so they can vote a place slave or free—it’s definitely about slavery.”

(He regrets that he hadn’t been paying as close attention, that he’d basically just spent his years feeling sorry for himself and running a failed law practice in the city.)

“A house divided against itself cannot stand,” Aaron muses.

“What?” Madison asks.

Aaron shakes his head. “Sorry. Just thinking out loud.”

“Do you expect our government to fall?” Madison asks.

“No,” Aaron says. “Just, it won’t be able to stay divided, not for long. It will become all one thing or all the other. Only I’ve already seen which one it becomes. So we should. Um. Stop it from ever coming to that. Sorry.”

“Are you alright?” Madison asks.

“My head hurts,” Aaron says. “It’s the heat, I think it’s getting to me.”

“Let me walk you to wherever you’re staying,” Madison says. “It wouldn’t do for you to get sick alone in the street.”

It occurs to Aaron that Madison might actually be trying to do a nice thing for him, considering how often the man falls prey to his own frail health. “Thank you,” he says. “I’m staying with the Bache family, they’re nearby.”

Madison walks him all the way back, mostly in silence. But he pauses at the door.

“Burr.”

Aaron turns.

“It seems likely to me that once you introduce the idea of ending slavery, you are going to need to form a coalition around you,” Madison says. “In fact, people might approach you before the Convention in hopes of forming some sort of coalition. I would like to be a part of this coalition.” He pauses. “I know you think you have little reason to trust me, as I’m from the South.” As I own slaves, he doesn’t say. “But I am serious about doing what is best for all of us. About long-term interests over short term interests. I would ask you to trust that, as I can be a far more effective ally if I know your plans.”

“I’ll keep that in mind,” Aaron says. Although it bothers him. He and Madison had always been friendly, he had been ready to take Madison’s words at face value, although now—now there’s a part of him that wonders. Does Madison just want to be involved so that he can he can sabotage them from the inside?

Politics makes enemies of us all, Aaron thinks.

~~~

Mrs. Bache mostly lets him be, she invites him to the family dinner at seven, in which she introduces her husband and all of her children and serves a frankly delicious roast chicken, but otherwise doesn’t disturb him for the afternoon, or when he excuses himself after dinner to his room.

He gets lost in a legal text that Alexander recommended to him for a few hours, until at quarter to ten in the evening, Mrs. Bache knocks on his door. “Mr. Burr, you have visitors,” she says. “I’ve cleared that parlor for you, if you wouldn’t mind coming down.”

Aaron sighs, marks the page, and follows her. She gestures to the door of the parlor downstairs, but doesn’t enter it. Curiosity piqued, Aaron opens the door and walks through.

“Aaron!” Benjamin Franklin says in a far-too-loud and booming voice, and strides over to Aaron and pulls him into an embrace. “It’s good to see you again!”

“How did you find me here?” Aaron stammers when he’s done being overwhelmed by both Franklin’s non-trivial mass and a vision of Franklin having more and more trouble breathing, and then something in the man's chest shifts and he’s suddenly throwing up, and then falling into a sort of coma-like state that Aaron assumes that he dies from within the next few hours. It's unpleasant to say the least.

Franklin winks. “I have my ways. Now there are a few people that I want you to meet, I think we’re all going to become very close friends in the next few months. This is Thomas Mifflin—“

“We may have met briefly around the Battles of Trenton and Princeton,” Mifflin says. “I organized support for that from Philadelphia, and I visited the winter encampment a few times.”

“Thomas Fitzsimons, George Clymer,” Franklin continues, “And Gouverneur Morris, they’re all delegates from Pennsylvania, I think you’ll find that Pennsylvanians are of a very rare breed of reasonable that will otherwise be lacking here.”

“Gentlemen,” Aaron says. “Forgive me if I do not shake your hands, it is late and I do not have my gloves.”

Morris raises an eyebrow.

“I’ll see your death,” Aaron explains.

“I thought those were just rumors,” Morris says. “So you really do see people’s deaths when you touch them.”

“Amongst other things,” Aaron says. “But yes, that is one of my abilities.”

“Burr, is there anything you’d like to tell us before we go in there tomorrow?” Franklin says. “So that there are no surprises. Get us on the same page, so to speak.”

“There’s…a war,” Aaron says. "Preventing it is going to be my priority."

“The one that you told me about? That stretches across Europe?” Franklin says.

“No,” Aaron says. “A different one. Worse. Worst war in America history, maybe, more American soldiers die than will in any other wars combined for centuries, battlefields covered with dead bodies, brothers fighting against brothers, an army marching towards the sea burning homes and plantations as they go—“ Aaron’s really getting tired of this explanation.

“Against whom?” Franklin asks.

“Against ourselves,” Aaron says. “Because of slavery. States that want slavery versus states that don’t, there’s a massive Civil War that is looming on the horizon and it is preventable only be ending slavery in this country from the get-go.”

“Well, that’s a bit more drastic than I thought we were going to be dealing with,” Franklin says. “You understand that this is not going to be easy. Even if you stand up there and describe this vision in detail—”

“Is anything worth doing easy?” Aaron says. “I thought you all came here to help me.”

“To be honest, I expected you to say something extreme,” Franklin says. “Which is why I gathered the more liberal-minded of my colleagues here.”

“I spoke with James Madison earlier today,” Aaron says. “He’d also like to be a part of this…coalition. He thinks that the long-term interests of this nation are more important than the short-term placation of the South.”

“If you trust him,” Franklin says. “Do you have a plan yet?”

“Address the Convention as a whole, tell them about my vision,” Aaron says. “See who agrees with us. Talk with them. Keep working until our coalition is big enough to get something done?”

“I have some clout, some old friends,” Morris says. “People who voted stupidly back in ’78 when the Conway Cabal was forcing a vote of no confidence against Washington because on grounds of you having ‘too much influence’ over him, before it became even more supremely evident that you were winning us the war. There are some favors I can call in. Hell, even Washington owes me, I cast the vote that kept him from being court-martialed.”

“I spoke with Washington earlier today,” Aaron says. “He’s not going to step out and endorse anything, he thinks the priority is the creation of our nation and they need unifying leadership, not decisive issues on the forefront of everyone’s minds.”

“Hmph,” Morris says.

“You’re going to need to stand up and talk about your visions of the future in front of a lot of people,” Franklin says. “Are you sure you’re up for that?”

“This is my duty as Seer,” Aaron says. “This isn’t for some political advantage, this isn’t a lie. The single thing that Seers are supposed to do is prevent great catastrophe in the future and there is a great catastrophe in the future and I’m going to prevent it.”

“Well, I like your attitude at least,” Morris says. “It’s refreshing.”

“Politicians are very hard to convince on warnings of danger alone,” Mifflin says. “That was one of our greatest problems during the Revolution. Congress’s endless bickering and inaction because they didn’t know what it was like on the field.”

“Some of the delegates will have served,” Clymer says. “They should be a lot more approachable.”

“This is all just hypotheticals until we see how the Convention reacts to Mr. Burr’s statement of his vision,” Franklin says. “I expect it’ll be chaos and everyone shouting at each other for a few weeks, and then quite a lot of denial. But that sort of thing is very hard to predict.”

“You all took it in stride,” Aaron points out.

“We were all warned by Franklin to expect you to be…well. ‘As unpredictable and staggering as the future is, once you get past how small and soft-spoken he is,’” Morris says.

“I’m perfectly predictable!” Aaron says. “Which is to say that—my actions are—I’m consistent! I'm reasonable! I have a moral and logical code! I follow it!” I’m not Hamilton. But he doesn’t say it.

“And you know things that none of us can, and act on this foreknowledge,” Franklin says. “You discuss monstrous wars like you’d discuss the weather, and you’ve seen how most of the people around you die. You’re a bit unsettling upon first meeting.”

“This conversation has had a lot fewer pleasantries and a lot more severe and momentous revelations than most conversations I have with colleagues before attending political proceedings,” Fitzsimons says.

“Aw, now don’t all gang up on him,” Morris says.

Aaron hears a soft “you started it” from somewhere and doesn’t bother looking who said it.

“If we’re done discussing strategy, then maybe we should get some sleep,” Aaron says, because he really is too tired to deal with this sort of inane bickering. “We’ve got a quorum of delegates in Philadelphia now, it’s going to start tomorrow.”

The men all say their goodbyes relatively quickly, and Aaron feels his shoulders sag in relief. He adds ‘expect Benjamin Franklin to come and stress you out on the night before an important meeting’ to his list of things to remember.

Because he is terrified. He remembers politics, he remembers how good he was at politics and how that all came from staying quiet, cultivating connections, and then keeping those connections. This is the opposite of doing that. This is everything that he’s avoided doing so fervently all his life that suddenly he can barely breathe, just considering what they are trying to do.

He wishes that he had Alexander’s strength, concentrates on the fire in Alexander’s eyes, and pretends that Alexander was here with him until he finally falls asleep.

Chapter Text

The first day of the Convention, there are introductions the entire morning, as well as Washington laying out a few ground guidelines of what the convention should look like, and they talk about formatting of ideas, the potential for splitting into committees. James Madison is officially appointed note-taker, not much else gets done.

The second day, Aaron insists on speaking before the full committee about the visions he’s had for the future of the nation.

He starts out with the positive: how they will come up with a robust system of checks and balances, that this will be a functional Republic that can stand strong for centuries to come, that democracies around the world will take inspiration from their Constitution, that this is the start of a country they can be proud of.

“But even the greatest of nations can have great blemishes in their past,” Aaron says. “Or their future. I was asked to attend this Convention not merely as a lawyer and a politician who might contribute to the structuring of our government, but as this nation’s Seer. It is my duty, first and foremost, to bring to your attention the great dangers of the future, that we might navigate around them.”

He takes a deep breath.

“And I have seen a War.”

~~~

When all is said and done, he’s spoken for six full hours. He describes his vision in explicit detail, emphasizing the sheer magnitude of death. Of brothers fighting brothers, families being torn apart. “Slavery will be ended,” he says. “It is only a question of at what cost.”

He talks about the buildup, emphasizing the growing tensions between what will be known as slave states and free states. How the question goes into whether or not territories will enter the Union becomes one of fear of upsetting this balance.

He talks about the dangers that this presents their very government, the murder of the President, the violence on the Senate floor.

Aaron’s throat is dry and he can feel the painful rasp with each of the final words that he shapes:

“Our government shall be a sanctuary, a citadel of law, of order, and of liberty; and it is here—in this exalted refuge—here that we must put the needs of our country and the interests of building a better future for our children, in front of the short-sighted interests of the present. It is here that we have a duty to put aside our personal bias and look towards the future. If the Constitution is destined ever to perish, in war, in conflict, or at the hands of the sacrilegious usurper, know that it is here, on this floor, that we have a chance to avery this destiny. That we have a chance to write life, not death.”

There’s no applause after. No tears. None of the emotion that had shown the last time he spoke to the House and Senate. Instead, the Convention is listless, and Aaron’s stomach twists itself into knots. This is the largest group of people he’s ever spoken about one of his visions to. And he can’t get a read on them, can’t tell whether or not they listened.

Benjamin Franklin rises to speak.

“I had the honor of working with Aaron Burr over the Treaty of Paris,” Franklin says. “Most of you saw the outcome: an agreement that was an incredible win on all counts for the United States. What you did not see was how near we came to international catastrophe. We were on the brink of signing a treaty directly negotiated with Britain that snubbed the French and cut them away from their winnings entirely. Mr. Burr’s visions of the future of France and Europe as a whole, as well as his instincts on how to navigate the delicate waters of changing the future without damaging the positive outcomes we could still reap is the reason why France did not collapse financially and spiral towards its own ruin, and why this nation is not millions of dollars in debt. I have advised Minister Vergennes since on preventing the collapse of the French economy and civic unrest that is beginning there. Those warnings have not been heeded. I ask that you trust me now, as I have seen firsthand behind closed doors what happens when those in power heed Mr. Burr’s visions, and what happens when they ignore them. I know that what has been said is a lot to take in, and is an issue that you may not have come here prepared to discuss. The future is often unpredictable like that. But this must be given the weight that it deserves. This war will come, and your children and grandchildren will suffer.”

“Respectfully, sirs, this is not an issue that we came to this Convention to deliberate on,” John Lansing—one of the New York delegates, he traveled separately from Aaron, actually got to Philidelphia well before Aaron did—says. “We are here to discuss the structuring of the Federal government, we were picked by our state legislatures to speak on those issues. We were given no guidance of the popular opinions of our states on a measure as drastic as you are proposing. Nor do I think that it is a discussion that belongs in this place.”

“It belongs in this place because we can, here and now, state in our Constitution who is considered a full citizen,” Aaron says. “It belongs in this place because we must discuss who can vote in federal elections.”

There’s silence.

“You mean to suggest,” Pierce Butler, whom Aaron recognizes as one of the delegates from South Carolina, “that not only should we end slavery in this nation, but you want slaves to have the power to vote in Federal elections?”

“Well, they wouldn’t be slaves, that’s sort of the whole point,“ Aaron quips. “But essentially? Yes.”

Another beat of silence, then:

“Bright young man—“

“You mean to discuss this?!??”

~~~

Two months of arguing in circles.

Two months.

Aaron tries every single angle: the morality of owning people and the conditions that these human beings are being kept in, the hypocrisy of ‘all men are created equal,’ the horror of the coming war and how the destruction of the South’s infrastructure will be worse than if slaves were freed now, the coming death of so many people, of so many citizens, of the children and families of the very people in this room.

Nothing gets through. Nothing.

The other two delegates from New York—Lansing and Yates—just up and leave because they think that this “wasn’t what the Convention was going to be for,” it was supposed to be about altering the Articles of Confederation, not drafting a whole new government, and certainly not about ending slavery. Which is all that is being discussed. Pennsylvania is rousingly on Aaron’s side, so is Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire.

That’s five. Out of thirteen. Aaron’s impressed that they’re putting up enough of a fuss not to have the entire issue floored.

Washington does nothing to give them any sort of support, in fact, Washington says nothing at all, he just sort of sits there and watches everyone argue. Madison hasn’t come out on their side either; but that’s because Franklin has strongly advised him to wait until a pivotal moment, so that people will listen to him, because he might only have one chance to speak before he’s written off as being a part of Aaron Burr’s hysterical constituency.

Aaron drafts an address revolving around the war being a punishment from God for the death and suffering caused by slavery. Madison points out that the motion to pray every morning at the beginning of the proceedings had been struck down, so he doubts that religion is going to move these men now. Maybe the common people like fire and brimstone speeches, but their audience is hardly the common people.

The problem is, the Southern delegates are moving closer and closer to the conclusion that the Northern and Southern interests are incompatible, and that it would be better to just make two nations from the start. But it’s Charles Cotesworth Pinckney that brings it up first:

“Perhaps we just shouldn’t form one nation, if it is to be so rife with violence and conflict.”

“Remaining thirteen independent states will—“

“Not thirteen independent states,” the other Charles Pinckney—the younger one—says. “If you are so worried about the Union splintering into a North and South in the future, why don’t we just here and now create one nation with slavery, and one without.”

“You can’t just—“ Aaron sputters.

“Oh, we can't? And you want to know why? Because you need us,” Pinckney the younger continues. “For our economy, for our cotton and our tobacco, for what we create—“

“I don’t even know where to begin in informing you how wrong you are,” Aaron says. “First of all, over the course of the next fifty years, the North is going to industrialize, go through a technological revolution—steam power, canals, trains, better design of cities—it is going to develop in a way that the South will utterly lack precisely because of your attitude of ‘we plant seeds in the ground, we create, we don’t need to do anything else to keep up with the times.’ But you want to talk about now, and not the future? Then what are you going to do when way down south in Florida you start getting into border disputes with Spain? Oh, and let me tell you, France and England are going to be getting in our hair in the next twenty or so years, it’s rather useful that I know where and when those battles are, if it even comes to that, because I don’t think either of those countries are eager to fight a war with the Seer on the other side. If the North and the South form two separate nations--well, don't expect me to come helping you when foreign powers are on your doorstep. And if a war breaks out between the North and the South, which side do you think I’d be on? Which side do you think France would support, if the Seer asked for help, which side do you think the men who fought in the Revolution, who know what we’re trying to prevent, would choose? Do you really think you have any leg to stand on, in terms of military support for secession?”

“Is that a threat?”

Aaron smiles. “It’s the truth. When all is said and all is done, remember, I’ve seen how you die.”

The entire floor goes silent. Aaron can see one or two people opening their mouths, looking like they’re about to speak, then closing them again. He’s never been stared at with such blatant fear before. He suppresses a shiver; he likes it.

But only because I’m angry right now, he thinks. Only because I’m frustrated. I don’t really want people to fear me.

“Enough!” Washington says. “We will reconvene after a brief recess. Burr, a word.”

Aaron nods, face still glued in a polite smile, then follows Washington from the room. The moment they are alone in Washington’s office, he turns on him.

“You want to pull yourself together?”

Polite smile, Aaron reminds himself. Don’t let them know what you’re against or what you’re for.

“This is me together,” he says calmly.

“They’re going to fear you, even if you are making idle threats,” Washington says.

“Maybe they should fear me,” Aaron says. “And I assure you, my threats are not idle.”

“You are not a child anymore,” Washington says. “You cannot keep acting like one. You cannot expect to throw your weight around and generate anything other than hatred for yourself and what you stand for.”

Aaron laughs. “It’s fine, I’ve already seen what it’s like when the whole world hates me. Exile, disgrace, being beaten in the streets, called a traitor, murderer, liar, having to change my name because a political opponent falsely accused me and put me on trial for misusing my powers.”

“And you would risk that?” Washington says.

“You would too if you’ve seen the rest of what I’ve seen,” Aaron says. Then, more quietly: “It is nothing compared to watching everyone you’ve ever loved die, and die horribly.”

Washington sighs. “Son, I have a hard enough job as it is without trying to worry about protecting you from yourself.”

“The war is over, sir,” Aaron says. “That’s not your job anymore.”

Washington stares towards the ceiling like he is praying to God for patience. “You are even more pigheaded and stubborn than Hamilton,” he says. “I do not know if you are being purposefully obstinate—“

“If Hamilton were here, he’d be on my side,” Aaron says.

“If Hamilton were here, he might be able to get it across to you that you don’t have the votes,” Washington says. “And you’re not going to get them by setting the entire convention at odds with itself, and practically threatening a Civil War between the North and the South.”

“I don’t know what to do!” Aaron shouts. “I don’t know how to prevent what might be the greatest war this country will ever face, and don’t you dare tell me that we can just put this off, you’ve seen what the arguments look like here and now, it’s putting off these arguments, letting them happen in our functioning government, letting them get more and more violent—that’s what causes this war!”

Washington is silent.

“You don’t know what to do either,” Aaron says. “You’ve been waiting for me to figure this out, and you don’t know what to do either.”

“I have given you what help I can,” Washington says.

“You’ve given me nothing!” Aaron says. “Nothing to work with, not a single ounce of support—“

“You are so focused on the far-off future that you are ignoring what lies ahead in the short term!” Washington snaps. “It wasn’t that many years ago that there was talk of replacing me because I was overly influenced by you. If I am at all to maintain a position in which I might be able to offer you help with your frankly brazen plans in the future—“

“Then you can’t say anything now,” Aaron says. He considers tacking on an I’m sorry for doubting you, but decides that Washington is being just a self-serving in this as he claims to be helping, so he won’t say it. “I won’t bother you again, sir.”

~~~

Madison arrives not even an hour after he gets home. He lets himself into Aaron’s room with no announcement, and gives Aaron a pitying look, until Aaron puts down the cup of whiskey he’s nursing.

“I don’t think I’ve heard of a single public instance of you losing your temper like that before,” Madison says. “If I did not know you, I would have been terrified. I’m curious as to what made you so angry? Or was this planned?”

Aaron glares at him. “What do you think?”

“You certainly speak with a lot of fervency up there,” Madison says. “The whole morality angle you so willingly play, the degree to which you seem ready to wholeheartedly commit everything to this, it’s all a beautiful ploy, even if it doesn’t work so well on them as it does the general public or the army. You bring a preacher’s charm to it, I’m sure your grandfather would be proud.”

“Ploy?” Aaron says. “I—it’s not a ploy—“

Madison shrugs, and takes a sip of his drink. “We might not have been close, but I saw you at Princeton. We all did, we all paid attention to you, the little genius in our midst. You didn’t care about anything like the ideals you’ve been spouting from the start of the Convention. You were always very carefully editing yourself, always performing. You got better and better at seeming heartfelt as you grew up. But for someone watching close enough, the little pauses were still evident. You didn’t care about the war for the longest time either, until you were in a position where caring with all your heart and soul looked good—not even—not even for you, for the goal you were trying to accomplish. And then suddenly you were working yourself to the bone for the cause. The moment the war was over, you retired happily away with your wife to raise a child and practice law and took mostly divorce cases—for women who were not enslaved, or just granted their freedom, mind you—the most public thing you ever did was write pretty little closing speeches about the abstract concept equality, and now suddenly you’re so committed to the cause of abolition that you’re ready to throw yourself into another war without thought for your life or your career? It just doesn’t add up. Either you’re dangerously deranged, which I don’t particularly believe is true, or you are putting on a fantastic performance, whatever it takes to get what you see as your end goal.

“What?” Aaron chokes.

“It’s okay, I doubt anyone else has noticed,” Madison says. “And I’m not saying this is your ploy for political power, because if it is, it’s a very poor one. The abolition movement is perhaps the most damaging one you could take up. You're trying to prevent a war, I get it, I am too. But you do realize that if you want any of these rights that you’re arguing for to be actually respected, you are going to have to personally continue pushing for them, because no one else cares.”

Aaron tries not to gape, tries to remind himself that it did occur to him that he’d have to do more than just show up at the Convention, but it’s hard to keep some of the raw shock from his face. Madison catches it.

“I’m sorry, if I’m making you uncomfortable I can stop. I’m used to people who talk quite a lot, and I’m used to taking silences as an invitation to speak my observations. But to someone unused to—“

“I’m friends with Hamilton,” Aaron blurts out. “I can handle people saying things without worrying about how delicately they’ll be taken.”

“Friends,” Madison says, and holds his gaze for a second, and Aaron gets the distinct feeling that he’s being weighed, and then Madison nods and something akin to relief flows through Aaron’s stomach.

“I have a direct question, if you don’t mind,” Madison says. “You’re under no obligation to answer, and whether or not you choose to answer will not affect what we’re doing here whatsoever. I’m…I’m curious, how much time do I have?”

He holds out his hand, an invitation.

Aaron shakes his head. He doesn’t want to deal with a death vision right now, even if it’s just an old man passing away quietly in his bed. “You live another fifty years,” he says. “You’re not going to fall sick and die early, you’re not…you don’t have to worry that any of your…that any of it will kill you. You’re not going to leave…you’re not going to drastically leave anyone you care about behind anytime soon.”

“Might I ask how you know?” Madison says.

“You’re in other visions that I’ve had,” Aaron says. “I can trace them that far into the future, at least. The 1830’s, although the later I go in that decade the hazier things get. But you were still there. Old and retired. Still writing.”

“Do you know when you’re going to die?” Madison asks.

“It’s supposed to be about the same time, honestly,” Aaron says. “Fifty years from now, give or take a year.”

“Does it ever scare you?”

“It didn’t use to,” Aaron says. “But I’m starting to grasp that I have even less of an idea of what death really means than—than I thought I did. So I suppose it does, now.”

Madison nods again. “Thank you. I appreciate your frankness.”

“I do care,” Aaron says. “About everyone in this country who is enslaved. I do care.”

“Because slavery is morally wrong?” Madison says.

“Yes!”

“Then you just contradicted yourself,” Madison says. “You stated you do care about everyone in this country who is enslaved. Implying that it’s not your business what happens outside of this country, Aaron, I believe that you think you believe it, but you don’t—you didn’t even know that Massachusetts had given voting rights to all free men in their state Constitution, you’re a mess. You’re acting this way because you think you should, because you think this is what is expected of you, that this is how Seers act, and it’s—it’s almost sad to watch. You’re trapped by this conviction that you have of what you should be that you completely have failed to notice the discrepancies between what you are and what you think you are.”

“Why don’t you ever believe me?” Aaron says. “Why don’t you ever believe that I actually can care about something like this?”

“Because in certain ways, you’re like me,” Madison says. “I understand what it’s like to always calculate, to weigh your moves, to hide your cards until the time is right. I’m trying to help you, Aaron, I’m trying to help you understand yourself.”

“You have no idea,” Aaron says. “You have no idea what it’s like to be me, you have no idea what I’ve seen, what I’ve lived with, you have no fucking idea what I’ve tried to—the sort of—“

“Then tell me,” Madison says.

How do I know you won’t use this against me the next time we go toe to toe?

“Excuse me?”

Aaron swallows. Did he just say that out loud?

Madison’s forehead furrows. “Do we become political enemies? Is that what this is all about?”

“It’s more like…you become friends with someone that strongly dislikes me and my friends. Whatever you say now, I wouldn’t like to chance it.” Aaron's surprised at how hard it is to say the words; he knows what Madison is, he knows what Madison becomes. But here, looking the man in the face, it is a lot harder to keep those convictions.

Madison, for his part, is silent for a moment. Then: “It’s Jefferson, isn’t it? The first day that we met here, you said something along the lines of ‘didn’t your dear friend Jefferson write, we hold these truths to be self-evident.’ You seemed rather angry when you were saying it. It wasn’t because you were angry at Southern plantation owners for their hypocrisy, it was because you were aware, even though I wasn’t, that Thomas Jefferson is going to become one of your greatest political rivals, and I will too by association.”

“James, it’s not—“

“I’m a bit disappointed, that’s all,” Madison says. “That something I haven’t even done yet—that a person I haven’t even become yet—I mean, I suppose I understand, if I were in your position I would be working with a lot more information and I suppose you know better than I how changeable the future is but—“

“You name me godfather of your only child, your stepson,” Aaron says. “And I introduce you to your wife after you spend months pining after her, because you’re too shy to actually introduce yourself to her, we stay friends despite having opposing views, alright? It never—I never take so polarizing of stances that I—I’m not Hamilton.”

“I take it that I don’t particularly like Hamilton?” Madison says.

“You get along with him just fine until Jefferson comes into the equation,” Aaron says. “And Hamilton will…eventually have different ideas on the interpretation of the Constitution than you do. Political parties will form, lines will be drawn. I always strove to not allow those lines to affect my friendships.”

“Strove?” Madison asks.

Aaron makes a mental note to be a lot more careful about how he talks about his visions, because this is exactly how Hamilton caught him.

“My visions are realistic enough that they feel like memories,” Aaron says. “At least most of them are. They happen in real time, they’re fully immersive, smell, taste, touch, everything. They’re…luckily they’re usually distinct enough that I can distinguish them from reality fairly easily, but I speak of them in the past tense sometimes, because they seemed very real.”

“Interesting,” Madison says. “Your vision of the upcoming war, was it one of those?”

“No,” Aaron says. “I’m not sure I would have survived, if it was. It was a dream. A terrifying, very vivid dream with a lot of explicit imagery, but no, I didn’t have to live through it for years.”

“How sure have you been this whole time that it was an actual vision?”

“I’d stake my life on it,” Aaron says. “In a lot of ways, I already have.”

“I believe you about it,” Madison says. “I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t.”

“Why don’t any of they?” Aaron asks. “Why have we been here for months and none of them can get it through their heads that I’ve had a vision of what could be the end of this nation and we could stop it right now, and they still want to do nothing to change any of it?”

“The curse of Cassandra,” Madison says. “Rather common phenomenon for Seers to face, honestly.”

“You’d think people would remember. No one listened to her, and all of Troy burned to the ground, and she watched her family either be brutally murdered or dragged off in chains. If we do not stop this war from happening, that will be our country’s fate. Our children will watch it burn.”

“It would be a bit easier if you had not so fervently attached yourself to the cause of protecting the interests of slaves,” Madison says.

Aaron takes a deep breath. “This matters, the rights of these people matter just as much as—“

And suddenly that gives him pause.

If he had actually for a moment considered their lives to be as important as those of the people he’d cared about, as important as his Theodosias or Alexander or Sally or now Laurens and Lafayette and Eliza and Philip and Angie—

He though he’d been brought back because he’d killed Alexander. That the guilt, the sin, it was because he’d shot Alexander, because he’d killed one man.

One man.

If everyone’s lives mattered equally, he hadn’t just shot one man.

There had been over two million slaves in America at the time of his death.

Two million people that he had casually condemned to their fates by his inaction.

And far more slaves had died being brought over. The Atlantic Slave Trade, that he’d so impassively written off, decided to stay completely silent about. Something that here and now, he could have prevented.

If there was anyone with the duty to stop horrors on a global scale, it was the world’s Seer. How many millions of deaths were on his shoulders? They had asked him to come to the Constitutional Convention, they had asked him specifically to consult upon matters of dire importance of the future. And he had refused them out of—what? Some ethical code that his grandfather had embedded in him? How easy it had been to just roll back into Theodosia’s arms, go back to sleep, live his own little life and pretend that it wasn’t his responsibility?

He’d thought that this was about killing one man.

When he had let millions die on his watch.

“We have to stop it,” he says.

“Burr?” Madison asks. Then, a bit more softly, “Aaron?”

“We have to stop it,” he repeats. “This isn’t an option, this isn’t a goal, this isn’t an agenda, we have to stop it.”

“Did you just have a vision?”

Aaron laughs. “I just had a realization. This. It’s the whole reason I’m alive, we have to stop this, James. We have to stop slavery from being allowed in our country from its conception. It’s more than just—we’re talking about millions of lives, maybe tens of millions. The scale just never hit me before, you know?”

Madison just nods very seriously. (Of course he nods seriously, of course he has a grave expression on his face, this is the man who is going to be glued to Jefferson’s side for decades, who is probably even writing to Jefferson of all these proceedings now, so he must have an exceptional tolerance for melodrama.) “You’re saying this is your turning point.”

“What?”

“There are old wives’ tales about Seers, that they come at turning points in history,” Madison says. “Maybe your turning point isn’t the creation of our country. It’s ensuring that our country is created without slavery.”

The reason he’s alive. The reason he’s here. The reason he’s suffered through so much death—hell, maybe that’s what his memories are about, what if this life that he’s living isn’t a punishment from God, what if that was a warning from God about how messed up everything would be—in his personal life, in this country—if he didn’t stand up now. If he didn’t speak now. If he didn’t cut off the evil before it had a chance to grow.

“This is everything,” Aaron says. “We have to win. I’ve seen what our country looks like even before the war hits, with slavery. It’s a mess, it’s terrible. This is—”

“You’re crying,” James says quietly.

Aaron wipes his eyes furiously. “If this is why I’ve seen every terrible thing I’ve seen, every terrible picture of the future, every single death I’ve had to experience as if I was living it myself—if there’s a reason I’m still alive, when so many have died, when I’ve seen them all die—“

“Then we can’t wait for it all to work itself out on its own,” Madison says. “We have to act now.”

“Why are you helping me?” Aaron says. “Why are you even here right now? You’re acting directly against your own interests.”

“Not so,” Madison says. “I have a list that I’ve been making, things that I believe will actually protect the interests of the South from the federal government. Once we move past the denial phase and into that of compromising, I plan to bring it forward. It should all be very reasonable, and is not contradictory towards anything that you are asking, so I’m sure that you’ll have no problems supporting it. This is going to be a quid pro quo, after all.”

Aaron nearly jolts out of his seat. “What?”

“They’re all things that I think you can agree on,” Madison says. “Measures to protect people’s livelihoods, assurances that the government won’t encroach on people’s rights.”

Rights.

“As in a Bill of Rights,” Aaron says. “Constitutional Amendments to protect the people. You could have just said so instead of wording it like—”

Madison smiles. “Ah, but would you have told me that my Bill of Rights went through if I hadn’t worded it such?”

“I’m starting to realize that you’re a lot more actively dangerous to talk to than I ever assumed,” Aaron says. “And I will never underestimate you again.”

“I appreciate the compliment,” Madison says, then glances towards the door. It’s getting dark; Aaron can almost see the wheels turning in his head about whether or not it’s safe to leave Aaron alone. “Are you alright? Would you like me to spend the rest of the afternoon with you, or send over someone? Franklin, maybe?”

“I’m fine,” Aaron says.

“You might not be crying anymore, but you’re still half drunk,” Madison says. “You always had your guards and your friends during the war. I’m…”

“Not sure how fragile I am,” Aaron finishes.

“There were rumors about the last year of the war, before you were sent to the Schuylers for your ‘protection,’” Madison says. “I have not until today witnessed anything that might give those rumors credibility. But taking those rumors into account, it seemed wise to err on the side of caution and ask instead of leaving you alone. Although you seemed of relatively sound mind when I got here.”

Aaron shakes his head. “It was…complicated. I see people’s deaths, whether I like it or not, when I touch them. So being at close quarters with everyone in an encampment—you can imagine how that hanging over your head day in and day out might weigh on your sanity. I hadn’t had any new visions in a while. I was getting desperate. I thought that maybe I could go out, shake enough men’s hands that I might see some flash of battleground, and—and Alexander Hamilton caught me and turned me over to General Washington immediately. I was sent away so that I wouldn’t try something like that again, because we’d nearly won and having a sane, functioning Seer at the end of the war was more important than winning a few battles.”

“Hm,” Madison says.

“What?”

“That doesn’t necessarily sound like a choice that should be made for you,” he says.

Aaron shrugs. “My whole life has been people making choices for me. I can’t fight them every single time.”

“And this is why you are so determined to settle the issue of slavery here and now, at the Convention,” Madison says. “Instead of pushing for it alongside like my Bill of Rights. Because this is your choice.”

“Yes.”

Madison sighs. “Then pour me a glass of whiskey too, why don’t you.”

~~~

Madison stays all the way through dinner, and Aaron gets the feeling it’s because despite his words of people choosing for Aaron, he doesn’t want to leave Aaron by himself. No one ever does, when it comes down to it. Aaron, for his part, tries to smile, make normal conversation, act as if he is completely fine, if a bit tired.

“I’m calling it an early night,” Aaron announces after dinner. “James, I’ll see you tomorrow?”

“Of course,” Madison says. He exchanges a look with Mrs. Bache, almost too fast for Aaron to catch, then continues, “I can show myself out.”

Aaron is back in his room in a flash. He closes the door, nearly locks it but decides against it, then lights the candle on the desk and sits down to think.

Talking to the delegates isn’t working, that much is clear. It doesn’t matter that he’s the Seer, that’s apparently not impressive enough for them.

Washington doesn’t have a trump card up his sleeve. Aaron never really believed that he did, but it is disconcerting to hear that the man has no hidden plan to sweep in and save the day.

Aaron has nowhere near enough allies on the inside to force significant progress.

He has nothing. Nothing. And everything he tries--every proclamation, it just guarantees free ammunition for his enemies.

What would Hamilton do?

Aaron pauses. Because if anyone could do the impossible, if anyone could fix this, it would be Alexander. And he knew Alexander better than anyone in the world, so maybe, just maybe, he'd be able to answer the question:

What would Hamilton do?

Aaron pictures Alexander's laugh, Alexander's smile, the way his forehead would wrinkle in concentration, how he'd push his glasses up his nose, the motions that he'd make with his hands, the ink, the paper everywhere, all the time.

What would Alexander do?

He would write his way out. Write everything down as far as he can see. Overwhelm them with honestly. Aaron doesn’t have allies in here? Fine. He has allies out there. Give these men what they’re afraid of, give them riots in the streets.

He picks up a quill, grabs scraps of paper, and starts to write.

~~~

He’s burned one candle down completely, and is halfway through a second, when there is a knock on his bedroom door.

“Aaron, dear?” Mrs. Bache says. “You have some visitors.”

Aaron freezes. "I wasn't expecting visitors. It's late."

"You might as well come speak with them, then," Mrs. Bache says. "So they can be on their merry way. God knows you all keep such terrible hours, it's a miracle my whole household isn't awake."

Aaron flinches a little bit at the rebuke, and follows her down. Unsurprisingly, it's Franklin and Madison that are waiting for him.

"You said you were going to sleep," Madison said. "There's been a candle burning in your room since dinner."

"I couldn't sleep," Aaron says.

"There are remedies for that," Franklin says. "Glass of warm milk. Bit of honey."

"I'm fine," Aaron says.

"Clearly, you're not," Madison says.

"I decided to get a bit of work done instead of going to sleep," Aaron says. "Isn't that the sort of choice that shouldn't be made for me?"

Madison holds his gaze. "When it involves a matter this delicate, then yes, your allies should be informed of what you're planning on doing before you do it."

Aaron is silent.

"You either have a plan, or you think you have one," Madison continues. "I recognized the look of desperation on your face at dinner, under your polite veneer. It's been replaced by one of determination now. Which means you think you have a plan."

Aaron grits his teeth. “Fine. I do. We leak it all to the press,” he says. “I write a pamphlet about my vision, about what’s coming for this country, about my warnings, and about how no one is listening. We invoke the general public, there are people out there who will listen to me, people who trust me, soldiers from the war who owe me their lives. They’ll be rioting in the streets, that’ll finally be the pressure that these politicians with their heads so far up in their asses over their own interests need to act—“

“Wait,” Franklin says. “The reasoning behind this is very good, but I don’t think this is actually a good idea.”

“What? What do you mean?”

“For one, it will almost definitely lead to your expulsion from the Convention,” Madison points out. “Washington’s first requirement was that nothing that anyone said would be reported to the public, so that all delegates could speak freely. Ignoring that to harness public support is not something you would be able to get away with. It will kill your entire career in politics. You’ll be seen as dangerous, a loose cannon, ready to pull the Seer card when things don’t go your way. It’ll undermine your whole point.”

Aaron deflates. “Then what do we do?”

“Leak everything to the press still,” Franklin says. “Just anonymously. I have enough connections there that I can get it done quickly and keep it silent, just like we need.”

“We can play it up,” Madison says. “Use my notes to make sure that everything is as accurate as possible. Quotes from you and other members of the Convention, a summary of your arguments, maybe even a fake diary page stolen from your room directly describing your vision of the war and with the commentary of ‘I’m going to the Convention to stop this from happening.’ Play up religious undertones if you need to, clip the best lines from your 'war as a punishment from God' speech. The public will be far more ready to get up in arms without believing it to be some ploy on your part. As this will not be traceable to anyone, no one will get kicked out of the Convention. You’ll outrage many of the delegates, but there will be nothing that they’ll be able to do.”

“The fake diary entry is taking it too far,” Franklin says. “Write a letter to someone, your father-in-law or your wife or whomever, date it maybe a month into the Convention and talk about how frustrating it is that no one is listening to your vision, having a letter intercepted and published is easier than faking a robbery.”

Aaron looks to Madison for help. “And you really think that this is…the right thing to do? Lie to the public like that?”

“The whole point is that we’re not lying to the public,” Madison says. “We’re telling them the truth. Negotiations are useless without leverage. Right now the delegates are holding the Convention hostage by threatening not to be a part of this nation at all. Having their public image, reputation, and careers on the line give us something to use, as your warnings alone aren’t working.”

What are you afraid of, Alexander has been asking him every step of the way, ever since they came into each other’s life. What are you waiting for?

Aaron has the answer. Aaron knows the answer. I don’t want to become the man you thought I was when I shot you.

He always wondered why Alexander had wrote the Reynolds Pamphlet, why he had utterly sabotaged himself, sacrificed his entire family, for some misplaced sense of honor. Maybe it wasn’t so misplaced. Because even with everything that is at stake now—the millions of lives that he knows are dependent on exactly what takes place in the next few weeks—he still can’t bring himself to do it.

“If there ever is a line,” Aaron says, “I think that this is one that I should not cross.”

“Would it make you feel better if you weren’t involved at all?” Franklin says. “Like we did with France, I could just take care of this. If you’re worried about your own reaction.”

“Your reaction?” Madison asks.

“In France, when I was…when I tried to lie to the diplomats, I was violently sick,” Aaron says. “I’m not sure if it was internal anxiety, or a legitimate side effect of being a Seer, that it is physically impossible to lie without being struck ill.”

“Interesting,” Madison says. “It would be very helpful to us if that were true, it would give more credibility to everything you say.”

“There’s no way of easily testing it such that the public would believe it, at least not in that sort of way, I could always fake sickness,” Aaron says. “And I’m not—it might be more nuanced, that I can’t try to deceive the public or act in a way to purposefully manipulate time, so a direct test of just speaking a lie here and now wouldn’t catch it, I’d have to do it for some kind of vast important event and try to lie for the sake of lying—I don’t think it would be worth it.”

Franklin sighs, and Aaron is reminded of the story in which Franklin nearly died in some storm for the sake of seeing if lightening would hit a key on his kite.

Madison nods and Aaron is immensely glad that someone else in the room also thinks that it is not worth it.

“Aaron, write the letter,” Madison says. “Everything else we can do without you. We’re not asking you to lie, just strategically stay silent. And this is not something that anyone else in this room will use against you politically, because we’ll all be implicated. Myself the most, as the majority of this is going to come from my notes. You have spent the last two months convincing me that this is the single most important battle in the founding of our nation, that the ramifications of this moment are going to be felt for generations to come. You were ready to give up everything during the war, ready sacrifice your very sanity just to save lives in a few last battles—“

Aaron flinches and Madison cuts himself off.

“Which is to say, this is just as important as that war. You make hard decisions when there are lives on the line, decisions that you ask for forgiveness about later.”

“I’ll write it,” Aaron says, and he wants to be sick. He really, really wants to be sick. He’s dizzy and the room feels to hot, but he pushes it all down, because he’s tired of proving everyone right.

What if I could do it all again, but just not be a Seer, Aaron thinks. And then maybe I wouldn’t have to deal with all of this bullshit. It could all be on someone else, not me.

“Well, if that’s all,” Madison says, “I think we should call it a night. It wouldn’t do to look tired tomorrow, we have to be very careful about no one knowing that we’re meeting.”

He says his goodbyes, but Franklin lingers.

“How’re you holding up?” the man asks.

“Just fine,” Aaron says. “Dandy. Everything is marvelous.”

Franklin puts a hand on his shoulder. “Well, I’m very glad that you came and talked with us instead of just going forward with your idea.”

There’s a lump in Aaron’s throat. “Of course,” he says. “It would be irresponsible to do it any other way.”

Franklin gives him a look, and he knows he’s not fooling anyone.

“Would you like to talk?” Franklin asks. “You seem a bit stressed.”

“I don’t know what you mean,” Aaron says.

“You know a lot more about the future than you let out to anyone,” Franklin says. “Probably because you’re afraid of changing it too much. Too many variables to predict what will actually happen, especially if you’re having fewer and fewer visions as time passes. I haven’t told a soul anything you confided in me in Paris, if there’s anything you’d like to tell me now, kid, I understand the gravity of what you’re dealing with. I might be able to help.”

“I’m not your child,” Aaron says. Because he’s tired of it, tired of being patronized, tired of how Washington had taken so easily to calling him ‘son’ during the war and yet is so ready to abandon him anytime he says something off script. Everyone only ever wants to use him, for whatever their own purposes are.

“No, I had two sons,” Franklin says. “One bastard who is off in London now, one who died in early childhood. Have a daughter, too, and she’s more than I ever deserved. Although that you can probably judge for yourself by now. I’ve even got some grandkids, you’ve got to admit that—god, it’s soon to be six now—but Benny’s very cute, Will and Sarah, ‘Liza’s a spitfire, just like her mother, and little Louis? God I’m old, so I think I’ve earned the right to call everyone around me ‘kid.’”

Aaron’s twenty-nine, he’s hardly young anymore—unless, of course, he’s counting the eighty years that he’d lived previously. If he even lived them previously. Then he’d be older than Franklin by what, thirty years?

Then it hits him. Benny, Sarah, William, Eliza, Louis. He’s heard Mrs. Bache call the children those names. It could be a coincidence, but—

“I’m staying at your daughter’s house,” Aaron says. “That’s why you knew where I was and how you can get here this easily. You arranged for me to stay at your daughter’s house.”

“Sarah Franklin Bache,” Franklin says. “She’s the light of my life. You didn’t think I was going to leave your housing arrangements up to fate, did you?”

“I suppose not,” Aaron says. “Although I’ve stayed in Philadelphia before. At Mrs. Payne’s boarding house. I could have secured housing myself.”

“But quite a few delegates were staying with Mrs. Payne,” Franklin says. “It wouldn’t be nearly as easy to meet. In fact, my daughter is the only person in the city that I trust completely to keep all discussions in this house completely confidential.”

He’s right. Aaron hates that he’s right. Aaron hates how powerless he’s been in all of the decisions around—around everything, how they’re always made for him, and how he’s supposed to be grateful for it.

Aaron has the sudden sinking realization that Madison was also right, this is a miserable existence. He tries not to think what his life would be life if he weren’t the Seer—how free he could be—because bitterness is going to help no one.

It’s hard. It’s very, very hard.

Suddenly, he doesn’t particularly want to confide in Franklin anymore.

“I’m tired,” he says. “And we have a big day tomorrow. So if that’s all…”

“I’ll see you tomorrow,” Franklin says. “Sleep well.”

Chapter Text

The next day, Aaron offers a short apology to the delegates; that he does not mean to imply that the war will happen or he wants the war to happen, that to speak of taking sides was directly against everything he came to do, that he does not mean for the stress to get to him, but this is the single most important thing that they can do here, and he wishes that more than anything that people will take this seriously. That he realizes how hard of a question this is, how many lives it will affect, but it will affect millions more if they do not address it right now.

The apology seems to be accepted, they go back to debating whether or not something needs to be done immediately or that if this can just be stopped by stopping the spread of slavery to new states and putting guarantees into the Constitution—protection of property—such that the Southern states will never feel the need for such a war.

Aaron tries not to be heave out the contents of his stomach. Tries not to ask whether he would even be arguing against so fervently for all of this if Alexander hadn’t been so insistent that his dream was a vision. He certainly hadn’t cared this much last time, he hadn’t even come to the Convention. These delegates, the ones that are so easy to privately hate—was he ever really so much better than them?

But he cannot act differently, cannot give any sign that Franklin is planning this mutiny. He tries to draft the letter in his head, and the moment the day is done, he doesn’t bother with pleasantries, he just rushes home.

Best get this all over with.

Dear Alexander,

he writes. Then he pauses; what is he supposed to say, it need to be believable, hell, Alexander is going to read this himself so Aaron can’t—there’s not enough time to get Alexander in on the plan, so this is going to have to fool Alexander too.

The problem is, he doesn’t want to write to Alexander about his vision of this war, he wants to tell Alexander how much he misses him. How sorry he is. How lost he feels. How things made sense during the war, because Alexander was right there and knew which fights to fight, and now that he’s on his own he doesn’t really want to fight. How he’s starting to actively enjoy going toe-to-toe with Madison, how Benjamin Franklin seems to have pseudo-adopted him, how he seems to have drawn together his own little group of friends. How Alexander would probably drive all of them crazy, how Alexander might have the chance to if they ever get to writing the Federalist papers with Madison and Jay.

But he can't. He can't say any of that.

I am slow to anger, but I toe the line when I reckon with the consequences of what happens in the next few months, on the fate of our nation for centuries.

It almost pains him to write the words, but if Alexander remembers anything of their conversations, he’ll read between the lines. He’ll know that it’s Aaron, he’ll know not to question the validity of this letter, he’ll know what Aaron is trying to do.

You know that I came to this Convention with the object purpose of preventing the vision I had of a great Civil War coming to pass. I regret to inform you that I have not yet been successful. The dreams get worse every night—battlefields covered so thoroughly in bodies that the ground is not visible, violence breaking out on the Senate floor, the President himself shot in the back of the head. I can barely sleep. The dead—they pile higher and higher. The stench, Alexander, it is starting to permeate my every waking moment as well. The arguments in the Convention are starting to mirror the arguments that lead to this war; I am starting to fear that every time someone speaks, they will be beaten half to death in front of us all by another delegate; it will happen in Congress, so why should it not happen here? I am starting to fear that someone will walk up and shoot General Washington in the head; it will happen in the future to whomever is brave enough to take on the task of leading our nation through these tempestuous times, so why should it not happen here? I wish they could see what I see, I wish they could feel the desperation that I feel, because perhaps then we could make any progress in averting the worst war this country will ever see.

We have tried every method of compromise imaginable, but it is made difficult by the fact that there is no compromise, no alternative, to the ending of slavery in this nation. I have looked back on every vision that I have had, every thread into the future, and there is only one way to prevent this war. Slavery must not be allowed to take hold in our country in any manner. It will spread like a disease, as will public unrest; it will polarize this nation as nothing has before. Slave states and free states, open fighting in territories as to whether or not slavery should be allowed to spread, families torn apart brother against brother for these differing opinions. There is no way that a house divided in such a way can stand. And when we fall, we will fall hard, and the echoes will be felt for generations.

I wish you were here. You have always been better with words than me, better with talking and talking until everyone finally listens to what you say. Perhaps you could talk sense into everyone. But more selfishly, I wish you were here because you are the one person who has ever truly understood my visions, the intimate nature of them, the inevitability of them. It is hard not to get angry with the petty squabbles of men who do not realize the death and destruction which looms on the horizon, the great tragedy that can be prevented if only they would put aside their attachment to their own plantations and truly think about the good of our nation to come. They don’t understand. No one does, no one can, but I think perhaps you are the only one who has ever understood how the horror never really goes away.

I promised when I became a father that I would build a better nation for my children. I am starting to fear that we will not pass on a nation at all to them, merely a powder keg about to explode. It pains me; I miss Betsey and the children so. Write to me of good news; is Philip practicing piano every day? What about his Greek; I know you are very busy, but if you ever have time to read The Illiad with him, it is his favorite story, and we were going through it again in the original Greek before I had to go. That boy is going to grow up to be a poet one day. Tell him that his father misses him, and to not fall behind in his studies. Give him and his mother my best wishes, and I pray that I will return to you all shortly, or at least be able to write with better news.

I will not lose faith that a greater compromise can be reached. I cannot lose faith that more will begin to listen. I will not give in to the curse of being able to see the death of my people, the destruction of my nation, and yet being unable to prevent it. Surely my purpose is greater than that. But I fear for the future, Alexander. And I fear for my children, if this is not resolved.

I have the honor to be
Your Obdt. St,

A. Burr

When Aaron is done, he leaves it on his desk; Franklin can pick it up himself, Aaron wants nothing more to do with this process.

It’s gone the next morning, and Aaron tries not to think about it.

~~~

Madison only mentions it once; “Very nice letter,” he says, in the safety of Mrs. Bache’s parlor where no one can hear them.

Aaron stares stiffly ahead. “Thank you.”

“Especially the touch about the children—“ Madison continues.

“Could we not?” Aaron says.

Madison is quiet for a moment, then: “Oh. It wasn’t a ruse. You wrote the letter just as if you were only writing a letter to Hamilton, none of that was for show.”

“Alexander’s going to read it,” Aaron says. “So it had to be convincing enough that he thinks it was actually a letter for him.”

“I didn’t consider that,” Madison says. “I’m glad that you did.”

“Yeah,” Aaron says.

“And now you’re upset that something that highly personal is about to be published across the country,” Madison says.

“I’m—“ Aaron pauses. This is Madison. Which means that he can either be painfully honest, or he will have the truth thrown in his face in one of Madison’s dispassionate observations. “I’m upset that once again, my life is becoming a public spectacle. That this is the solution. I don’t like being in the public eye, I never have, the world has no right to scrutinize every single move I make, and yet they get that, they get to read the letter I wrote my friend, they get to talk about the fact that I have nightmares, not even my dreams are mine. But this will die down until the next time it is necessary, and then once more, my life will be in the public domain.”

“Do you ever wish you weren’t the Seer, then?” Madison asks.

“I don’t think that’s a question I can answer,” Aaron says.

“What do you mean?” Madison says.

“Do you ever wish that you didn’t notice things about people? That you just weren’t smart enough to pick up on everything you pick up on, because it would be easier to be friends with people or you’d have less anxiety about the future that way?” Aaron says. “You’d be an entirely different person. You as you are now wouldn’t exist, you’d have different goals, different interests. Who knows if you’d be happier. It’s not just…so much of my life is—even if no one knew, you’re asking—you’re asking me to imagine what it would be like to be able to touch people and not see how they die. To not be constantly reminded that…that the future really is just that harsh. That person would think differently than me, that person would have different goals and concerns than me.”

“You seem to have thought a lot about that, considering your response, though,” Madison says.

“I—I had a vision where I aggressively avoided ever touching my daughter skin to skin,” Aaron says. “And then she…she grew up, she got married, had a son. He died of fever, she started wasting away. I thought that if I knew, I could help her. She got on the first ship up to New York City to come see me, and the ship was lost at sea. If I’d—if I’d only known, she wouldn’t have died.”

“You know now,” Madison says.

“The point is, everyone dies,” Aaron says. “My powers give me the unique ability to do something about that. I’m not sure if my story would be any happier if I didn’t know.”

He wonders, for a moment, if any of his attempts to change fate are going to be successful. Or if the sheer weight of the future is too much for just one man to move.

But he’s done waiting. He spent an entire lifetime waiting. If he waits, Alexander dies. He has nothing more precious to lose.

So it has to be worth it.

~~~

It takes two weeks for anything to happen. Aaron learns when he is woken by Mrs. Bache, who whispers something to him about riots in the streets and hurries to hide him in the basement, just in case. He thinks that he can hear the sounds of shouting during the day. He’s brought food at mealtimes; otherwise, he would lose track of the time.

By the end of the week, either the riots have died down, or Philadelphia has been brought to heel with a full military occupation, because a battalion of soldiers show up at Mrs. Bache’s to escort Aaron to the Convention. Henry Knox himself leads the men, and Aaron is grateful; otherwise, he would have worried that he was being led to execution. He sees other delegates being escorted to the State House on the way. Everyone looks shaken, but alive.

Aaron tries not to think of whether or not anyone was killed from what he did. Of how much destruction was his fault.

Washington is furious as the Convention convenes. Aaron can see it in his eyes; it’s worse than the time when Laurens shot Lee, this is barely-restrained rage that is rearing in his eyes like some wild horse, held back by the thinnest reigns of willpower.

“I will not make any accusations,” he says, when everyone is seated and silent. “I am hoping instead that whomever is responsible will step forward. Although I doubt you have the honor to do such.”

No one steps forward.

“Junior Delegate Burr,” Washington says. “I trust that it is foolish to even ask if you had anything to do with this.”

Washington is thinking of Charles Lee, Aaron can tell that Washington is thinking of Lee and the duel and how it really had been Aaron’s fault, how Aaron had gone behind his back, how easily Aaron had committed treason to get what he wanted and how it had all stemmed from him having a vision.

Aaron feels a flash of anger; Washington had outright admitted that he didn’t know what to do, and Aaron had fixed it for him, the same way that Aaron had saved thousands of lives by getting rid of Lee, and yet here he was, getting scolded like a naughty schoolboy for being willing to get his hands a bit dirty to fix everything.

Talk less, smile more, Aaron reminds himself.

“I am at fault,” he says. “I should not have written a letter to Alexander, I should have kept my frustrations to myself and not mentioned anything of the Convention proceedings. But I do not know how this happened; I did not know until this morning what had been published, that anything had been published at all. The letter was taken without my knowledge.” None of it is directly a lie.

Washington holds his gaze, and he doesn’t flinch. Washington is the first to look away.

“Has anyone been secretly taking notes?” Washington asks.

No one answers.

“Madison,” Washington says. “You’ve been writing down many things verbatim, including quotes that are in these papers. Could anyone have taken your notes?”

“I am staying at Mrs. Payne’s Boarding House, as are quite a few other delegates,” Madison says. “I don’t lock my door in the afternoons, and I often go out to dinner. It is possible that someone came and looked at my notes while I was gone; however, there are none missing, at least as of this morning.”

Washington surveys the room again.

“Sir,” Madison says. “If I might make a suggestion, I do not think it is constructive right now to turn this into a witch hunt.”

“No, of course not,” Washington says. “I have men investigating every single publisher who has carried this story.”

“Sir?” Aaron asks. “What is…what is the situation around the country? Has this been contained to the city?”

Washington’s gaze is stony. “No. This is being printed and distributed across Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Connecticut, Delaware, and Maryland, so far as we know. The speed with which it has spread would almost indicate simultaneous publishing, and news travels as fast as men can on horses. What we are witnessing in Philadelphia is not an isolated incident, not in the slightest.”

The tension is too much; the Convention explodes.

“First and foremost, we should kick Burr out of this discussion!” Pinckney says. “He said it himself! He’s at fault!”

“You’re a fool!” Gouverneur Morris shouts back. “How do you think it would look to the public—the public that is already rioting because they think that we’re ignoring the Seer’s warnings—if we kick him out of the Convention?”

“The people in this city only represent one constituency!” Pinckney yells. “One with very specific interests, one that not all of us represent!”

“And do you think it’s any different all around the country?” Morris shoots back. “The soldiers whose lives Aaron Burr saved, the households which keep portraits of him in their living room because a father or husband or brother or son lived because of him, the common people, what do you think they are going to say when they hear the Seer has seen another war and is trying to stop it. Men who followed him through the very jaws of death—“

“Don’t lecture me about the war, you didn’t fight in in!” Pinckney screams.

“Wait!” Aaron shouts. The room quiets a bit. He takes a deep breath. “The places that the news has spread to, how are they reacting?”

“They haven’t taken up arms yet, if that is what you are asking,” Washington says. “And we are taking steps to ensure that there is no organization of militias. Your Civil War hasn’t started yet.”

“That’s—it doesn’t matter what happens to me,” Aaron says. “We need to prevent this war.”

“Whoever is behind the publishing of these articles clearly had the same idea,” Washington says. “There are large portions urging people not to arms, in respect to the Seer’s efforts to prevent this war.”

“We can discredit everything said,” John Rutledge says. “Paint Burr as a liar.”

“No one will believe you,” Jay says. “Has Burr ever led America wrong?”

“Not if Burr publicly confesses,” Rutledge says. “He can say this was a small publicity stunt gone wrong.”

“And you think the people will buy that?” Morris says.

“I can’t—“ Aaron tries to interject.

“You said you would do anything to prevent this war,” Pinckney says. “And you’ve admitted that this is your fault already. It’s your duty to do whatever this Convention decides.”

“I was not aware that my personal choices were now dictated by a collection of delegates chosen to revise the Articles of Confederation,” Aaron says. “I apologize, should I run all personal letters by you now to assure the public that my affections towards my family are admissible? To eat, to sleep, to breathe at your command?”

“Burr—“ Washington warns.

I’m tired, Aaron wants to shout. To be the Seer is not an electable position, don’t you understand, it’s not a duty, it’s not an honor, I’m not here to represent the people and bend my own will to their interests, I have never had a choice.

“I will not tell a lie,” Aaron says. “God help me, call me a liar, put me on trial, exile me if you want, if you think it’ll make the people calm down. Chop off my head, if you want to be French about it. But I will not publicly lie about the future.”

“That seems a bit more extreme than what anyone here was suggesting,” Joseph Reed says. “Now is not the time for extreme action. There has been no violence yet. Rash action on our part might tip us off the knife’s edge.”

“Which leads us back to the question of what do we do,” Jay says. “What is the military situation we are looking at?”

“The rioting here is the worst of it so far,” Knox says. “We haven’t sent troops anywhere else, we don’t want it to look like we’re preparing for anything.”

“What do you think the slaves will do when they hear that there’s going to be a war specifically to free them?” Madison muses.

The room goes silent.

“Repeat that,” Morris says.

“What do you think the slaves will do when they hear that there’s going to be a war specifically to free them?” Madison says. “Because we might very well be dealing with an uprising right now, if we do not act swiftly and decisively.”

Aaron hadn’t considered that. Hell, he was pretty sure that none of them had considered it, otherwise he doubts that Madison would have been in on this plan. But if the reaction in Philadelphia was anything to be gauged by—

“What if we come up with a plan, here and now, to gradually end slavery,” Aaron says. “We can keep the economy of the South in mind, we can do whatever it takes. But actually structure a government, have at least a draft. Put aside our differences, come up with something that—that at least sounds like we’ve been doing more than running in circles these last few months. We go to the press tomorrow. The letter was from over a month ago. If we have drafts, it will look like progress has been made since. We present a quick outline about our plan, we promise that we really have been working on some sort of integrated solution to prevent this war.”

“That might actually work to calm the public outrage,” James Wilson says. “But you understand we would then be committed to such a plan. One that would gradually end slavery in this country.”

“It would certainly help prevent an uprising,” Madison says. “If those who are enslaved are assured that they’ll be freed peaceably in a reasonable amount of time, we can even add clauses to guarantee that their work conditions are to certain standards—“ He shoots a look to Aaron. “—this could ensure peace. And if we look at this situation—if we look at the institution of slavery as something that will necessarily end, and necessarily end in a timescale of decades at best, is it not in our interests to do this on our terms? While we can still dictate said terms?”

“I don’t know what you’re trying to imply—“ Pinckney says.

“Then let’s not bandy words, Aaron Burr has seen the South losing this coming war,” Madison says. “Whether the Southern states manage to drag the entire nation down with them, or if it goes on, perhaps that is a bit fuzzy. But have you been listening? An army burning our homes as they march to the sea?”

“How do we know he’s not lying?” Pierce Butler asks.

“He gets violently sick if he tries to lie about a vision,” Franklin says. “I witnessed this in France at the negotiations for the Treaty of Paris. Minister Vergennes wanted him to bandy words in a way that France might get more territory, but even upon considering it—considering what he was told was his duty—he was sick for a full week, unable to leave his room.”

“I’m not sure if that is true,” Aaron protests weakly. “I have not ever tried lying, it may have been a moral reaction and not a physiological one—“

“It was not the sort of sickness that could have been faked,” Franklin says unhesitantly. “The man is not lying.”

“Burr,” Washington says. “Do you have any suggestions for the sort of plan that we might release? One that sounds like we’ve spent months of work on?”

Aaron swallows. “Actually, I do. In fact, I’ve had visions about the months of work that we would have spent doing if the question of slavery had never been brought up. In short, three major plans would have been proposed—the Virginia Plan, drafted by Mr. Madison, which is a proposal for a bicameral legislative branch with state representation purely on the basis of population, the government itself would have a legislative, executive, and judicial branches, with members of one of the legislative chambers elected by the people, who would then pick the members of the second chamber from recommendations submitted by state governments. The President would be chosen by the legislative branch, terms of office were unspecified but were not unlimited, and there were checks and balances between all three branches via vetoes from the executive branch that could be overridden with a legislative majority, or—well, we took inspiration from the plan, but it didn’t end up being the one that was chosen because of the imbalance of power favoring states with larger populations. There was an alternate proposal for a single-body chamber with one representative from each state, but that was also shot down for the reverse reason. The compromise that we decided on—proposed by Mr. William Paterson—had bicameral Congress, one chamber with two representatives per state, and one chamber with representatives proportional to the state population. Congress was given the authority, beyond what we already have under the Articles of Confederation, to induce tariffs, regulate both interstate and international commerce, collect taxes. In the eventual Constitution it is also written that the head of the executive branch—the President—would be chosen by popular vote. There are many clauses that I could go into further detail on, if you were interested, but it might take a few hours.”

“A few hours, rather than a few months,” Washington says. “Take Rutledge, Randolph, Gotham, Ellsworth, Wilson, Paterson, and Madison, and have a written copy for review by tomorrow.”

“Yessir,” Aaron says.

“We will discuss methods for dealing with the situation in terms of slavery here,” Washington says. “We will do so for as long as it takes. And we will hopefully have proposals as well by tomorrow morning. Then we can speak about presenting this all to the press. Unless anyone is in disagreement?”

No one speaks.

“Then get to work.”

~~~

The Constitution is done by the end of the week.

Structurally, it is almost identical to the one from Aaron’s memories, but with a single additional clause: all male taxpaying citizens of age have the right to vote in federal elections. And all men are to be treated equal under the same law.

And then, of course, there is the permanent eradication of slavery.

Right there, in still-shining ink, slavery has been declared illegal in all thirteen states, any territories, land owned by federal or state governments, and in any region applying for statehood. Trading or transporting slaves within the US is illegal. All slaves upon their freedom are immediately to be granted citizenship, if they want it.

At least, that will all phase into law over the next twenty-five years.

There is another document to be ratified alongside the Constitution, the Temporary Statues. It’s almost longer than the Constitution itself, and it contains every single compromise that they have had to make for this conclusion. It details laws for the twenty-five year period after the signing of the Constitution, starting with the assurance of the protection of Southern property, as well as federal reparations to landowners or subsidized wages. There will be a mandatory census, for guaranteed protection of property and to ensure that the gradual emancipation is enforced; landowners who do not report in this census accurately might find their slaves forfeit, as per the discretion of the federal government. One fifth of all slaves owned must be released by the end of each five-year period, but slaves must receive papers and register with the government as citizens; any freedman must be able to produce said papers on state borders. That states will pay taxes subject to the number of free peoples, and three fifths the number of enslaved people, and that their representation in Congress will be counted similarly.

The rights of the enslaved are few and far between. Families are not to be sold apart. Exceptional injuries or any forced to sleep out of wedlock can bring their cases to trial, and can result in immediate freedom, and possible compensation. Once freed, men are granted citizenship and federal voting rights, although state voting rights are to be determined on a statewide level.

It’s not much. It’s not much at all. But it’s there.

He and Madison together present the concept of a Bill of Rights—amendments that with further protect all civilians from the federal government. Johnson, King, Morris, and Madison do the final wording of the document as a whole. Jacob Shallus prints a stylized copy. Only 39 of the original delegates sign.

And before they leave, George Washington makes one final announcement: “It has come to my attention that a number delegates who wish to remain anonymous believe that the ratification process will not be fair if the people are unduly influenced by the Seer. Mr. Burr, you have acted more than a mere delegate, but as a consultant for us on matters beyond what we could otherwise understand, to which we are infinitely grateful. But if you make any more public proclamations about the Constitution before the ratification process is complete—accidental or not—Congress will convene a committee with the power to determine whether or not the vote is void. Do you understand me?”

“Yessir,” Aaron says.

~~~

Aaron catches a glimpse of one of the papers blowing in the wind on the street, walking home.

Our government shall be a sanctuary, a citadel of law, of order, and of liberty; and it is here—in this exalted refuge—here that we must put the needs of our country and the interests of building a better future for our children—in front of the short-sighted interests of the present. It is here that we have a duty to put aside our personal bias and look towards the future. If the Constitution is destined ever to perish, in war, in conflict, or at the hands of the sacrilegious usurper, know that it is here, on this floor, that we have a chance to avery this destiny. That we have a chance to write life, not death.

He feels almost detached, disembodied; he knows those are his own words, he knows that he said them, but this doesn’t feel real. His guard has tripled in size, he’s kept away from all crowds, he can’t tell if it’s because people are in support of him or if they are mad at him for shaking things up. What sort of public outrage is spreading through the country. If anything they’ve done will be able to fix it.

But there’s nothing to be done. He can control the future, not the past. He came here. He chose to do this. And now the entire country will either prosper or perish from his choice.

~~~

Franklin and Morris decide that the finalization of the Constitution merits all of them getting smashingly drunk. Aaron and Madison are dragged along, like it or not.

(It seems that the night is shaping up such that the answer is not.)

“I don’t really drink much,” a stone-sober Madison informs a mostly-sober Aaron Burr sitting beside him, who is looking increasingly worried about how rowdy Morris is getting, and how handsy Franklin is getting with everything that moves.

“Because you worry about your health, yes,” Aaron says. “I, meanwhile…I just blurt out how all my friends are going to die.”

“Really?” Madison asks.

Aaron shrugs. “Happened once. John Laurens almost punched me. But it turns out that half of what I said then has already been prevented, and the other half…”

“You’ve had half a glass of ale, and you’re already telling me how everyone dies,” Madison points out.

“I’m not drunk, I’m…stressed. And frustrated, and…” He waves his hand to indicate and all of the rest of it. “It’s been a long few months. Besides, I’m not telling you how people died, I’m telling you how people almost punched me when I told them how they died, there’s a difference. You already know how you die, Franklin kicks the bucket from…complications of his ample lifestyle, and Morris, honestly, I don’t want to know.”

Madison laughs. “What about the Constitution, does that die? I’m pretty sure that’s the one that we all care about.”

“I don’t know,” Aaron says. “We changed enough of the future that that much is uncertain. You’re still planning on writing the Federalist papers, right?”

“What?” Madison says.

Aaron takes a long swig of his ale. “You, John Jay, and Alexander Hamilton write a series of essays explaining and defending the Constitution. Anonymously published. I’m not sure who came up with the idea originally, but the number of visions that I’ve had of Hamilton at god-awful hours of the morning, a plate full of dinner at the edge of his desk forgotten, just writing, writing, writing—“

“How many do we write?” Madison asks.

Aaron considers telling him for a moment, then decides on, “the goal was twenty-five in the span of six months.”

“And Hamilton and I will have no problems working together?”

“Not that I remember seeing,” Aaron says.

“Cheers to that,” Madison replies.

Aaron smiles and takes another sip of his drink; it’s mostly empty, and he doesn’t plan to fill it again.

“So Washington is going to be President,” Madison says. “One does not need to be a Seer to figure that one out. Who’s going to be Vice President? If you don’t mind me asking?”

Aaron glances around and no one appears to be listening; he deliberates making Madison swear not to tell anyone else lest he change the future for the worse, but decides that Madison is smart enough to know that already, and that this particular tidbit of information probably isn’t going to harm much. “John Adams.”

“John Adams?!?”

“He’s not that bad of a Vice President, he mostly doesn’t do anything,” Aaron says. “You’re in Congress, pretty much the most powerful force in Congress to boot, Jay is Chief Justice, Hamilton is Secretary of Treasury, and I…” Aaron pauses. “I’m not sure. I might end up as nothing at all, considering how much I’ve shaken things up here.”

“You don’t mind?” Madison asks.

“I don’t know,” Aaron says. “Probably. I can always run for Senate.”

“Mm.”

“You’re curious about more details in terms of how things play out,” Aaron says.

“I didn’t want to be rude,” Madison says. “It’s one thing to wonder where we all end up in the next few months, it’s another to really ask about the future. I’m not sure what position you take on telling your visions to people, especially if you foresee a conflict in our interests.”

“I think the entire point of what we’re trying to do here is avoid a conflict in our interests,” Aaron says.

“You’re also had alcohol,” Madison points out. “I don’t want you saying something you’re going to regret.”

“It’s not a problem,” Aaron says. “Besides, nothing goes terribly wrong. Washington is President for two terms, then sets the precedent for stepping down. John Adams lasts one term. After that, it’s anyone’s game. If you play your cards right, you’ll end up President one day. Europe goes haywire with…French problems. We stay out of it. We eventually buy a lot of territory in the West from them, there’s a lot of technological and industrial development, all in all we do pretty well.”

“No more wars?” Madison asks. “If we prevent yours?”

“There’s a small, very preventable blip, that mostly comes from a misunderstanding with England about whether or not their sailors are defecting to our ships,” Aaron says. “I can probably deal with that just by talking to them before it becomes a problem. But otherwise, no issues.”

“And that’s it, that’s the immediate future,” Madison says. “That doesn’t seem too bad at all.”

“The devil’s in the details,” Aaron says. “It’s going to feel like the government is on the verge of implosion for a while. And setting precedents for how the country is run, for how the Constitution is interpreted…it’ll be…stressful, to say the least.”

“But North-South tensions don’t become an issue?” Madison asks.

“That’s the biggest wild card,” Aaron says. “But I don’t think we’ll be subject to an outright war. Not in the long term.”

“I’m worried about the next five years, not twenty-five,” Madison says. “We’re going to have to produce a lot of money to pay off debts to the South for one, they’re looking for any reason to cite a violation. You seem awfully sure that this Constitution won’t tear us apart.”

“I’m the Seer, if I sneeze there are people who will see it as a sign of an impending plague. Washington kept me hidden away, quartered off during the war, because the fact that I was having nightmares—often ones completely unrelated to the Revolution—would have been devastating for morale. I have not been able to afford a single day of doubt in my life. Neutrality, perhaps. Never doubt.”

“That doesn’t answer the question,” Madison says. “Do you have doubts?”

“Of course I do,” Aaron says. “Public opinion changes like the wind. So many things are hard to predict. And if I’m wrong, who will ever trust me again?”

“You’re never going to be hated, Burr,” Madison says. “You won us the war.”

Aaron smiles. “Then here’s to the hope that I didn’t just start another one.”

~~~

Aaron leaves Philadelphia with promises from Jay and Madison that the Federalist papers will be written. A group of twenty men escort him back from Philadelphia to New York City, which is exceptionally frustrating, because it makes the entire journey take nearly twice the amount of time it would have if he were alone. He heads to his offices first, but Alexander is not there; not is Alexander at his own lodgings, so he finally lets his poor exhausted guard return him to the Burr house.

It’s well past one in the morning, and Aaron is beginning to feel it. The buttress of Alexander will be so happy to hear has been disintegrating with each failed attempt to locate the man, and apparently it is all that has been keeping him upright.

He opens his own front door quietly, is ready to go an join Eliza in bed, when he hears a noise from upstairs. He tries to quell the rising fear in his stomach, tiptoes up the stairs and down the hall, and the door to his office is slightly ajar and there’s a light inside and he feels a rush of relief and also a bit stupid for thinking that Alexander would have been anywhere else. He closes the distance of the rest of the hallway in long strides, doesn’t bother even knocking, just throws the door open, and Alexander jumps and yelps and nearly spills a full inkwell on everything.

His clothes are rumpled, there are circles under his eyes, and stray hairs escaping from the ponytail he’s pulled the whole mess into, but he looks just like Aaron left him, and Aaron wastes no time in crossing the room and pulling him into an embrace.

He can feel Alexander’s heartbeat against his, and everything seems right in the world again.

Aaron must cling to him for four minutes, maybe five, but Alexander shows no signs of minding. But Aaron finally pulls back, because what he came here to say, it’s important.

“We got slavery written out of the Constitution.”

Alexander’s face instantly goes sharp. “Tell me everything.”

So Aaron lays it out—the Convention, the delegates, who was an idiot and who was an arrogant asshole and Alexander laughs along with him at every single part, about Franklin and telling them all the dream and how even though the floor shouted back and forth it was finally decided that slavery could not continue in this nation, how a twenty-five year plan was put in place to slowly ease it out but they got the compromise of voting rights, and that—that it was better than anything he would have hoped for, they did it, they did it, they’ve got—he takes a half-hour detour to outline the other plans of government, draws a quick diagram, talks about checks and balances, it’s the same as before—but they’ve got a comprehensive plan to end slavery. That all men are to be treated equal under the same law.

“We’ve got to ratify it,” Aaron says. “At least nine states, but it would be better if all of them did. I know that it’s not perfect, I know that there are…there are holes, and contradictions, but this is the best we’ve got right now and I really, really believe that this is the foundation we want to built our nation on. I’m not allowed to—I’m not allowed to speak publicly on the matter to sway people because I’m the Seer and the half delegates who want this whole thing to fail and they don’t think that the public will stand for this if they don’t know how important this is, Alexander, we—we need your help, no one’s a better writer than you, and—“

“A series of essays defending the document to the public?” Alexander asks. “Explaining why it’s important that it get ratified, the ideas behind every single line, putting into terms why this is so important in a way that everyone will understand?”

“Yes,” Aaron says. “Um. Published anonymously, so that the people can focus on the issues, not whoever’s writing them.”

“Smart,” Alexander says.

“My hands are tied,” Aaron says. “I’m not allowed to come out in support of this in any way—which is stupid, I was there at the convention, I—“ He wants to tear his hair out. “John Jay and James Madison are in on this, but I wanted to—“

“Of course,” Alexander says. “How many essays were you all planning on writing?”

“Twenty-five,” Aaron says.

Alexander takes his hand. “Then I’ll write double that.”

And suddenly Aaron wants to cry because he remembers this, he remembers this exact scene and how Alexander had shown up on his doorstep with fire in his eyes and had babbled excitedly and how quickly Aaron had shut him down, and now here he is, now the tables have turned, and Alexander is holding his hand and was behind him before he could even form the question.

Alexander steps back, and brushes his thumb again Aaron’s cheek and it takes Aaron a moment to realize that he’s crying and Alexander is wiping a tear away.

“Aaron? Are you alright?”

Aaron shakes his head. “It’s nothing, it’s—it’s just that, you’re a better man than me. And a far better friend than me.”

“I wouldn’t say that,” Alexander says.

“I know far more than you know,” Aaron points out.

Alexander moves in closer, and Aaron can almost feel the heat radiating off him. “Well. You’re the best man I know. Your…your convictions, your self-control, your honesty, you put the rest of us to shame.”

Alexander’s not stepping back, and Aaron’s heartbeat is speeding up, Aaron would swear that he can feel Alexander’s breath ghosting across his lips.

Alexander raises one hand, begins tracing the edges of Aaron’s face.

“You’re so…”

Aaron can’t move. “So what?”

Then Alexander laughs. “I guess I really did get it right. You’re like poetry.”

Aaron’s breath catches in his chest because how is this happening, how is this happening all over again, just like before, he can barely tell if it’s real or if it’s a memory or a vision or even a dream, maybe he’ll wake up on the couch sometime tomorrow because he was too tired to even climb the stairs, that seems more likely than all of this happening again.

I am the one thing in life I can control.

“Beautiful. Indecipherable. Frustrating and impossible to understand sometimes, but the world wouldn’t be the same without you. My world wouldn’t be the same without you.”

I am the one thing in life I can control.

Alexander leans forward and Aaron closes his eyes.

I am the one thing in life I can control.

“Alexander, we can’t,” Aaron says, his voice thick. “Eliza.”

Alexander steps back, but his hand still cradles Aaron’s face. “What if I told you that—“

“Alexander you don’t understand!” Aaron says. “In my vision, in my…memories, when you and Eliza were together, you cheated on her, you slept with another woman and it broke her heart and I can’t do that to her, she deserves so much better, she’s perhaps the only person in this world that I hurt more than you and I can’t—I can’t—“

“Oh, shit,” Alexander whispers.

“I won’t cheat on Eliza,” Aaron says. “I wouldn’t even ask that of her, because what if she says yes and doesn’t mean it, what if I—“

“Shhh, shhh, it’s okay,” Alexander says, and he pulls Aaron forward into an embrace. “I’m sorry. I wasn’t thinking. I wasn’t trying to ask that of you. I didn’t—I don’t know what you know.”

“Alexander, you’re my best friend,” Aaron says. “And I love you dearly, I can’t—I can’t even begin to describe how much you mean to me, I—“

“It’s alright, I get it,” Alexander says. “I’m your best friend, and that’s never changing.”

But I do love you, Aaron wants to say. You’re more than my best friend, I don’t have a word for it, but you’re far more than just a friend to me.

He doesn’t. It won’t help. It won’t make anything easier for either him or Alexander, it won’t clarify anything more than he’s already said, it won’t suddenly erase the fact that he and Eliza are married and have two beautiful children now and that he genuinely cares, he loves Eliza too, more than just out of guilt but he loves her strength and her determination and her kindness and her fire in regards to the things that she loves, in how much she’s blossomed and how much she’s done and how he and Alexander wouldn’t be even halfway where they are without her patience and her belief in them and her ideas and her support every step of the day. How here, now, with her—with her and Alexander—he has a family, but nothing is worth throwing away your family for.

Not even Alexander.

“Stay,” Aaron says. “Stay the night, get some actual sleep here, stay with us for breakfast in the morning, just. Stay.”

“Okay,” Alexander says.

“Alex—“

Alexander smiles softly. “It’s okay, you’re right, you’re always right.”

“If I could do this all again—“ Aaron says. “If I—I’m—“

“Don’t worry about it,” Alexander says. “What we have is what we have, here and now. That will be enough.”

Aaron nods.

“Aaron?” Alexander says. “Can I…ask you a favor?”

“Of course,” Aaron says.

“Will you sleep here tonight? In the office with me, on the couch like you do sometimes when we have cases and you’re trying to get me to go to sleep and it gets too late, because I—I have so much work to do, and I can’t—it helps when you’re here. When there’s someone else in the room, when I can hear you breathing, when I know you’re safe, it helps me concentrate. I know that it’s really late and that you must be tired from your journey but I just—“

“Alexander, it’s alright,” Aaron says. “I’d be happy to stay with you. Do you want any help on whatever the case is, or…?”

“Wanted to start a draft of those essays,” Alexander says. “You gave me lots of ideas, won’t be able to sleep with them all in my head now.” Then, as Aaron looks pained, “It’s not your fault, I’d be working on a case if I weren’t writing them, this week has just been one of those weeks when sleep isn’t easy, I’m fine.”

“As long as you’re taking care of yourself,” Aaron says. Then he settles himself down on the couch, takes his shoes off, pulls a blanket from the small pile they keep at the foot of said couch, and draws it around him. He doesn’t really think he’ll be able to fall asleep, but listening to the rhythmic scratching of Alexander’s quill, he can feel himself relax, and darkness slips over him.

~~~

In the span of six months, Hamilton, Madison, and Jay write eighty-five essays. Jay gets sick after writing five. Madison writes twenty-nine. And Alexander, stubborn, insatiable Alexander, writes the other fifty-one.

Aaron’s Constitution is ratified.

And Alexander keeps writing like he’s running out of time.

Chapter Text

“Take a break!”

Aaron looks up from his writing. “I—“ Then he takes a deep breath. “Is it time for supper already? I can’t believe that the clock ran away from me like that.”

“There’s a little surprise before supper,” Eliza says.

Aaron rubs his eyes. “Then my work can wait,” he says, and stands, stretching. Alexander makes a noncommittal hum.

“Alexander, it’s suppertime. And there’s a surprise for us!” Aaron says, shaking Alexander’s shoulder.

“Save my plate,” Alexander says. “I need to finish this page.”

Aaron takes another deep breath.

It’s frustrating. It’s incredibly frustrating to work with Alexander, to see him pushing himself past the brink of exhaustion. They’ve decided to keep the law offices open, but that’s been taking a toll, especially because it’s on top of the fact that he is now Secretary of State, and Alexander is Secretary of Treasury.

(Aaron had been surprised when Washington had offered, thought that he was too extreme and that the nightmare at the Convention would have ostracized him from politics. But Washington had stood by his side. Aaron still isn’t sure if this is to keep their image strong; a threat to any foreign powers, that Aaron is high in the government, or if Washington has actually supported all of his actions, as divisive as they’ve been, and this is his way of showing it. Washington had originally wanted Robert Morris as Secretary of Treasury, and nothing Aaron had said about needing Hamilton had gotten through, until Morris declined the job and Hamilton was offered it as a reluctant second choice. Aaron has done everything in his power to ensure that Alexander doesn’t know that he was the second choice. And Alexander’s doing a fine job. It’s been almost a full term of Washington’s Presidency and everything is still running smoothly.)

“Alexander,” he says. “It’s Philip’s birthday today. Don’t you want to come down and see what the surprise is?”

“It—Philip’s birthday?” Alexander says.

Aaron smiles. “He’s nine years old today. We’re celebrating properly up in Albany—in which I still maintain you should come join us—but today is his birthday, so we’re having our own small celebration now. He’s been working on piano and poetry, I wouldn’t be surprised if he wanted to show us something.” Aaron can see Alexander teetering on the edge. “You know how much he adores you, it would really make his day if you joined us.”

Alexander sighs. “Fine. But I’m pulling an all-nighter tonight.”

Aaron debates trying to talk him out of it, but ultimately decides that the exercise is fruitless. “Your plan will pass. I’ve seen it,” he says.

“You’ve changed a lot of things about the future,” Alexander says.

“You know usually, when I say to people ‘trust me, I’m the Seer,’ they trust me, because I’m the Seer,” Aaron says.

“Good thing that I don’t, somebody has to keep you in check,” Alexander says. “Can’t let it all go to your head.”

“Someone has to keep you in check,” Aaron says. “Otherwise you don’t eat or sleep. That seems a bit more drastic than an inflated ego.”

“i dunno, you don’t have to live with your ego like the rest of us do,” Alexander says.

“Philip,” Aaron reminds him. “More important than my ego and your insistence on working yourself to death. Come on, let’s go.”

Alexander sighs, and puts down his quill. “Alright. But only because you asked so nicely.”

But even despite his complaining, Alexander grins and Philip gives his performance of some of the poems that he’s prepared, including a very clever poem which manages to throw in insults for pretty much all of the big-name Democratic Republicans.

Aaron makes a mental note to warn Alexander to watch his language around the children again, but he can’t help but laugh.

Alexander elbows him when Philip is done. “Hey, your kid is pretty great,” Alex says.

“Run away with us for the summer,” Aaron says. “He’s practically your kid too. Come upstate with us. Be a part of his childhood.”

“I have so much on my plate,” Alexander says.

“We all do,” Aaron says. “I promise, you’ll be fine.”

“Maybe next summer,” Alexander says.

Aaron sighs. “Next summer, then.”

~~~

Aaron is spending the evening reading in the sitting room when someone knocks on the door. He sighs and puts his book down. “Coming, Alexander,” he calls, and then stretches, and ambles over.

Except it’s not Alexander. It’s Maria Reynolds. Aaron suddenly feels very, very underdressed in his sleepwear.

“I know you are a man of honor,” Maria gushes before he can get a word in. “I’m so sorry to bother you at home, but the—your offices were closed all day today, and I don’t know where else to go.”

“Of course, of course, come in,” Aaron says. “Can I fix you some tea?”

“I’m fine, thank you,” Maria says.

“Would you prefer to sit in the parlor, or in my study upstairs?” Aaron asks. “My wife and children are asleep, so…”

“The parlor is fine,” Maria says. Her eyes had flicked down nervously at the word ‘wife.’

“Of course. This is a divorce case involving your spouse, James Reynolds, is it not?” Aaron asks.

Maria looks a bit surprised. “It…it is. He’s been…he beats me sometimes, cheats on me and now…now he’s up and run, I don’t have the means to go on.”

“Are you and your daughter currently living in a secure location?” Aaron asks. “Which is to say—are you safe, do you have enough money to support yourselves?”

“I…” She licks her lips. “I never mentioned a daughter.”

Aaron shrugs. “You also didn’t mention your name or your spouse’s name, but I was aware of those. I’ve already had a vision in which I’ve handled your case. That is why you came here, is it not? You were looking for a divorce lawyer?”

“I’ve heard that you…help women. In need,” Maria says.

“Yes, Alexander and I do take on a variety of pro-bono cases,” Aaron says. “I can tell you already, we would be happy to take your case, I expect that it will be open and shut.”

“Sir…”

Aaron crosses the room, grabs a scrap of paper, and writes an address on it. “I’m going to be out of town for the next few weeks. Alexander should be in his offices, but he’s very busy with his financial plan, although it never hurts to try. But in the interim, go here with your daughter, and tell the woman who owns the facility that you are one of Aaron Burr’s clients, and to put it on his tab. She’ll help you get settled, you and your daughter will have food and shelter and need not worry about the cost. I have—“ He looks in the drawer. “I have $30 here, that should be more than enough to cover any further miscellaneous costs that you have, should it not?”

“I—“

“If you are worried about your husband returning and harassing you, there are men who guarded me during the war whom I trust with my life and the lives of my family, whom I sometimes employ to protect clients that are worried about their safety,” Aaron says. “Although Ms. Sampson fought in the war herself, and is rather fiercely protective of her guests.”

“I can’t—“ Maria swallows. “I can’t repay you.”

“You aren’t expected to,” Aaron says. “Can I walk you home?”

“That would…that would be nice,” Maria says. “I’m only a few blocks away.”

“Let me just grab a coat,” Aaron says, and grabs one, and after a moment of thought, one for her too. It’s not particularly cool outside, but the extra layer feels nice, like protection. A covering of his skin. He never touched Maria before, never did follow her life to see how she died, and he is not particularly interested in learning now.

He escorts her all the way up to her door. “I highly advise you go to the address I have given you. I should be back in town within the month, in which I would love to meet once more to discuss your case, and if all goes smoothly, we can start to move to the courts by the end of the summer. Does that address all your worries, Mrs. Reynolds? Or is there anything else you would like to speak with me of?”

“I still…I still don’t know how to thank you, if you wanted to come inside, I could…if there’s any hospitality I could offer you—“ She reaches for his hand, but Aaron is ready for it, and steps back and out of reach.

“I’d prefer if you didn’t touch me, I will be struck by a vision of your death if you do,” Aaron says. “I take no offense—you didn’t know, it’s not particularly common knowledge, but it seems rather intimate for me to witness the final moments of a stranger, or a client. Now, I should head back home, unless there is anything pressing I should know?”

She turns red. “No.”

Aaron smiles. “Then I will see you in a month or so, Mrs. Reynolds.”

~~~

“Who were you just with?” Eliza asks when he comes back to their room.

“Hm?” Aaron asks.

“I heard the door open, you talked for a while, then left and came back, it couldn’t have been Alexander, he always makes a lot more noise.”

“I was meeting with a client,” Aaron says. “A woman named Mrs. Reynolds. She’s in an abusive situation and feared for her own safety and that of her very young daughter. She waited by the offices all day, but of course, neither Alexander or I were in, so she came to our home.” Aaron pauses. “I sent her to Ms. Sampson’s while I work on the case, and gave her a bit of money to tide her and her daughter over, that was okay, right?”

Except Eliza’s face is getting more and more panicked. “You’re not—you’re not staying here, in the city, are you? I mean—I know you’re very busy, I know your work’s important, but we’ve—we’ve been planning this vacation for months, Angelica’s even coming all the way from London, it’ll be the first time in years she’s been back, it’s Philip’s birthday—“

“Eliza, I’m still coming,” Aaron says. “Same as our usual plans, we all go together, I stay for three weeks, head down to check on Alexander and the rest of the nation for a few days, and then return for the rest of the summer.” He sighs; Eliza doesn’t look convinced. “Love, I wouldn’t miss this for the world.”

She cracks a smile, and relaxes slightly. “I’m sorry. I know I have—no reason to doubt you, it’s just you and Alexander have been so busy lately, and I was just—every year I’m so scared that it will be the year that you stay with him.”

“Betsey, this—this is my family,” Aaron says. “You are what makes all of this worth fighting for, to build a better world for the children. Never forget that.”

Eliza is quiet for a long time.

“Aaron?”

“Yes?”

“Remember when you mentioned that…that you had a vision where you were just a lawyer instead of…all this. Where you and I weren’t—where Alexander and I were married. Did he come along then? Did he join us upstate?”

“No,” Aaron says, after a moment’s pause. “He was just as impossible to pull away from his work.”

“So even when it was his children, his son turning nine—“ Eliza says.

“He still loved them an incredible amount,” Aaron says. “Philip was his world. He was just…worried about his own life meaning something. About creating a legacy, something worth remembering. So focused on the future that he missed out on the present sometimes. But that didn’t mean he cared any less.”

Eliza sighs. “Philip will be so disappointed he’s not coming again, you know how much the boy idolizes him.”

“We’ll get Alexander to come along one day,” Aaron says. “Maybe when the financial plan is passed and things settle down a little.”

“You’re such a good father,” Eliza says suddenly. “I’m so glad that you’re here.”

Aaron smiles. “Get some sleep, love,” he says. “We have a long day of traveling tomorrow.”

Eliza rolls over, and snuggles closer to him. “I love you,” she says.

He wraps his arms around her. “I know. I love you too.”

And the words are just as true as any time he's said them.

~~~

“Daddy, Daddy, I want a turn on your shoulders!” Philip shouts.

They’re at the lake, they always go to the lake on the first day, and honestly, any day when it’s this hot outside.

“Wait your turn!” Angie shouts back. “Besides, you’re getting too big.”

“No one’s too big,” Aaron says. “One more big jump for you, then it’s Philip’s turn to be the lake monster.”

“Woohoo, throw me, throw me!” Angie says.

“I hope you’re being very careful about how deep the water is!” Eliza shouts from the shore.

“It’s alright, I’ve got her!” Aaron shouts back. “Ready?”

“Always,” Angie says.

“Ooooookaaaaaay.”

Aaron takes a few steps into the deep water, and makes sure that he’s facing away from the shore. Then he crouches down lower and lower until his head is submerged. He grabs Angie’s legs from around his shoulder to pull her down with him. Aaron can hear muffled laughter and splashing, then he heaves upwards as fast as possible, popping out of the water and hurling Angie over his head.

Angie screams as she goes flying, and re-enters the water with a huge splash. She comes bobbing up moments later.

“Daddy, Daddy, I want you to throw me!” Philip says.

“I thought you wanted to be the lake monster, now that our previous monster head has retired,” Aaron says.

“Throw me first!” Philip says.

“Then throw me!” four-year-old Alexander says from the shallows.

“You can’t even swim!” Angie says.

Aaron hoists Philip onto his shoulders, and throw him into the deeper water.

“My turn!” Angie shouts, but Philip swims back over first.

“No, it’s my turn to be the lake monster!” Philip says, climbing on Aaron’s shoulders.

“But I haven’t gotten to be thrown or be a lake monster yet!” Alex wails.

Peggy hoists herself from where she was sunbathing with her sisters on the beach. “I heard that a monster was needed?” she says.

“Oh, now this isn’t fair,” Angie says. “Auntjelica. AUNTJELICA! Come be a lake monster with me!”

Angelica looks over from where she’s sitting with Eliza. “Alright, duty calls,” she says.

Alex is trying to scramble up Peggy like a squirrel up its favorite tree, as Angie paddles towards her namesake with an almost regal air.

“M’lady,” Angelica says as she crouches down, and Angie climbs onto her shoulders. Down in the shallows, Alex has finally managed to get up onto his Aunt Peggy’s back.

“Monster fight!” Philip shouts. Angelica and Peggy obediently make their way over the the middling deep waters so that the children can splash each other and, in Philip and Angie’s cases, attempt to dislodge one another from their bases.

Aaron’s smile is unguarded. He can see Eliza laughing while she and little Aaron Jr build a sandcastle on the shore.

No, he wouldn’t miss this for the world.

~~~

“Aaron.”

Aaron looks up from his desk where he’s writing up some documents for the Reynolds case. Eliza is putting the children to bed; she promised to secure him half an hour to work in peace. Although, he supposes, it would be impossible to secure him peace from Angelica when the woman is on the prowl.

So Aaron composes his face into a polite smile. “Angelica.”

“Do you have a moment?” Angelica asks.

“Of course,” Aaron says, putting his quill down.

“I’ll cut to the chase, is my sister happy?” Angelica asks.

“I—“

“She seems stressed. Older,” Angelica says.

“You’ve been in London for nine years,” Aaron says. “We’ve had four children, we’ve all grown up.”

“But this is—“ Angelica sighs, and looks very frustrated. “She looks like there’s something on the tip of her tongue that she just won’t say, she looks like—like something is bothering her, eating away at her inside while you’re just splashing around carefree with the children—is there something going on? Between you?“

“Philip’s godfather, Alexander Hamilton, promises every year that next year he’ll join us, and ducks out of it every year,” Aaron says. “I think she was a little bit disappointed about that. And politics have been incredibly stressful lately, especially considering that the placement of the Capitol is in the air—we’ve already been talking about looking for places in Philadelphia, which is going to be the temporary Capitol for about a decade, but upending an entire family and practice is a lot of work. And Alexander is always so stressed, tries to bring his work to the table half the time, it’s easy for the tension to spread. But I am not aware of something being that wrong—“

“You let Alexander into your house?” Angelica says.

“Of course, he is my best friend,” Aaron says. “And very close with Eliza and the children as well. He’s almost a member of the family.”

Angelica just huffs. “Your attachment and devotion to that man is unnatural.”

“As I said, he’s a very close friend,” Aaron says. “He was…when we were both a lot younger, I had a far harder time dealing with my visions. He helped calm me down. Helped me see that it wasn’t real, that the future could be changed. Helped me believe in myself. I know it’s hard to understand, because he can be a lot to handle sometimes, but I do have reason to care about him.”

“So much so that you’d choose him over your own family?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Aaron says. “And I don’t think you know what you’re talking about either, other than a vague sense that your sister is not happy. And that is something that I’d very much like to look into, if there is even the smallest possibility it might be true. So how about you stop attacking me, and we can investigate this together?”

“You’re a pushover, Aaron Burr,” Angelica says. “You always have been. You never even would have married my sister if I hadn’t prodded you into it. And I’m starting to worry that I have cause to regret that choice.”

Aaron goes very, very quiet. Then: “Or maybe, just maybe, you’ve been in London for nearly a decade and it’s been an utter disappointment, the loveless marriage that you ran away to be in has suddenly gotten strangling, even your affair with Thomas Jefferson in France turned out to be boorish and unfulfilling, because despite the man’s beautiful words, he has no substance, and is just as big of a raging hypocrite as every man you’ve ever hated, and you come back here and find that your little sister is all grown up and has her own life and her own worries and doesn’t confide in you like she’s fifteen anymore, and you’re worried that the one thing you ever did in life—taking care of her—is going to be worthless and gone.”

“Wow,” Angelica says.

Aaron just glares.

“I guess this is how England felt back during the war,” Angelica says.

“I’d appreciate if you didn’t chop off my head and put it on a silver platter; I don’t think your sister would be very happy with you,” Aaron says.

“No it’s fine, I like you when you have a backbone, even if you don’t show it,” Angelica says. “Besides, English-American relations are going quite well, aren’t they?”

“We appear to be on relatively good terms right now, for our mutual benefit,” Aaron says.

“And may it stay that way,” Angelica says. “Take care of my sister, or you will regret it more than you have regretted anything in your life.”

“Understood,” Aaron says.

“Angelica? Aaron? Is everything alright?”

They turn; Eliza is looking in from the doorway. Aaron shoots Angelica a quick glance; he deems it wiser to allow his sister-in-law the chance to answer first.

“We were fine, just talking about how America’s changed while I’ve been in England,” Angelica says.

“The intricacies of English-American relations matter a lot to both of us,” Aaron says. “It is something that I suspect is going to come up a lot in my job for the next few years, and Angelica has unique opinions and insight. It’s very refreshing to speak with someone who will challenge my views.”

Eliza glares at the both of them.

“Angelica, if I might steal my husband from you?”

“Of course,” Angelica says.

Eliza takes Aaron by the elbow, and leads him outside; they begin to walk down to the lake.

“Is everything really alright? She wasn’t…”

“It really was just a friendly conversation,” Aaron says. “About adjusting to life. And everything that’s changed, big and small. She cares that you’re happy.”

Eliza lets out a small laugh at that. “Look at where we are, look at where we started.”

“Everything along the way sort of seems like a miracle at this point,” Aaron says.

“We make a good family,” Eliza says. “And a good team.”

Aaron smiles. “These kids are going to blow us all away one day. Put our generation to shame. The future is an incredible place. At least, it can be. It’s going to be. It has to be, because it’s theirs.

~~~

Three weeks pass quickly; then Aaron is returning once more to the City with letters from Eliza and drawings from all the children for Alexander, to make sure that he is still alive. Aaron has other business, of course, but Alexander is his first priority.

He finds the man at the law offices, frantically scrawling down something on the back of a sheet of paper. Alexander doesn’t look up when he enters the room.

“Alexander.”

And Alexander jumps, but luckily Aaron is very good at making sure that the inkwell doesn’t spill when he does this.

“You nearly gave me a heart attack,” Alexander says.

“I always come down to check on you, and it’s always about a month after I leave,” Aaron says.

“It’s been a month?” Alexander says.

“And herein exactly lies your problem,” Aaron says.

Alexander laughs.

“So how are things going with your financial plan?” Aaron prompts.

“Oh! Um. Great,” Alexander says. “I got a compromise out of Madison and Jefferson, Madison’s going to push it through Congress the moment Congress gets back in session, which is why I have to fix everything now, it needs to be perfect, you know?”

“I know,” Aaron says. “I’ll refrain from saying ‘I told you so.’”

“And instead engage in apophasis, very mature of you,” Alexander says. “On a completely unrelated subject, um, you wouldn’t happen to have any visions about where we end up putting the Capitol?”

“A bill passes that puts it somewhere on the Potomac River,” Aaron says. “It won’t be built for a while, so we won’t have to move to Virginia anytime soon, but it’s considered a very nice compromise.” He pauses. “I suppose it ended up being the land from Maryland, not Virginia, but—“

“No that’s fine—I was just curious,” Alexander says. “I’m getting really tired of the winters here, that’s all.”

Aaron raises an eyebrow.

“Forget I said anything,” Alexander says.

“Come upstate with me,” Aaron says. “You can do all your work in the house there, we’ll put aside a room and an office for you and tell everyone that you strictly aren’t to be disturbed. But you have your compromise, it’s done, join us.”

“What if we have clients?” Alexander says. “What if—what if something goes wrong, what if Madison or Jefferson tries to back out, I can’t just leave.

Aaron sighs. “I suppose you can’t. Have you been meeting with Mrs. Reynolds, then?”

Alexander freezes. “Mrs. Reynolds?”

“You just said you were worried about clients for our law practice,” Aaron says. “One Maria Reynolds contacted me at my residence before Eliza and children and I left for upstate. I told her I would handle the case, but she sounded very desperate. I was wondering if she’d visited the offices again and found you? Because I’ve been working on notes for her case, and if so, we should compare.”

“Um. She hasn’t come here at all,” Alexander says.

“Alright,” Aaron says. “If she—nevermind. She will be separated from her husband very soon, if there are any complications, let me know immediately.”

“Right,” Alexander says.

“Have you eaten lunch yet?” Aaron asks.

“I have work to do,” Alexander says.

Aaron glares at him.

“Fine, fine, come back in four hours and I’ll join you for dinner?” Alexander says.

“You’d better, I came down all this way for you,” Aaron says. “If you’re not eating, you lose ‘stay in the City’ privileges for next summer.”

“Says who?” Alexander says.

“Says me,” Aaron says. “I can tell every single politician that they’re not allowed to meet with you for two months. I wouldn’t even have to give them a reason, they’d listen to me.”

“Probably would think I had the plague or something,” Alexander says. “I eat, I’ve got a stash of dried food here for when I lose track of the time, but I will come and have a proper meal with you tonight.”

“Good,” Aaron says. “Four hours. Be done. And I’ll expect you to make time in your busy busy schedule tomorrow and the day after as well for at least one meal a day with me.”

“Fine,” Alexander says, but he’s grinning. “Never could say no to you about anything, not gonna change now.”

~~~

Aaron meets with Maria Reynolds at Ms. Sampson’s; as it is the middle of the afternoon, no one is using the general dining area, so Aaron spreads all of his papers across a table and leads her through it all. She nods very attentively, and is careful to stay at least arm’s reach from him at all times.

“We should be able to take this to court by the end of the summer, when I am back,” Aaron says. “If that is alright with you? You will be free to stay here until then, and afterwards, if you need some time to get back on your feet.”

“Ms. Sampson has been letting me help out with cooking and cleaning,” Maria says. “She said I could stay for a bit, so it wouldn’t be any trouble to you. She was a teacher, you know, before the war? She’s been teaching Susan her letters.”

Aaron smiles. “That’s fantastic.”

“Just wanted you to know that we weren’t going to be any trouble,” Maria says.

“I’m glad,” Aaron says. “Although you were not trouble in the first place.”

Maria looks down at that. “Sir…there’s something you should know.”

“Yes?”

“I—I wasn’t—I wasn’t coming to you for help with the divorce at first, it was—my husband sent me to—“

“Oh, I know,” Aaron says. “I saw it. In a vision. In this particular version of future events, Secretary Hamilton was married, and you went to him first. The two of you proceeded to have an affair, and Mr. Reynolds extorted Hamilton for almost $1000 over the course of two years. Mr. Jefferson learned of this extortion, and accused Hamilton of speculation. You can imagine that it all got a bit messy.”

“And you knew this all from the beginning,” Maria says. “But you still helped me.”

“I’ve known a lot of things from the beginning,” Aaron says. “From the future of this nation to the lives of individuals that I’ve interacted with. There are people that have lived that I’ve seen die, there are people that have died that I’ve seen live. Children that will never be born, and families that have grown together instead of apart. Your path doesn’t have to follow what I’ve seen. A lot of things have gone a lot better. Consider even your own case. You’ll be free of your husband years earlier than before. Focus on that.”

“But if you…if you hadn’t seen what could have been, do you think that you might have fallen into that…trap?”

Aaron looks at her gently. “Maria, you’re 12 years younger than me. You’re a client. And you are in a position in which you are relying on my wealth and services right now to get yourself started out anew. Even if I weren’t happily married, even if I didn’t have four children, even if I was just your lawyer…I would not want to behave in an untoward manner, considering our relative positions.”

“You’re a gentleman,” Maria says.

I’m not interested, Aaron wants to say, but that seems to be a little bit harsh to say directly to her face.

“You have all that you need for the rest of the summer?” Aaron asks.

“I do,” Maria says.

“Then I will see you when the summer ends.”

~~~

Aaron spends the majority of this three days helping Alexander; he meticulously checks over what Alexander has written for any errors, either in spelling, grammar, or ideas that do not flow properly, and helps Alexander edit. There’s a solid twelve-hour period in which Alexander’s hands are too cramped to work and he just dictates and Aaron writes it down.

(Aaron manages to convince him to sleep that night, and in a proper bed to boot, and he fondly watches over his friend's sleeping form while finishing a few documents before heading to his own room for the night.)

He extracts promises from Alexander that the man will take care of himself; he does not particularly expect them to be kept.

And then Aaron has one more meeting before he heads upstate again. He goes to the Queen’s Head, he knows that a room in the back will be reserved for him.

Madison is waiting.

“How did it go?” Aaron asks.

“Exactly as you said it would, we’re getting the capitol, he’s getting the banks. He promised you’d give a speech to Congress talking about having a capitol in the South as a symbol of peace, he wasn’t just pulling things out of a hat, was he?”

“No,” Aaron says. “Which is to say, I’ll give the speech, it’s a nice touch.”

“But he didn’t ask you first,” Madison says.

“No, he still thinks that this meeting was your and Jefferson’s idea,” Aaron says. “Which, to be fair, it was, whether or not it came up in a conversation between us that a dinner would be nice—“

“You know Washington’s first address to Congress?” Madison says. “He asked me to write it. And then Congress’s reply. They asked me to write it, too. Then Washington wanted a response to the response, and Congress wanted a response to the response to the response—and all in all I wrote myself four letters.”

“And what we’re doing right now—“

“Honestly seems to be very similar,” Madison says. “We need a solution to something, you’ve already seen the solution, the two of us discuss the solution and come to an agreement that it really is the best solution, and then push our peers into the compromise we have already arranged. The menu, the venue, the seating—we’re just writing the scripts for both sides.”

“Would you prefer it to have gone unscripted?” Aaron asks.

Madison is silent for a moment. “I’m just starting to worry about how much of these scripts I’m really writing,” he says. “How long did you know this compromise was going to happen?”

“Since I was a very young child, as is true with most of my visions,” Aaron admits without pause. “Although its importance dawned on me more and more as time went on.”

“You knew this was going to happen at the Convention,” Madison says. “You knew this was going to—you knew this needed to happen when you promised that reparations would be possible.”

“Yes,” Aaron says.

“And with the constant background talk of secession in the South—trading away the Capitol specifically here and now—“

That actually wasn’t a part of Aaron’s plans, but to hell if he’s going to tell that to Madison. He just smiles.

“So this plan has been in the working for years,” Madison says.

“You give me a lot of credit,” Aaron says. “It’s like saying the planning for these bowls of stew have been in the working for years, because it took years for the cow to grow to the proper age then be slaughtered for the meat, and just the right combination of times for the vegetables to be grown, for the beer to be brewed, all to make this meal. Some things just happen. The future flows where it wants to flow, I’ve just been giving it little pushes along the way. Conveniently for me to give it a push in the direction of peace, just like conveniently for us the elements all came together to eat this food. Most people wouldn’t even think about it. It would have found a way to happen even if I weren’t here.”

Madison just stares at him, and Aaron can practically hear what he’s thinking. Aaron sighs. “Go ahead, air your thoughts.”

“You’re dangerous,” Madison says. “A lot more dangerous than I originally estimated.”

“Yes,” Aaron says. “I’ve been aware of this from the start. That is one of the reasons why I desperately wanted to stay out of politics, originally. And no one would let me.”

“You…you single-handedly dictated our Constitution, and you did it knowing that things in the future would align such that what you said would come true.”

“I dictated exactly what you wrote in my vision, you wrote the Constitution, you just don’t remember doing it,” Aaron says. “It seems like causation to you, but to me, it’s already happened. I didn’t choose any of this, I’m just trying to make the best of what I know, what I’ve seen. Nothing more, nothing less.”

“You changed this Civil War from happening,” Madison says.

“So far,” Aaron says. “And I think for good. But things still follow similar problems, similar beats, even without that looming overhead.”

“Does Hamilton know what you’ve been doing?”

“No,” Aaron says. “Honestly, you’re the only person that I discuss the future of this government with.”

“Why?” Madison asks.

“Because I trust you,” Aaron says, “to be level-headed, while trying to do what you believe to be the right thing. And to treat me as a person while doing so. All of our other peers at best get two of the three of those.”

Madison nods. “While I appreciate the gesture and sentiment, it does not make you any less dangerous.”

“I appear more dangerous than I actually am,” Aaron says. “Most of what I’m doing is facilitating a future that would have happened without me.”

“How so?” Madison asks.

“If slavery had never been brought up in the manner with which I brought it up at the Constitutional Convention—if I had never even attended the Constitutional Convention—this same meeting still would have happened, and Alexander Hamilton still would have traded the Capitol for the banks,” Aaron says.

“But it has different significance, considering your actions at the Convention,” Madison says.

“It does,” Aaron says. “I didn’t take action at the Convention knowing that I would be able to orchestrate a secret meeting that both would placate the South and provide means to solve our debt crisis. I spoke as I did knowing that we would have an operable financial system within the first few years of having our government up and running, and that this was the probably sort of meeting that would cause it.”

“Fascinating,” Madison says. “Truly fascinating.”

“I don’t like the situation any more than you do,” Aaron says.

“Hmm,” Madison says. “Well, for what it’s worth, I do think your intentions are pure. Confiding in me to this degree gains you nothing, and only makes me more cautious about whether or not you are overstepping reasonable bounds. I see no ploy in which this sort of move would help you.”

“Mmm, that’s where you’re wrong,” Aaron says. “This is precisely my ploy. One of my greatest worries is whether or not I am overstepping my bounds with my foreknowledge, having someone equally as concerned as I am yet of an entirely different viewpoint also watching my like a hawk means things are less likely to go downhill.”

Madison laughs. “Do you ever think of…of ending political parties, of ending the growing North-South division? The two of us make a good team.”

Aaron expected this adjuration, but not so swiftly after Madison voicing his distress over Aaron’s political influence.

“What, you’re asking me to ditch Hamilton, jump ship, join you?” Aaron says. “This is the part where I politely say no.”

“This is the point where I suggest that you ditch Hamilton, and I ditch Jefferson,” Madison says. “They’re both too representative of the current political parties, and they’re both all bark without our backing. Working together—we could get so much done.

Aaron can feel his heart pounding in his throat, but he’s gotten good enough at dealing with Madison not to let it show on his face. “Do we not get more done together playing on both sides, with everyone too focused on their gridlock to notice the solutions are all things we’ve arranged? If we formed our own party, wouldn’t there just arise another to oppose us? One that we will no longer be in the position to influence?”

“Or it could mark the end of political parties entirely,” Madison says. “Think about it.”

Aaron pauses. “You’ve gotten tired of dealing with Jefferson’s histrionics, haven’t you?” he says.

“And you haven’t tired of Hamilton yet?” Madison shoots back.

“Unfortunately not,” Aaron says. “Besides, Eliza and the children love him, they’d be devastated if he suddenly decided we were arch-enemies.”

Madison sighs. “I cannot shake the feeling that that man is taking advantage of you, and of your kindness.”

“I see and know a lot more things that you do,” Aaron points out.

“And yet I suspect that Hamilton is your blind spot,” Madison counters.

“Probably,” Aaron admits. “But I just can’t…the vision I had of his death is one of the worst of my visions, and I can’t just…leave him alone to face it. A person’s abrasiveness, their lack of filter, their…everything, it’s a lot different in the light of knowing how they’re going to die. Of knowing how little time they have, compared to what they ought to have.”

“Oh,” Madison says. “I’m very sorry.”

“Did you know that I had a vision where I’d married another woman?” Aaron says. “Theodosia was her name. She’s alive now, actually. She’ll live for a few more years. May 28th, 1794, that was the day that she died. In my vision I decided to marry her, even knowing that. Even knowing all of the signs, even knowing that I would watch her waste away in front of me.”

“How much time does Hamilton have left?” Madison asks.

“I’m not sure,” Aaron says. “I’m doing everything possible to prevent his death. It’s not easy, and he’s very stubborn about it. But I’m not just going to leave him.”

“Understood,” Madison says. “Thank you for explaining.”

Aaron nods. “It shouldn’t be a problem, he’ll be very busy running his new banks. And I can handle my own as Secretary of State.”

“Washington’s only got four more years of Presidency,” Madison says. “Then you’ll no longer have his protection.”

“I’m prepared to play nice with John Adams, say what you will about the man, but he has an upstanding moral backbone,” Aaron says.

“But then it’s anyone’s game,” Madison says. “Are you prepared to play?”

“I’m taking my time, watching the afterbirth of this nation,” Aaron says. “Watching the tensions grow. Better to play when we’re ready. When we know which way the wind will blow.”

“Well, keep me updated on whether or not a storm is coming,” Madison says.

“That I can do,” Aaron responds.

~~~

The last night of their vacation upstate, Aaron does what he has done every single time. He takes the children—well, Philip, Angie, and Alex; Aaron Jr is only two and thus a bit too young for these adventures—out to the edge of the lake, where they lay down on the big rock that’s best for jumping from and look at the stars.

“Tell us a story!” Philip says.

“Which one?” Aaron asks.

“Virgo!” Angie says. “I can recite her poem in the original Greek!”

“Alright, go ahead,” Aaron says.

“χρύσεον μὲν πρώτιστα γένος μερόπων ἀνθρώπων
ἀθάνατοι ποίησαν Ὀλύμπια δώματ᾽ ἔχοντες.
οἳ μὲν ἐπὶ Κρόνου ἦσαν, ὅτ᾽ οὐρανῷ ἐμβασίλευεν:
ὥστε θεοὶ δ᾽ ἔζωον ἀκηδέα θυμὸν ἔχοντες
νόσφιν ἄτερ τε πόνων καὶ ὀιζύος: οὐδέ τι δειλὸν
γῆρας ἐπῆν, αἰεὶ δὲ πόδας καὶ χεῖρας ὁμοῖοι
τέρποντ᾽ ἐν θαλίῃσι κακῶν ἔκτοσθεν ἁπάντων:
θνῇσκον δ᾽ ὥσθ᾽ ὕπνῳ δεδμημένοι: ἐσθλὰ δὲ πάντα
τοῖσιν ἔην: καρπὸν δ᾽ ἔφερε ζείδωρος ἄρουρα
αὐτομάτη πολλόν τε καὶ ἄφθονον: οἳ δ᾽ ἐθελημοὶ
ἥσυχοι ἔργ᾽ ἐνέμοντο σὺν ἐσθλοῖσιν πολέεσσιν.
ἀφνειοὶ μήλοισι, φίλοι μακάρεσσι θεοῖσιν.

αὐτὰρ ἐπεὶ δὴ τοῦτο γένος κατὰ γαῖ᾽ ἐκάλυψε,—
τοὶ μὲν δαίμονες ἁγνοὶ ἐπιχθόνιοι καλέονται
ἐσθλοί, ἀλεξίκακοι, φύλακες θνητῶν ἀνθρώπων,
οἵ ῥα φυλάσσουσίν τε δίκας καὶ σχέτλια ἔργα,
ἠέρα ἑσσάμενοι πάντη φοιτῶντες ἐπ᾽ αἶαν”

Angie states somberly.

“Philip, would you care to translate?” Aaron asks.

“Urgh, Dad, this is vacation, don’t give me homework,” Philip says.

“Angie?” Aaron prompts.

“First a golden race of mortal men were
made by the immortals who have Olympian homes.
They lived in Kronos' time, when he ruled the sky,
they lived like gods, with carefree heart,
free and apart from trouble and pain; grim old age
did not afflict them, but with arms and legs always
strong they played in delight, apart from all evils;
They died as if subdued by sleep; and all good things
were theirs; the fertile earth produced fruit
by itself, abundantly and unforced; willingly and
effortlessly they ruled their lands with many goods,
rich in flocks and loved by the blessed gods.

But since the earth hid this race below,
they are daimones by the plans of great Zeus,
benevolent earthly guardians of mortal men,
who watch over judgments and cruel deeds,
clothed in air and roaming over all the earth,”

Angie says proudly. “Virgo, or Astraea, was one of the daimones, she was associated with the Harvest and Justice. The brightest star, there, you can see is a stalk of wheat that she's holding. And Libra, the scales, are in her other arm.”

“Very good,” Aaron says.

“I wanted Dad to tell a story, you show-off,” Philip says. “Besides, that one is boring. No action.”

“Alright,” Aaron says. “What about Sagittarius, the Archer?”

Philip scrunches his nose. “Wasn’t he…Chiron?”

“He was indeed,” Aaron says.

“I love Chiron!” Philip says. “He advised Achilles. And Perseus and Theseus and Jason and all the great heroes. He was the smartest and best and most sophisticated and was an incredible teacher. And then Hercules had to do his labors, and made a poison arrow with the blood of a hydra, but then there was a fight, and Hercules had to fire a lot of arrows and hit Chiron. Except Chiron was immortal and couldn’t die, so he was in constant pain. So he made a deal with Zeus that he would give up his immortality in exchange for Prometheus being freed, and he ended up dying, but everyone loved him so much that to honor him they put him in the stars.”

“I thought you wanted Dad to tell a story,” Angie says. Philip just huffs. “Also,” she continues, “I heard that he went to live in Mount Olympus after he gave up his immortality,”

“There are lots of different versions of the story,” Aaron says. “That’s the great part about stories, we choose how we tell them. Alright, Alex, your turn to pick out a star.”

“What about that one?” Alex asks.

“That one is a part of the constellation Scorpius,” Aaron says. “Do you remember the story of the great hunter Orion?”

“Tell it again!” Alex says. “And I want Dad to tell it this time.”

“Traitor,” Philip hisses under his breath.

“Orion was a hunter,” Aaron says. “According to the oldest of legends, he was a son of the Sea-God Poseidon and could walk on water. He was very very good friends with the goddess Artemis, such good friends that one day she invited him to her private island to go hunting with her and her mother. Orion was so excited about the opportunity that he said that he was going to kill every single animal on the island.”

“Every single one?”

“Every single one! They all trembled in fear,” Aaron says. “Because Artemis was a brilliant caretaker of the island, and even though she hunted there sometimes, she was always very careful and honored the animals that she killed. But suddenly, for the first time, there was a man on the island? One who casually threatened to hunt down every single one of them for sport? The animals were terrified, they didn’t know what to do.”

“What did they do?” Alex asks.

“The tiniest, smallest scorpion stood up,” Aaron says. “Even though he was small, he knew that he was dangerous. That he had poison in his tail. And that maybe, just maybe, he’d be able to stop Orion. So he followed the two goddesses and the hunter down the beach, and before Orion could shoot any of his arrows, the scorpion stung Orion in the foot!”

“Did it kill him?”

“It did indeed kill him,” Aaron says. “But not before he screamed and flailed around and stomped around and stepped on the little scorpion, killing him too. Artemis was very very upset, because Orion had been a close friend of hers. She had him elevated to the sky, turned into a constellation instead. But when she heard that Scorpius had only attacked because he was trying to protect all the other animals on the island, she was blown away by the bravery and the sacrifice. So she decided to honor Scorpius by having him raised into the night sky as well.”

“Where is Orion?” Alex asks.

“He’s not here, he’s on the other side of the sky from Scorpius,” Aaron says. “We’ll see him in the winter.”

“Oh,” Alex says, looking down.

“Hey, don’t be sad,” Aaron says. “All of the stars have their turn. All of them have their own stories. And all of those stories have their turns to be told. They share the sky. The sky is huge, isn’t it?”

“Yeah,” Alex says. “I guess.”

“I wonder if Scorpius gets lonely up there,” Philip says. “Or Chiron or any of them. It must be so cold.”

“Why do you say that?” Aaron says.

“Because the night is cold,” Philip says. “I dunno, it just seems kind of sad being stuck up in the sky away from all of your friends.”

“I don’t think he gets lonely,” Aaron says. “Because all of his friends on the island can look up and see him, and remember him. Everyone dies one day. But being remembered, that’s something that matters to some people. Having your story told. That’s something to be proud of.”

“I still feel bad for him,” Philip says. “He didn’t deserve to die.”

“Whether or not someone deserves to die is not a question for men to answer,” Aaron says. “Or women. Just what to do while we’re alive, that’s the one thing we get to control.”

“What about those?” Alex asks.

“Well that is Ursa Major and Ursa Minor, the two bears,” Aaron says, and he draws his son close to his chest as he begins to explain. “So there was a beautiful wood nymph…”

~~~

Maria’s case goes off without a hitch.

Alexander gets his Treasury up and running; the debt crisis is dealt with. There’s a tax on whiskey that doesn’t go down very well, especially because rural Northern farmers feel like they shouldn’t be paying for slaves. Washington marches the army straight out with Burr by his side and the farmers surrender before a single shot is fired.

Another year passes. And then another.

Washington’s second term starts coming to an end, and with tensions with Britain on the horizon, considering that Britain and France are on the verge of war, that the French Revolution is in full swing.

Washington calls a small meeting; while he does not need Congressional approval, it bodes him well to hear the advice of all of the biggest players. His Cabinet is there, as is Madison, Jefferson, and a few other Representatives. It’s all a farce; Aaron spoke with Washington before, told him that there is no way anything America does will help with the French Revolution, started to outline just a little bit what European history had in store for itself before Washington cuts him off with a shake of his head, and says, “let Hamilton handle it.”

Because, of course, for this to be accepted by the American people as well as the politicians as a decision made because it was the politically correct one, and not because Aaron claimed to see something, the show is necessary. Hamilton is opinionated enough to give a very good speech; Jefferson, despite his best efforts, is shut down.

“Enough!” Washington says. “Hamilton is right. If there is considerable danger of the French wars dragging out, and their government remaining in turmoil, our nation is too fragile to get involved in this fight. In this case, taking steps to ensure that we have no tangles with European powers in the next few decades is the most prudent route. Secretary Burr, we can send you to Britain to negotiate a treaty?”

Eliza. The children. The summer.

Hell, the election is coming soon, this very well might be Washington getting him out of the way preemptively so that he can’t cause any trouble.

But Washington is asking him to leave, in front of the whole Cabinet and what feels like half of Congress, so he can’t just say no. Nor could he ask Eliza to come along, not with such young children in the house. John is just about to turn two, and Aaron Jr is only six, and Alex, Philip, and Angie and handfuls no matter what.

Of course, Washington putting him on the spot in front of everyone means he has no choice in his answer.

“Of course,” he says.

“Good. This meeting is convened. Burr, if we might discuss the details?”

There isn’t much in the details; he is not to offer any form of allegiance to Britain, he is to negotiate commitment against any hostilities that he sees arising between America and any European countries in the future. And he is to trade away bits of his knowledge of the future “at his own discretion”; that is, after all, the greatest thing that they have to trade away. Get more than you give, Aaron reads between the lines. And don’t give anything that will compromise our security.

Jefferson and Hamilton are still arguing when Washington is finished with him; Aaron makes his way towards to door. It’s nearly the end of the day, he wants to get back home. Eat dinner. Digest a bit. Talk this all over with Alexander. Start preparing to leave.

“Alexander!” he calls. Then he walks over to where Alexander and Jefferson are arguing to try to catch his attention. It’s a moot action; Alexander turns to storm over to him. But he does catch the last snatch of Alexander and Jefferson’s conversation:

“Someone ought to remind you.”

“What?”

“You’re nothing without Aaron Burr behind you.”

Chapter Text

Eliza is waiting for him at the docks with a rather worried expression on her face when he gets back. It’s the end of November, brisk, and the skies are grey.

“What is it?” he asks, the smile of excitement to see her and the children again quickly replaced by a furrowed brow of his own. “Is anyone hurt, it—“

“It’s Alexander,” Eliza says. “Please, I tried to stop him.”

“Where is he, is he alright, is he—“

“He’s fine,” Eliza says. “He just—oh god, I’m so sorry. Please don’t be mad.”

“I would never be mad at you, love,” Aaron says, and he takes her hand as they make their way to the carriage. Although he notes in the back of his mind that she still hasn’t told him what Alexander did.

Philip’s waiting in the carriage, bouncing up and down, and Angie is sitting next to him with her hands folded in her lap and a smirk on her face like she knows she is the most mature one there, and is proud of it. Philip gives up trying to sit still and jumps out of the open door.

“Daddy! Grandpa just lost his seat in the Senate!” Philip says, looking far too excited to be bearing such bad news.

“And hello to you too,” Aaron says, scooping him up and balancing him on one hip. “And Angie, darling, I have presents from your Auntjelica, some very nice silk scarves from France that she said were precisely for you.” He plops Philip down in the seat, then turns to Eliza. “I thought he was unopposed?”

Philip opens his mouth to say something, and Angie hushes him, with a, “He’ll figure it out any minute.”

“Dad’s a Seer,” Philip says proudly. “I bet he already knows.”

Aaron closes his eyes. He puts two and two together. And then he schools his face into a smile. “Well, let’s go greet the newest Senator from New York, shall we not?”

Eliza gives him a look. “We should drop the children off at home first, unpack your bags?”

“Drop me off at the offices,” Aaron says. “Alexander and I can walk home, it’ll be good to get some exercise after being on a wretched ship for longer than I want to remember.”

“A wretched ship?” Angie says.

“Oh yes,” Aaron says. “And there were storms and huge waves and whirlpools and giant kraken and pirates and all sorts of terrible things out there on the high seas, and that is why you should stay away from ships whenever possible. Never travel by ship when you can take a nice horse and carriage instead.”

“You just got off a ship,” Angie points out.

“I was just sent to England by the President,” Aaron says. “It’s impossible to get there without a ship. And when the President asks you to do something scary, sometimes it’s important to be brave and do it anyways.”

“Is there going to be another war?” Philip asks. Angie swats him.

“Philip! Don’t say that!”

“I want to be a war hero just like my father!”

Aaron narrows his eyes. “Well, I suppose if there were another war I would want you to be in the position I was in.”

Philip’s eyes widen in response. “Really?”

“Locked in your room, not allowed to go where any of the dangerous fighting is, with plenty of books so you can finish your studies, and our good friend Laurens guarding you, making sure you don’t do anything foolish.”

Angie laughs and Philip pouts.

“There’s not going to be another war,” Aaron says. “In fact, the British navy will be helping protect us. We’ve just sealed a deal, we stay out of Europe’s wars, and they stay out of ours.”

“Why?” Philip asks.

“Because the world is changing,” Aaron says. “And we have the chance to change it. But everyone’s a little scared of change sometimes.”

“Alright, enough politics,” Eliza says. Aaron can hear the strain in her voice. Aaron puts his hand on hers and hopes that it properly conveys the I’m not mad that she seems so inclined to disbelieve.

Aaron takes a moment to try to figure out if he is mad.

Philip seems rather excited; Philip has always idolized Alexander, so Aaron’s not surprised that Philip is so happy. Angie looks….pleased with herself. Angie always looks pleased with herself when she’s decided that she’s one-upped them all somehow, which oftentimes she has, which is why it’s so dangerous.

“How is your schooling going?” he asks.

“Peggy is teaching us how to ride and shoot,” Angie says. “She says I’m the best shot in the household. And my Latin and Greek are coming along very nicely.”

“That’s my little genius,” Aaron says.

“Philip plays the wrong notes on the piano now that you’re gone,” Angie continues.

“Mine sound better,” Philip says.

“Now, have you been changing the lines?” Aaron says. “You’ll have the give me an original concert then. And I’ve heard you’ve become quite the poet too?”

“Moooom, it was supposed to be a surprise,” Philip says.

“Your mother didn’t spoil anything,” Aaron says. “Maybe I just saw into future and you became the most magnificent writer in the history of the world.”

“You really think I can do that?” Philip says.

“I think you can do anything,” Aaron says.

The carriage stops, and Aaron kisses Eliza on the cheek before getting out. “We’ll be home in time for dinner.”

~~~

Aaron lets himself into the offices—into Alexander’s office specifically, and notes that it looks like a hurricane has been through in his absence. Alexander doesn’t look up from his desk, so Aaron knocks on the door.

“Burr?!”

“Since when are you interested in being a Senator?” Aaron asks.

“Since being one put me on the up and up again,” Alexander says.

“You were Secretary of Treasury,” Aaron says. “In the President’s Cabinet! Trusted by the President! And you quit your job to run against my father-in-law?”

“I quit my job to seize the opportunity I saw,” Alexander says. “Jefferson and Madison are never going to budge on anything. And your father-in-law is stuck up, old, and traditionalist in a lot of ways. We can’t get anything done if we can’t get our bills through the Senate. Well. Now we can.”

“Alexander, are you hyperventilating.”

Alex’s chest continues to rise and fall. “Maybe. Eliza said she wasn’t going to back me up on this one.”

“The first thing she said to me when I got off the ship was ‘don’t be mad at Alexander.’ You’re fine.”

“You’re not mad at me?” God, Alexander sounds so…scared. Vulnerable.

She’s not mad at you,” Aaron corrects.

“She’s a little bit mad at me,” Alexander says.

“Well, it hasn’t stopped her from trying to protect you,” Aaron replies.

Alexander’s expression is pained. “Aaron, I’ve always considered you a friend—“

“And I don’t see why that has to end,” Aaron says. “This is just a rather shocking development, please give me the benefit of a day or two to process it, then I’ll tell you whether or not I’m mad at you.”

“You need a day to decide whether or not you’re mad at me?” Alexander asks.

“I need a day or two to weigh all the implications of this,” Aaron says. “Firstly, how Mr. Schuyler feels about the whole matter, secondly, this is going to put both you and myself in extreme public scrutiny considering how closely we work together, there will be people who wonder whether or not we planned this or whether or not you did it and I was forced to go along with it if we consider to associate closely—and I plan for us to continue to associate closely,” Aaron quickly adds to cut off the terrified expression on Alexander’s face. “I have no doubt that this will blow over in a few months, but it may or may not be a situation that needs to be handled delicately now.”

“But you don’t hate me,” Alexander says.

“God, no, I don’t hate you,” Aaron says. “You can come over here now and give me a hug, I’ve been gone for nearly six months and I’ve missed you, you idiot.”

Alexander hastens to obey.

“Maybe next time I should take you with me so you don’t do anything stupid while I’m gone,” Aaron says.

“Maybe next time I will,” Alexander says. “Come with, I mean, not do something stupid.”

“Shall we—“

“There’sonemorethingyoushouldknow,” Alexander says.

“What?”

“There’s one more thing you should know. You were, um, in England during the election.”

“And John Adams is President, yes, that much I picked up from my own visions,” Aaron says.

“Well, yes, alright, great,” Alexander says. “So you’re not—you’re okay about who ended up as Vice President?”

Come to think of it—Jefferson winning would be a minor victory for the South, an olive branch, and Jefferson wouldn’t do anything particularly important, unless this ended up propelling Jefferson closer to the Presidency, but he didn’t think that—

“Just to be clear,” Aaron says. “Who is Vice President?”

“You.”

His vision goes black, then white for a moment, and then he steadies.

What?!???

“You. You actually tied with Adams for electoral votes and then he was able to campaign in the House of Representatives and you weren’t here and it was publicly expressed that you were a bit young and cede to experience and what-not but also just because Virginia has a lot of Representatives and they all figured they’d have a better chance with Adams but if you’re actually campaigning as well as considering how many more people will be free by the next election, I’m pretty sure you could win in full—“

What?!???

“Well, you’re running next time again, right? Because that’s sort of what I planned, I thought we could both run together, you could go for President, I could go for Vice President, I don’t really want to give up all the voting blocs I’ve organized in the Senate yet, or I suppose I'd be fine with Secretary of State and just running your Cabinet, which is to say—“

“I’m—I wasn’t even here! How did my name get on the ballot?”

“I put it on the ballot,” Alexander says.

“I didn’t authorize you to do that!” Aaron says.

Alexander shrugs. “Well, we’re close enough that no one questioned it when I said that you did, so really, why is this what you’re upset about? I did you a huge favor, Adams was looking for a way to kill your political career, he can’t fire you now.”

“Adams and I were on perfectly good terms! And would have remained so!”

“And now we’re going to knock him down a peg a whole four years early! I fail to see what’s the problem with this!”

“You fail to see,” Aaron spits. “You didn’t ask me! You didn’t consider whether or not this would have ramifications for the future!”

“You were gone for months!” Alexander says. “I did what I had to do! What if you were meant to be Vice President, and then by people conspiring against you here and in England, they kept you too long on that trip so that you’d miss the election and lose your chance! The future of our nation was at stake!”

You mean the future of your candidacy was at stake, Aaron manages to keep himself from saying.

“I’ll be going now,” Aaron says. “I need some time to think.”

~~~

He meets with Madison at Madison’s house; it’s easier that way. More private. And Aaron wants his private reactions to remain private.

And oh, does Aaron have a reaction to what has been happening, now that it’s sunk in. He is furious. Furious that Alexander did this to him without asking, furious that he not only will lost his position as Secretary of State—one that was necessary for the civic programs he was trying to ensure existed side by side with emancipation—but that he was now in a position that put both him and Alexander at odds with Adams. That Adams would see his as a threat and that this whole administration would be wrought with plotting and sabotage instead of what it could have been.

(Mostly, he is upset that Alexander took his choice away from him, that he’s come back to discover that he has been thrust into a position he was desperately attempting to avoid, just because Alexander wanted to grab power and break the Federalist party away from Adams. He doesn’t say it, but no one is better than Madison at reading between the lines.)

Madison just listens quietly, sipping from his glass of wine every once in a while. Aaron’s is untouched.

“How prepared are you to break off connections from Alexander?” Madison asks when he is done.

“I’m not,” Aaron says.

“You wanted someone to talk to,” Madison says, “and you chose me. Which means that somewhere inside you, you know that something must be done. You know that I would never leave something like this alone, not as your friend, and not as Hamilton’s opposition.”

“I came to you because you are the single person whom it has ever been safe for me to express doubt to,” Aaron says. “And if you are going to prove me wrong by attempting to use this to try to break my political party in half, then I have nothing left to say to you.”

“I’m not attempting to make a political move here. There’s something more going on that just you being Vice President,” Madison says. “You’re incredible at diplomacy, at getting groups that are opposed to work together. All of the concerns that you listed are easily overcome. Which means that you’ve had a vision of something happening during your Vice-Presidency. Something highly personal, or you would have told me before.”

“Well, if I haven’t told you, don’t you think that—“

“Don’t you think that you came here because you know that I am the one person who is safe to tell?” Madison says. “We have been friends for nearly a decade now, have I ever once betrayed you? Ever mislead you? Ever used something you told me against you? You have nowhere else to turn, and there is clearly something weighing on you. So do what you came here to do, just tell me.”

“I don’t…I have something to lose,” Aaron says. “For once in my life I have something to lose. And to put that in danger here…”

“I swear that I will not let you lose it, Aaron,” Madison says. “You seem very shaken about this. I want to help.”

It’s not admitting it if Madison guessed it first, is it? “Hamilton dies while I’m Vice President,” Aaron says.

Madison pauses, choosing his words carefully. “Aaron, by any chance did you tell Hamilton directly how he dies?”

Aaron’s breath whooshes out. “Yes.”

“Have you ever considered that he has been manipulating you? Using his knowledge of your fear of his own death to force you into places that are advantageous to him?”

“I—he’s my friend,” Aaron says. “He’s not—“

“Allow me to re-phrase,” Madison says. “Suppose that we were standing here, considering the grand sum of everything that Hamilton has ever done to you, how he has treated you, how he has used you. And neither you nor he knew of how he was going to die. Would you still write off everything that he has done so readily? Would you still be willing to forgive him at the drop of a hat? Did you even indicate to him that you were angry at all?”

“I—no! No, I didn’t, no, I wouldn’t, which is why I—“

“Then I fail to see how he is not manipulating you,” Madison says. “He’s using express knowledge that he has about an event, and your reaction to an event, to put you in a position in which you let him get away with things that you would otherwise—“

“You don’t understand!” Aaron shouts. “You can’t understand, you’ll never understand! I shoot him!” He takes a breath, then blunders forwards, it can’t hurt him, he thinks. Not if it hasn’t happened yet, not if Madison only has word of mouth, no one can use it against him and he just wants to say it so they’ll all get off his back. “I shoot him. That’s why I—that’s why I can’t—that’s why getting mad at him isn’t worth it. Because I shoot him, okay? And I can’t—I can’t live with that. I can’t live with it again.”

“I know,” Madison says.

“You know?”

“You know how everyone dies,” Madison says. “And there are only so many gruesome ways that a man could die that would make you so attached to him that you would insist on spending your life by his side to attempt to prevent it. The only other explanation is that you feel actively guilty for his death. That it be directly your fault. I.e., you shoot him.”

“You knew,” Aaron says.

“It seemed rude to bring it up,” Madison says. “Aaron, can I ask you one more thing?”

Aaron inhales, and exhales. Tries to center himself. “Yes.”

“After you told him.” Madison pauses for a moment again. “Was the first thing that he said ‘I forgive you’?”

It takes all of Aaron’s control not to break down crying. “Yes.”

“And there is nothing you fear more than that forgiveness not being real,” Madison says. “Nothing you fear more than the thought of Alexander Hamilton thinking you are a monster. You don’t even want him to know when you are mad at him, because you don’t ever want him thinking that you might be the sort of person who would ever do that.”

“You don’t understand,” Aaron tries to say.

“No,” Madison says. “You don’t understand. Alexander Hamilton has been using you since the day he met you, he has been using your guilt over an event that will never occur to bind you to him, to force you to forgive his every transgression, to be able to walk all over you any time he wants because any reaction and he might change his mind on whether or not he believes that you are the man you fear most becoming.”

“It’s not—we were close, during the war,” Aaron says. “We—he was the only one who could stop the nightmares. Not just of—not just of his death, of so many more deaths, of—of it all. He was the only one who could make me feel like—like we had a chance. To make a difference. It wasn’t just—it wasn’t just him. We promised. We both promised that we would never become the men I saw in that vision. And it’s—it’s a promise I intend to keep.”

“And thus you are obstinately blind to how he sees you now,” Madison says. “And to the man that he has become. Because you are so single-mindedly focused on the man that you cared about so much.”

“He’s not using me,” Aaron says. “He’s just indiscriminately inconsiderate. Which means being his friend takes some patience, sometimes.”

“There are two possible explanations as to why you would be this loyal to that man,” Madison says. “The first is that you genuinely believe that he cares about you as much as you care about him. The second is that he holds some form of blackmail over you to keep you in line. Which means that it is my duty as your friend, and as someone who sees his ambition, and his willingness to use you to fulfill, it as a threat to public safety, to break his hold over you.”

“You won’t find anything,” Aaron says.

“I will,” Madison says. “I promise. I do not express my emotions very often, or very openly, so let me make this explicit now: I am furious that he is doing this to you. That he has been getting away with doing this to you for years. I have refrained from speaking ill of him all this time because I know how much you care about him. But you are my closest friend, Aaron. Which means this is personal.”

Emphasis on the importance of their own friendship to try to further break him from thinking of his and Alexander’s, Aaron notes. Exceptional technique. Perfect delivery.

Because it’s not personal, it’s never personal, it’s never been personal for anyone. Whoever controls the Seer controls the entire political chessboard. With Alexander, at least he knows where he stands. Where he falls.

“Thank you for the wine and conversation,” Aaron says. “I must be going now.”

~~~

Alexander’s waiting for him when he gets home.

“You were out late,” he says.

“I was talking with a friend.”

“Talking with a friend?” Alexander asks. “At this hour? When you haven’t seen your family in months? Eliza and the children nearly let dinner go cold, waiting for you to come back. Who was possibly so important that you had to go run off and stay out this late, oh, talking?”

“Who are you, my wife?” Aaron says. “It’s none of your business where I choose to spend my evening! Especially after you—“

“I what?

There’s a fire in Alexander’s eyes.

I think if we were fighting, I’d have a bullet in my chest, Alexander had said to him once, back when they were having a stupid argument about who was going to go see one of their clients and who was going to stay and man the offices. A stupid argument that meant nothing except Alexander’s words were his weapons and he knew how to wield them.

And Aaron is too tired—too utterly worn out from defending Alexander against all of Madison’s poisonous, perfectly crafted attacks—to hear something like that again. Not here, not now.

“I’m sorry,” Aaron says. “I was out of line. You have to understand why I take this so personally.”

“Well I don’t!” Alexander snaps. “So enlighten me!”

Aaron takes a deep breath, and watches Alexander very carefully. “In…in my vision, when you died, it was while I was Vice President.”

The surprise that flashes across Alexander’s face couldn’t have been faked. It just couldn’t have.

“That’s what this is about? Do you want to shoot me?”

“No, I don’t, I’m just—I can’t let—I can’t let any of the conditions be in place, I can’t put you in that sort of danger, what if—what if someone else shoots you while I’m Vice President, if the setup is enough but the person pulling the trigger doesn’t matter—“

Alexander just laughs. “So you’re—you’re trying to protect me. From that dumb, ancient vision.”

Yes.”

“I thought we got over this when Laurens survived the war,” Alexander says. “Do you want me to write to him, tell him to come up from South Carolina, so you can see that he’s fine and breathing again? Will that make you feel better?”

“I don’t—we don’t know enough about what the conditions of guaranteeing my visions be prevented are. How Laurens was saved, what had to be changed so that he could live—“

“Aaron, we’re fine,” Alexander says. “Besides, it’s an entire decade until 1804, whether or not you’re Vice President. I’m not going to get shot, you’re not going to shoot me, and even if I am fated to die, it’s not something that’s going to happen for years. So could you take a deep breath and calm down?”

He was the only one who could stop the nightmares. He was the only one who could make me feel like we had a chance.

“How would you feel,” Aaron says, “if you knew someone was going to die at sea, and you went away for a few weeks and came back to hear that they’d gone and decided to board a ship. That the ship had already set sail. That there was no way to stop it.”

“If I knew they weren’t going to die at sea for ten years then I wouldn’t be particularly worried, you can’t put your entire life on hold just to try to stop dying!”

“Just—Alexander—let me try to protect you next time, okay? Let me have that choice. Please.”

Alexander glares at him defiantly.

“Please.”

“Alright.”

And Aaron can breath again. They’re fine. They’re fine. It’s not like Madison has been trying to convince him, this isn’t one big long con by Alexander to use him, Alexander doesn’t even think of death, he just barrels blindly forward, this was just Alexander barreling blindly forwards but it’s alright because Aaron’s here to catch him.

Aaron will always be there to catch him.

~~~

The next three years aren’t easy.

Aaron and John Adams are reasonably polite and cooperative until tensions with France come to a head; France is not particularly happy with the fact that Aaron went to Britain to negotiate a treaty, and somewhat of an undeclared naval war starts brewing between France and the United States.

There’s an assassination plot against Aaron uncovered—a French assassination plot—and suddenly the Alien and Sedition Acts are getting pushed through Congress by Adams. Aaron tries to stop Adams, but to no avail; it is a question of whether assassination plots against government officials ought to be taken as a matter of national security and are more important than what Aaron claims is a violation of the rights guaranteed in the Constitution and in the Bill of Rights. Aaron firmly believes that the precedent of passing a law that violates the Bill of Rights is not one that should be set. John Adams firmly believes that the precedent of how the government deals with death threats against the second highest office in the land is a matter of equal importance.

(As a last resort, Aaron tries to tell Adams that he’s had visions where these bills pass and mark the death of the Federalist party, as outrage over the Sedition Act especially would fuel Thomas Jefferson’s campaign at the end of Adams’s first term, that in a single stroke he would not only confine himself to one term, but the Federalists would lose Congress as well. It only seems to stiffen Adams’s resolve, as the man replies that he would never make a political decision on the grounds that the Seer saw it would be the more popular one.)

Aaron finds himself on Madison’s doorstep in distress and disarray.

Madison helps calm him down. Promises that he will help lead a bipartisan effort with Aaron and Alexander to ensure that the Acts do not get through Congress. And he’s true to his word; he and Jefferson campaign against the Acts, and they’re able to pull together a large enough voting bloc to kill the legislation.

So the Alien and Sedition Acts don’t pass. Adams views the entire incident as proof that Aaron is immoral and a dangerous disgrace, ready to betray Adams, the party, and any code of ethics to instead enact legislation that will make him more popular. That furthermore, that Aaron does not take his status as Seer and thus as an integral part of national security seriously whatsoever. Adams shuts Aaron completely out of all party politics and decisions that he is making, and Aaron is reminded of what Jefferson did after he did not step down in 1800. It chills him to the core; what if the Election of 1798 is going to be the new Election of 1804? What if Alexander isn’t safe?

Alexander, meanwhile, takes John Adams’s wrath and determination to cut them out of all party politics with far less grace than Aaron does. Aaron catches sight of the top sentence of one of the papers on the desk one day: An Open Letter to the Fat, Arrogant, Anti-Charismatic National Embarrassment Known as President John Adams

“Alexander,” Aaron says.

“What?” Alexander says. “The man’s irrational! He thinks that we’re in league with Britain in some vast international intrigue, ever since you negotiated that treaty with them! Please! He never even shows up to work! He—“

“Alexander, calm down,” Aaron says. “Whether or not everything you say is true does not mean we should publish it.”

“He called me ‘Creole bastard,’” Alexander says. “This is personal.”

“Do you know why Jefferson can do what he wants?” Aaron says. “He doesn’t dignify schoolyard taunts with a response!”

“Then it’s not personal, Adams needs to be stopped,” Alexander says. “The Federalist Party is going to collapse under the weight of his sheer unpopularity,” (quite possibly true, it happened that way last time, and history seems more and more determined to follow the same beats) “and Madison stole all the thunder of us stopping the Alien and Sedition Acts,” (Aaron wonders how Alexander would react if he knew that Madison stole said thunder because Aaron asked him to) “The Democratic Republican Party is starting to be seen as the party of the people,” (also somewhat true in that there are a lot of angry farmers in the North about the fact that their taxes are funding Southern reparations, and angry farmers and plantation owners in the South that are not happy about the end of slavery at all, and thus a party based around the claim of ending government meddling is sounding more and more appealing, although Aaron is not sure that the Seer who is at fault for all of this would be an attractive candidate in the face of this anger) “It’s been 12 years since the Constitution, there’s a huge new voting bloc of freed slaves in the South, but they’re not loyal to the Federalists, they’re loyal to you. And you haven’t announced your candidacy yet.”

The last bit, at least, is all true.

“Taking Adams apart from the inside is not going to anything,” Aaron says. “Other than make you look bad.”

“Or convincing our party to come up with another candidate,” Alexander says. “Timothy Pickering, maybe.”

“Timothy Pickering?” Aaron says. “The Secretary of State? No one knows who he is.”

“There’s always you,” Alexander says.

“You mentioned, twice now,” Aaron says. “But you know my feelings about running.”

“No, I know your feelings about not wanting to be Vice President, which just means that you should win, not that you shouldn't run,” Alexander says.

“Have you ever considered the fact that we might be setting a very dangerous precedent? For a Seer to use both foreknowledge and popularity to seize the most powerful office in our country—“

“Except you’ll step down after two terms,” Alexander says. “Because you’re a saint—“

“Because it’s an important precedent, one that I refuse to shatter,” Aaron says.

“Either way, it’ll do our country good,” Alexander says. “France can bugger off because no one wants to fight you, you can make sure that all of your social programs go through, we can start letting western territories become states, which out to increase Federalist support in the Senate, considering that everyone moving west right now are freed slaves. If Democratic Republicans take the Presidency, you can bet that those territories are never going to become states. Hell, you can bet that half of the rights promised in the Temporary Statutes are going to be trampled all over, possibly even undone, I’m pretty sure that Jefferson’s opinion on the Presidency is ‘I can do whatever I want when I’m the President.’ You’d win any election in a landslide.”

“I’m not going to run,” Aaron says.

“Fine,” Alexander says. “Then I’m going to publish this pamphlet and Timothy Pickering and I are going to run.”

“Please don’t,” Aaron says. “I don’t think I can express to you how much this letter will kill your career—it’ll be just as bad as the Reynolds Pamphlet, perhaps worse—“

“What?”

“Something from a vision of mine,” Aaron says. “I doubt it will be an issue at all, no one’s been extorting you, have they?”

“No,” Alexander says.

“Then we’re completely fine,” Aaron says. “And only have to worry about the fact that you just can’t go around destroying one of the most significant members of our party because you’re mad at him.”

“You’re the most significant member of our party,” Alexander says. “And it’s about time you realize that.”

“There’s enough partisan fighting already,” Aaron says.

“Hah. Wouldn’t have guessed it from how you and Madison are always chumming it up,” Alexander says.

“Excuse me?”

“Half the time, completely out of the blue, he throws his support behind one of our bills,” Alexander says. “And half the time you do that for him.”

“I support what I think it best for our nation,” Aaron says. “Which is not something that is confined to party lines. I suspect James Madison is merely doing the same.”

“And what is it going to be like if he gets the Presidency?” Alexander asks.

“Not so bad,” Aaron says. “He renews the charter for your National Bank completely of his own free will.”

“I can’t believe that snake actually becomes President, that was a rhetorical question,” Alexander says. “Answer me this. Who won the election in your vision? After Adams’s first term?”

“Thomas Jefferson,” Aaron says. “We tied, but I ended up as Vice President.”

“There is no way that Adams is going to pull another four years,” Alexander says. “So I’m going to cut that off at the bud. It’s our best chance of defeating Jefferson.”

“No, it’s not.”

“Yes, it is.”

Aaron takes a deep breath. “No. You want out actual best chance? If you put aside that letter, I’ll step up. I’ll run for President.”

~~~

Aaron allows announcements of his candidacy to go to members of the Federalist Party first. He would have preferred to have the discussion with John Adams as a courtesy, but John Adams is in Boston again, and Alexander is impatient. And when has he ever been able to say no to Alexander?

It slips out to the newspapers next. Everyone is curious about whether or not Aaron is campaigning with Adams. Aaron offers no comment. And then he doesn’t have to, because Alexander Hamilton also announces his candidacy, and everyone just assumes that they’re running together.

Aaron is a favorable enough candidate; the fact that he opposed the Alien and Sedition Acts has spared him that unpopularity, and has ironically made him seem more trustworthy to the people, that the Seer will stand firm and act in their best interests across party lines. Alexander is right, the brewing potential for war with France also makes him a very attractive option (although Aaron wonders why anyone would think he would be petty enough not to offer his gifts as aid if he did not win; perhaps the people think Jefferson would be petty enough not to ask.) Alexander is somewhat riding on the coattails of his popularity, but it doesn’t matter; even if Alexander is not elected Vice President—a rather powerless job as it is—everyone knows that Aaron will offer him a position of immense power on the Cabinet, and that he will have Aaron’s ear for the entirety of Aaron’s term or terms.

Which is, of course, the thing that worries Madison the most.

Madison pays Aaron a visit at his own house; Aaron hovers at the door, torn between letting him in and the potential that his family would ask who was over, and both the rudeness of not letting him in or someone seeing that Madison had come to visit him.

“You couldn’t have come to my offices during the day?” Aaron settles on.

“I thought you preferred discretion,” Madison says cooly. “And you weren’t coming to talk to me.”

Aaron opens the door fully and lets him in. “Would you like anything to drink?”

“I’d prefer just to talk.”

“My family is asleep upstairs, the parlor ought to be undisturbed.”

“The parlor will be just fine.”

Aaron chews on his lip as they walk to the parlor. It strikes him as funny that Madison has never really seen his house beyond the few social events that the Burrs have hosted; the property they bought in Philadelphia was modest enough for their family’s size, but mostly, Aaron did not like strangers in his home.

“I’m surprised that you did not come and discuss your candidacy with me,” Madison says when they’re both seated. “You’ve put me in a rather difficult position.”

“I—it was a rather difficult decision. One that I wanted to make on my own,” Aaron says.

“Or one that Hamilton made for you,” Madison says.

“You know, not everything I do is controlled by that man,” Aaron says.

“Can you look me in the eye and tell me that this wasn’t?” Madison asks.

Aaron doesn’t respond.

“If you’d come to me first, I would have had a chance to spin you as the bipartisan candidate. As splitting from your party in an attempt to stop the division of this country,” Madison says. “Of having the foresight and the backbone to step up and lead when the people needed you. There are plenty of Democratic Republicans who have accepted what happened twelve years past as what happened, who have been swayed by your record as a moderate over the years, who would take that into account.”

“At what cost?” Aaron asks.

“You know exactly what cost,” Madison says. “At the cost of cutting Hamilton from political power that shouldn’t be rightfully his. At forcing that man’s influence to be his own, and not what he parasitically gleans from you.”

“That sounds more like a ploy to destroy the Federalist Party,” Aaron says. “And to cut Hamilton from whatever rises to replace it.”

“Not everything I do has to be a ploy,” Madison says. “I thought you trusted me.”

“I trust you to be ruled by logic first and to act in your best interests instead of on your emotions,” Aaron says. “That’s somewhat different than trusting you.”

Madison just stares at him. “Well. I appreciate the brutal honesty, as always.”

“What did you think?” Aaron says. He’s starting to feel a smidgeon of panic—but of course, it’s the smart move for Madison to make. Knock him off balance. “We spend half of our conversations playing political chess against one another.”

“I assumed that was our dance,” Madison says. “Much like how friends play chess and manage to remain friends.”

“Friends don’t usually play chess when the stakes are the future of our entire nation,” Aaron says.

“Stakes that I am well aware of,” Madison says. “Or do you not remember when I placed my entire career and more on the line to publish my notes on the Constitutional Convention on your word concerning your visions because you were not in a place to do it yourself? I put my life in your hands from the very beginning.”

“You believed it was right,” Aaron says.

“No,” Madison says. “I believed you were right. That you were trustworthy. That you deserved to be given a chance. And I have continuously gone with your instincts over the immediately politically astute moves over the years. When I arranged the deal that clearly favored Hamilton to give the Treasury Department unprecedented power for the paltry exchange of a Capitol, at your suggestion. When I worked with you to defeat the Alien and Sedition Acts instead of letting you take the fall for that. Because we have a relationship defined by more than just our political motivations, and that is something that I treasure in the long run.”

“We have a relationship exactly defined by political motivations. Whoever controls the Seer controls the board,” Aaron says. “That’s just how it works. So the best long-term strategy has always been control the Seer. Through personal means if political ones are impossible.”

“That is simply not the game I have been playing,” Madison says. “And if it is the game that you have been playing, then why even meet with me? Why give me this chance?”

“Because you’re the most dangerous player on their side,” Aaron says. “Better that we have tabs on how the other is doing and work in tandem than to worry about unpredictable direct opposition.”

“‘Whoever controls Madison controls the Democratic Republicans,’” Madison says. “That is a rather unpleasant and frankly awful lens to view our every interaction through. I suppose I pity you, if that is how you see the world.”

“It’s how I have to, it’s how the world sees me,” Aaron says. “Why should you be any different?”

“Because you told me, at the Constitutional Convention, that I would name you godfather of my only child—which I have done—that you would introduce me to my wife—which you did—that we would stay friends despite having opposing views. Which I believed.”

The panic grows a bit. That Madison is telling the truth.

“You know, I still think your candidacy for President is one of the better things that could have happened,” Madison says. “I was going to discuss the potential for it with you. Without whatever sort of pressure your dear Alexander put you under. You have seemed as worried as me about some of the directions that the Federalist Party has been leaning towards lately. And whether or not I support your policies over Jefferson’s, your terms are likely to be far less divisive than his, considering North-South tensions. He does not have the sort of control that you do, he is far too easily swayed by his own whims. Although you are even more dangerous when you are being directed by Hamilton’s whims.”

“I am—“

“You know, I have kept your secrets for you,” Madison says. “I looked into Hamilton, and found things. Your and Hamilton’s unsavory arrangement, starting from the war, for one.”

“And now?” Aaron’s heart is racing.

“It seems rather low to threaten you with it now,” Madison says. “I am out to stop Hamilton, not you. Although I am disappointed that you have let personal matters dictate your political career. Believe it or not, I am not the monster you seem to think I’ve been.”

“Why?”

“I really do pity you,” Madison says. “And I suppose I hold out hope that you are not beyond reach. But if we are going to make this purely political, right now I think our country needs you, more than it is important to air your dirty laundry, so I will leave you out of this as much as I can for the sake of the people. But Alexander Hamilton must be stopped, and rest assured, I will do everything in my power to stop him.”

“Whatever you think you know, you’re wrong,” Aaron says.

“No, I’m not,” Madison says. “I’m very rarely wrong.”

Wrong about us, Aaron doesn't say. Or at least pretending to be.

“This probably ought to be the last of our meetings, before the election,” he says instead. “I don’t think we have anything more to say to one another.”

The moment the words are out of his mouth, he regrets them—which is to say, there is a part of him that wants to say ‘I’m sorry.’

If anything that Madison said could be trusted.

Why is he even considering that anything Madison says could be trusted.

(Why isn’t he.)

“Of course,” Madison says. “I’ll close the door on my way out.”

Chapter Text

The moment that James is gone, Aaron lets out a long, shuddering breath.

No matter which way he spins it, the—the conversation had been a disaster.

I trust you to be ruled by logic first and to act in your best interests instead of on your emotions. That’s somewhat different than trusting you. What had he been thinking? What happened to talk less, smile more?

There were—either Madison had been playing exactly the same game that he has from the beginning, in which case Aaron just made the move equivalent to flipping the table over and letting everything shatter against the floor with no regard for what gets broken, or Madison—Madison has been telling the truth, in which case the implications of what Aaron has just done are unthinkable.

No, no he—he needs to concentrate on the political ramifications of their conversation. There will be no more behind-the-scenes agreements with Madison. That means that he and Alexander need to take both the House and the Senate decisively enough to get whatever they want passed.

He wonders if Madison actually would have supported his candidacy. Probably; it would have increased Madison’s own power. And that’s all anyone cared about, that’s all anyone ever cared about, increasing their own power, everyone except Alexander; that was why he’d chosen to be friends with Alexander. Chosen to follow Alexander into war. Because Alexander had cared about him even when it wasn’t the political move. I’ll fight so that you can be free, Alexander had said to him the night that they had met for the very first time. After Aaron had finished explaining just how useless he was going to be, and Alexander hadn’t cared. Or rather, Alexander had cared. About him. About what he had wanted. Alexander had cared about him.

His entire life, his—his everything, he has built on the axiom that Alexander cared for him, not the Seer, but for him. There’s too—too much that he’s invested, too much time and energy and effort and trust that he’s poured into those foundations. He can’t doubt it. He can’t afford a second of doubt. His and Alexander’s lives have been bound from the start, they’re always bound together, that’s…if he doesn’t have that, he has nothing.

So he’s running for President. And he’s happy about it. And he’s not friends with James Madison.

He wonders briefly if he would have run on his own. If he hadn’t been the Seer. The thought almost makes him giddy—he could do anything, and it wouldn’t be all his fault if it went horribly, horribly wrong. He would just be another man, free to laugh and cry and break and make his own mistakes, free to matter or not to matter however fate might will it.

You don’t think about what it would be like if you weren’t the Seer, he reminds himself. You just don’t. There’s nothing to be gained there.

So all that remains is what he can do.

The campaign will go forward. He will have to try to break with President Adams as nicely as possible, as to retain support of the Federalist party. He'll also need voting blocs in the south—Timothy Pickering is one of the Federalists on his side and an ardent abolitionist, Aaron needs only to have words with him about the State Department censusing again to make sure that the Temporary Statutes are being enforced, and Hamilton can put more funds into voter registration efforts and ensuring families have proper paperwork; despite being a Senator, Hamilton still has quite a lot of sway with Wolcott and the Treasury Department—you’ll always be adored by the things you create, Aaron remembers having thought once. Virginia has 21 electoral votes, and the electors are chosen by voters statewide. The only reason they have so many is because their population consisted of so many slaves. But nearly half of those men—half of those people—will not be slaves anymore. If he can sweep Virginia from Jefferson, they will win. Even if Adams takes some states in the North. Of course, it would be illegal for Hamilton or Pickering to campaign directly, in fact, all actions should be taken carefully to ensure that no allegations are made that Aaron is specifically gathering voters for himself, but Aaron has done this before, Aaron has convinced New York state to vote Democratic Republican, he can mobilize a voting base to turn Virginia Federalist.

(Taking New York from Adams would be ideal; Massachusetts has 16 votes and is Adams’s home territory, but New York has 12 and is Aaron’s home turf. There are his old contacts in Tammy Hall that he can call upon. He’ll go door to door if he has to. Anything to ensure that the electors are loyal to him, not Adams.)

Splitting the Federalist vote will be a challenge, especially since he cannot rely on Democratic Republican support as he could before. But he was expecting to win this election without Madison’s help, he was expecting Madison to be against his choice to run, it’s not like this was any form of surprise. Madison stating that he would have supported Aaron’s candidacy was probably just a move to unbalance Aaron. He can’t let it faze him. It’s just…

Just he needs to be more careful. An outburst like this cannot happen again. It was terribly sloppy for it to happen in the first place. He had gotten so used to running his mouth off in front of Madison, and, well—fools who run their mouths off wind up dead.

He has an election to win. He cannot afford to be off his game.

~~~

John Adams takes the news of his candidacy as expected. Which is to say the man blusters and shouts and doesn’t seem particularly surprised, just equal parts tired and utterly determined to take this all the way to the end.

So Aaron tries another strategy, he asks if Adams would like to hear something funny.

Adams stops. Looks three parts mistrustful and one part confused, but stops.

Aaron says that he has prime foreknowledge on the rumors that are going to be spread against them, wouldn't Adams like to know?

Adams looks even more mistrustful and as if anger is building up within him like a fire lit under a rudimentary steam engine, just waiting to blow, but Aaron closes the door and quickly begins speaking: how pamphlets will be spread that Adams is a mentally unstable monarchist planning to marry his eldest daughter to British royalty, as well as has smuggled a bordello of prostitutes from London and has them locked up in the presidential mansion to satisfy his own personal debauchery, that Aaron is immoral and a dangerous disgrace who has been secretly planning to swipe this election for the last four years as he failed to do so in ’92, and that there are upwards of twenty women of ill fame with whom he has been connected, married women who have needed divorces since he seduced them—(why else would he have taken so many pro bono cases)—or otherwise chaste and respectable ladies that he attempted to have his way with, that he looted the estate of a Dutch baker for six thousand dollars, that he’s trying to usurp power and somehow become Emperor of Mexico. That Alexander Hamilton has been involved in a torrid affair and has been speculating with Treasury funds, and if they’re lucky, Hamilton himself won’t publish a 95-page-pamphlet in excruciating and uncomfortably explicit detail admitting to the affair bit, and that Jefferson is secretly a Jacobin and a howling atheist coward who fled the British during the war, that under his presidency murder, robbery, rape, adultery, and incest would be openly taught and practiced, and that Jefferson’s lineage itself would be brought into question.

By the time Aaron is done, Adams is struck between utter horror and openly laughing.

“Is that all really true?” he asks.

“It’s from a very old vision, decades ago,” Aaron says. “If the war took another two years, it would be the Election of 1800 instead of the Election of 1798. Those were some of the juicer tidbits that the Election of 1800 produced, I wouldn’t be surprised if a few were repeated. None of the rumors are true, of course, but you have to admit, objectively they are amusing.”

“You find this amusing?” Adams says.

Aaron frowns; he didn’t think that he had misjudged the situation. “Do you ever just…look back at this all and think, ‘God, what have we done with our lives, and what did it get us?’”

Adams does burst out laughing at that. “Apparently it has gotten us to the place where the American people can choose between a mentally unstable monarchist, a serial adulterer and future Emperor of Mexico, a howling atheist Jacobin, and Hamilton for President.”

“It’s how I cope,” Aaron says. “With the future. I try to find places where I can laugh, because it’s too terrible otherwise.” He pauses for effect. “I really—I really did think it would be best for the Alien and Sedition Acts not to pass. There were a lot of—we would have thrown a Representative from Congress into jail for four months for a letter he wrote, and his constituents would have re-elected him straight from prison back to Congress, the people wouldn't have seen these acts as good or fair or representative of their interests, and we serve the people, not to mention the—the violation of freedom of press, but it’s more than that. Jefferson and Madison would have written the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions, which argue that states not only have the right, but the duty, to oppose Federal laws that they see as unconstitutional. And this—this argument, this rhetoric, ‘states’ rights’—it would grow and grow until states that did not wish to have slavery threatened would use it to secede and then the—the War that I have spent my whole life trying to prevent would—which is to say I couldn’t—I thought passing those acts was the wrong thing to do. In the short term, and in the long term. But even if it had been the right thing to do in the short term, as Seer, isn’t it my duty to prevent the passage of things that—that fifty years down the line will lead to such destruction?”

“You couldn’t have openly said this?” Adams says.

“People were shaky enough in their support at the Constitutional Convention,” Aaron says. “I didn’t want—I don’t want to give the impression that everything they sacrificed might be in vain, that the war might seed from something as silly as a bill about immigration or libel, and I don’t—I don’t want people to think that I’d bring up some great future tragedy and dangle it over their heads just to get what I want. The connection isn’t obvious unless you’ve already seen it, and I—I’d rather go down in history as a villain having succeeded in this one regard, than be the honest man who fails.”

“Is it really that bad?” Adams asks.

“You could not imagine,” Aaron says.

“What would you do?” Adams asks. “If you were President.”

“Try to make sure that the transition process between territories and states went as smoothly as possible,” Aaron says. “As well as the Temporary Statues. The next big logistical challenge for our country is going to be westward expansion. France will eventually—be busy, and sell us 827,000 square miles of land for $15 million, and just dealing with territories that want to become states will be enough on all of our plates for the next good portion of the century.”

“You’d do well enough, I’m sure,” Adams says.

“As would you,” Aaron says.

“You are a strange man, Aaron Burr,” Adams says.

“But not your enemy,” Aaron says. “Best of luck.”

~~~

Adams starts inviting Aaron back into Cabinet meetings after that. And Adams confides in him a bit more. He and Aaron begin discussions about passing a Judiciary Act as one of the last big bills of this administration, establishing ten new district courts and three new circuit courts as well as adding additional judges to each circuit, and giving the president the authority to appoint Federal judges. “It’ll pass, and it’ll be a good thing,” Aaron says.

“I don’t promote bills because they’ll pass,” Adams says.

“But you do promote bills that are good, and as I said, it’ll be a good thing,” Aaron says.

“I’ll think about it,” Adams says, but Aaron can see that he is smiling.

You’re incredible at diplomacy, Madison had said to him when he’d gotten back from England and learned the terrible news that he’d been made Vice-President. And about how scared he was that he and Adams would be unable to work together. All of the concerns that you listed are easily overcome.

He hates the fact that Madison is right. That Madison said it, and that Madison was right.

He hates how good he is at this, how easy it is to win people over by confiding something in them so that they feel special, that the Seer isn’t infallible or pulling all of the strings but needs their advice—how easy it was to bring Adams back into the fold. Vulnerability is a weapon and he knows how to wield it.

Madison would have seen through it in a second.

He hates how much he misses someone who could see through him in a second.

But the Federalist Party is no longer splitting at the seams, and with full Federalist support, Aaron’s victory is basically assured, and it’s the ends that matter, isn’t it? Not the means. Adams is considering not running at all, and certainly thinks that Aaron in office would not be a terrible outcome at all.

Hamilton couldn’t have done it, no one else could have done it.

I’m doing the right thing, he reminds himself. This is the right thing.

~~~

News of Aaron and Adams’ apparent reconciliation spreads fast, and it doesn’t take much longer for Madison to approach him. Considering that Aaron attends as many sessions of Congress as he can, it isn’t particularly hard for the man to snag him after one lets out.

“Mr. Vice President,” Madison says. Jefferson is by his side.

“Senator Madison, Senator Jefferson,” Aaron says.

“Is now a good time to speak?” Madison asks.

“About what?”

“Your association with Alexander Hamilton,” Madison says. “And you candidacy. We would like to arrange a meeting with the two of you to discuss…options.”

“The high road lasted what, three months?” Aaron says. “I’m impressed, Alexander was sure you’d hold out to the end of the summer, you give off an aura of infinite patience.”

(That’s a lie; Aaron never told Alexander that Madison threatened them, Aaron never even told Alexander that he had been meeting with Madison. But it feels so good to be petty, so good to have the last word.)

Madison looks at Aaron like he can see right through him.

“Stop by my office sometime tomorrow,” Aaron says. “I’ll make sure that Senator Hamilton is there.”

“Thank you,” Madison says. “I would prefer for this business to be over as quickly as possible.”

(The look on Jefferson’s face suggests that he is enjoying this too much to feel the same.)

And suddenly, Aaron knows exactly the sort of petty he wants to be right now. And he didn’t even have to dig through any of Jefferson’s dirt; James Callender did it for him, a long time ago and in the future.

“Oh, Senator Jefferson,” he says. “Give my regards to your daughters, Patsy and Polly, they’re such sweet girls. And little Harriet, I’m sure it must be stressful to have another young one in the house. Well, I suppose you don’t necessarily let her into the house. But the sentiment still stands.”

Jefferson’s eyes widen.

“It’s okay,” Aaron says. “I’m planning on taking the high road on this one.”

~~~

Dinner that night is peaceful.

Alexander is at his own lodgings for the evening; he wanted to stay late at work, and insisted that Aaron leave without him. So Aaron eats alone with Eliza and the children. Philip is still in New York City at King’s College; as soon as Congress is out of session, the family is planning to come up and join him, and Aaron can begin campaigning in New York City. They’re planning on taking two weeks upstate towards the end of the summer—Aaron wants to campaign upstate as well, but he also wants to be able to spend a few precious days with his family. The election, after all, isn’t until next year; this is just so he can get a start of re-connecting with old acquaintances, building up a solid foundation.

(Aaron has had a few long conversations with Eliza about what him being President would mean for the family. Moving into the Presidential mansion, the number of social functions they will be expected to throw, hosting foreign ambassadors, and the public scrutiny their family will be put under. “We’re ready,” Eliza had said. The younger children don’t seem to realize as much the gravity of the change that is looming on the horizon. Philip has seemed very enthusiastic in letters. Angie is acting even more smug than usual, and Aaron is forced to conclude that yes, his family actually is behind him in this and very proud that he is doing this.

President Aaron Burr.

He shivers; he’s not sure if he’s ready for that yet.)

Philip is doing very well in college. Angie desperately wants to go to King’s College next year; she’s been preparing a list of arguments for weeks about why Aaron should let her go. Aaron is planning on letting her do it eventually, even though he worries that she is a bit young; but Hercules still lives in New York City and Aaron has already begun discussions with him about what it might be like for his daughter to move in with the Mulligan family for a few years. Aaron trusts no one more in terms of keeping her safe.

The younger ones have gotten very excited over the latest cat that the family has adopted, and said cat is very skittish, which means they’re always chasing her around and knocking over furniture. Not that Aaron or Eliza can bring themselves to mind; the laughter in the house always lightens the mood of campaign stress.

The cat curls up on the side of Aaron’s armchair as he finishes up the documents he wanted to read for the evening. He writes himself a few notes. He climbs into bed like it’s any other night.

He wonders if he should warn Eliza what Madison and Jefferson are threatening them with. Decides the next morning as he kisses her on the cheek goodbye to mention that the mudslinging might go to a whole new level, that he might be a bit late for dinner, as he needed to discuss with Madison and Jefferson a torrid affair they believed Alexander was engaging in. Unsavory relations that would reflect poorly on the Burr family, but it was nothing to worry about. Don’t let dinner get cold waiting for him.

~~~

It’s nearly 6PM when James Madison and Thomas Jefferson reach Aaron and Alexander’s offices in Congress Hall. There’s a twitchiness to Jefferson’s movements; he clearly isn’t enjoying this as much as he was the day previous. Madison clearly doesn’t care.

Aaron graciously lets them in. Best get this over with.

Alexander, on the other hand, looks rather upset at the interruption. “Mr. Jefferson, and Mr. Madison? Burr, what is this?”

“We have collected statements from different accounts,” Madison says, and Aaron feels his blood run cold. Soldiers from the war telling stories could interfere with his image as an honorable veteran. And slander sticks harder when there are people who back it up. “They paint a very particular picture. Of somewhat of an arrangement that the two of you have, which we believe the public will find unsavory. We are here asking Senator Hamilton to step down.”

“In return for your silence?” Alexander says. “This is blackmail.”

“It’s too bad your precious Sedition Act didn’t pass,” Jefferson says. “Then you might have a foot to stand on in telling us we can’t do what we’re doing.”

“We weren’t—“ Alexander says.

“You have not yet made it entirely clear yet what you are doing,” Aaron says. “Neither myself nor Senator Hamilton will be stepping down on the flimsy threat of an ‘unsavory arrangement’ and the claims of different accounts; far more ridiculous accusations will be slung before this election is out. The pamphlets that Callender is crafting about the bordello of prostitutes locked up in the Presidential mansion might just be my favorite for sheer scope of idiocy. So what do you think you can do to me? Do you really think the people will pay it any heed?”

“This is a matter different than just prostitutes,” Jefferson says. “One that is an outrageous injury to the holy sacrament of matrimony.”

Aaron snorts. I wonder what your poor dead wife would think about the woman who’s keeping your bed warm, he resists the urge to say. He’s already made his point in that regard, and things are tense enough in this room as it is. Alexander looks ready to explode.

“Do you even know what you’re asking us to confess?” Alexander says. “You have nothing, your empty threats are not going to—“

“Madison, would you care to tell me exactly what is going on without all of the melodrama?” Aaron cuts in.

“We will go public with the arrangement you have made with both Hamilton and Mrs. Burr, for Hamilton to help father your children, unless he steps down and cuts relations with you immediately.”

For Hamilton to help…

“This is just objectively not true,” Aaron says. “And laughable that you would assume it to be so.”

“That man has been keeping the other side of your marriage bed warm since the first night,” Jefferson says. “Don’t think you can deny it. We’ve got stories from maids. Or from neighbors, who noticed how Hamilton always stayed over at your house when you were away.”

“Hamilton always stayed over at my house whether I am there or not, as a guest,” Aaron says. “James Madison has resided in Monticello over the course of various months, I don’t see what the particular scandal is.”

“You haven’t been particularly careful about it,” Madison says. “Especially when…”

“When what?” Aaron says.

“When the births of most of your children coincide eight or nine months after you go on an extended trip,” Madison says. “Oh God, did you not know?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Aaron says. “And if this is the only thing that you have on us—“

“I thought it was so obvious, I mean, I guessed it from Philip alone, I thought there was no way that you couldn’t have known, that it had to have been an arrangement.”

“Whatever you think—“

“Burr,” Madison says gently. “Look at the dates of the births of your children. Philip. Alex. John. I was with you during the whole Constitutional Convention, Alex was born only eight months after that—”

“Alex was a hard pregnancy, he came early,” Aaron says. “And I was with my wife every single day that she carried him, he was so small when he was born, it wasn’t—“

“I once told you that Alexander Hamilton was your blind spot, and you expressed agreement with me then,” Madison says. “I am telling you right now, the facts are all in alignment, you cannot remain obstinately in denial. Alexander Hamilton is the father of at least two of your children, probably three. Going off of tracking dates alone.”

“I—“ Aaron says. He looks over Alexander, who is uncharacteristically silent, and shaking.

So it’s true, then.

“Aaron,” Madison says. “I’m very sorry.”

“You’re sorry?” Aaron spits.

“I thought that you knew,” Madison says. “I thought that you were infertile, that you had some sort of arrangement between Alexander and your wife from the beginning that you might still raise children. I see now that I ought to have discussed this privately with you, but, well. You said we had nothing left to say to one another.”

“How.” Aaron swallows. “How long did you know?”

“Years now, I’ve kept track,” Madison says. “It seemed like a very personal matter, and one that I had no business bringing up. So I didn’t.”

“And now?”

“Now it is relevant,” Madison says.

“Relevant,” Aaron repeats. He feels like he is going to faint. And still Alexander says nothing. Alexander’s silence is what is bothering him the most at this point, honestly.

“You must understand, Alexander Hamilton has taken advantage of every single courtesy you have ever extended him,” Madison says. “Including that in which he was a guest in your house. This man cannot have influence over the highest office in our country.”

“I don’t—I—I need to—“ Aaron swallows. “If you gentlemen might give us the room.”

“Of course. Let’s go,” Madison says, turning to Jefferson.

“So?” Aaron asks.

“The people won’t know what we know,” Madison says.

Jefferson raises an eyebrow. “Although I’d be careful, if I were you,” he interjects. “Rumors only grow.”

Madison, at least, has the consideration to look somewhat angry at the remark. But knowing the two of them, it’s already done, Callender is already writing the first scathing exposé on the two of them.

Aaron waits until they are gone, closes the door, then returns to his desk. He closes his eyes for a moment, breathes out through his nose, and the he is ready to deal with this mess.

“All three of us need to deny it unilaterally,” Aaron says. “Although not publicly, that will lend credibility to the rumors. We need to act as if they are so ludicrous that we don’t even want to stoop to address it. Let other people get dragged into the mudslinging. The two of us need to act just as close, then whatever they leak to the press will look like a foolish attempt in very poor taste to drag us down. If we handle this calmly, they will have nothing on us, and this ought not to affect the campaign at all.”

“Affect the campaign?” Alexander says, his wide with disbelief and indignancy thick in his voice. “That’s what you care about? The campaign? When I’ve been fucking your wife from the beginning? I knew you were a steely-hearted bastard, Burr, but this is cold, even for you.”

“It changes nothing about what we’re trying to accomplish,” Aaron says. “We have a duty to something bigger than ourselves. If Jefferson and Madison take the Presidency, they’ll undo all that we’ve worked so hard to change these last twelve years. I don’t see how this private affair changes any of that.”

“I’ve been fucking your wife from day one and—“

“You’ve already made that clear,” Aaron says. “We need to plan for the fallout, which shouldn’t be too hard if we stand together—“

“Yeah, you’ve already made that clear,” Alexander says. “Do you really not care? Don’t you want to know why?”

No, he doesn’t want to know why, he wants to go home and assure Eliza that everything is going to be alright, and then he wants to go back to this campaign as if nothing has happened.

“It sounds like you’re going to tell me whether I like it or not.”

Alexander’s face falls. “Do you really just…not care?”

“I was a fool to marry her in the first place, that much has become clear to me,” Aaron says. To ever believe it could work. “I’m just glad I was not the one thing keeping you from the love of your life.”

Alexander laughs, a harsh and grating sound, only it goes on and on, he just keeps laughing, this inevitable descent into hysteria. “You are the only thing that has been keeping me from the love of my life,” he spits. “You were the love of my life, you, it was always you.”

The proclamation hangs heavy in the air.

“Well,” Aaron says. “That is neither here or now. I believe that you, me, and Betsey ought to have a frank conversation about all of this when the campaign is over, but presently we have a lot of work to do.”

“That’s all you have to say?” Alexander asks.

“I don’t know what you want from me,” Aaron says.

“Just do…do something, for fuck’s sake, Burr, scream, throw something, don’t just…stop being so calm!”

“I can’t give you what I don’t have,” Aaron says. “I’m sorry that I have managed to once more ruin your life, I will try harder next time if I get a second chance.”

“You genuinely wouldn’t mind even if I shot you, would you,” Alexander says.

Aaron sighs. “I would advise against it. It would destroy your political career and your life, not to mention that it would upset Betsey and the children.”

Alexander seems to deflate; he sits down, and he is no longer yelling when the next words come from his mouth. “Don’t you feel…anything?”

“I feel tired,” Aaron says. It’s the truth.

Alexander is quiet for a long time.

“Aaron?”

“Yeah?”

“It wasn’t Eliza’s fault at all,” Alexander says. “I was out…I was out to ruin your marriage because I was jealous and…and upset that you could just discard me and move on so quickly and be so happy, and you were off signing the Treaty of Paris and I…I had genuinely warmed up to Eliza in the months before you left, but I still wanted to seduce her, I don’t…I don’t even know what I was thinking. Except maybe that I could have you back. It was a week and a half after you left and Eliza and I were having dinner together and we both got a bit tipsy and we started gossiping because we were friends and we did that and she…she was complaining that you never initiated having sex with her and I said, ‘oh, he’s just like that, back when the two of us were together during the war—‘ and she said, ‘What?’ and I said, ‘Yeah, we were together before he married you and he never initiated anything, I think that it just didn’t occur to him.’”

“Please stop talking,” Aaron whispers.

“And then I said, ’So, you know, he never minded when I slept with other people even when I was with him—‘“

“Please stop talking,” Aaron repeats, a bit louder this time.

“I tried to tell you, when you got back from the Constitutional Convention, you were right there and you were so close and I tried to tell you that Eliza wouldn’t mind if the two of us were sleeping together again or if the three of us came into an arrangement because at that point it had been a few years and we were scared of just telling you, that you might have been mad—“

“I’m mad because James Madison has been telling me for years now that I shouldn’t trust you, that you weren’t really my friend, that you were just using me! James Madison has known for—for who knows how long, and has been respectfully trying to make me aware of this fact, that James Madison—that a Southern motherfucking Democratic Republican—has behaved with more honor towards me than you ever have, and he just came in here to blackmail the two of us for dropping out of the Presidential race because you’ve been sleeping with my wife since the very beginning of our marriage! If you had—I told you before I married Eliza, I told you that if you fell in love with her, all you had to do was tell me and I would step aside, I told you that I wouldn’t mind—”

“Of course you wouldn’t mind, you never mind!” Alexander shouts. “I don’t think there’s anything Eliza or I could do that you would mind, I don’t know what’s bigger, your guilt complex or your martyr complex—“

“You’ve gone far enough!” Aaron says, and for the first time that night his voice is shaking.

“You would let us fuck on top of you if we just asked nicely enough, there’s nothing you wouldn’t give us, nothing you wouldn’t do to pay back for something that you’ve never done, is there a single thing that you’ve ever done in your life for yourself instead of in the name of some half-baked excuse of an atonement?”

“That is enough—“

“No, tell me, what do you want, Burr, what do you want, if you stand for nothing then—“

“I want everyone to leave me alone!” Aaron shouts. “I never wanted—I never wanted to be a part of your stupid war, I never wanted Laurens to publish that stupid pamphlet, I never wanted to become friends with your stupid friends, I never wanted to meet you, you threw yourself into my life and you dragged me into all of this and you’ve put me in this position now and I want you to shut up! And listen to me!”

Alexander’s mouth snaps shut.

“We have a duty,” Aaron says. “We have a duty to people who believe that we’re better than we are, we have a duty to protect their rights and to serve them as their representatives in this Republic. So you’re going to talk less, and smile more, and you are going to answer the following questions completely ‘honestly’: Senator Hamilton, were you having an affair with Vice-President Burr’s wife?”

Alexander grits his teeth. “No. That’s a laughable claim.”

“Correct answer,” Aaron says. “Do you have any letters?”

“What?”

“Love letters between you and Eliza, if you do, you’re going to burn them so that no evidence can be found against us. You’ll do that tonight.”

“Fine.”

“And we’ll be at work first thing tomorrow, as if nothing is wrong. Do you understand me, Alexander? No tension, no anger, no awkwardness between us—“

“I understand,” Alexander snaps. “Your precious campaign won’t be ruined.”

Your precious legacy won’t be ruined,” Aaron says. “You’ll thank me for that one day.”

“I can take care of myself,” Alexander says.

“Clearly you can’t,” Aaron says. “So humor me.”

“I’ll see you tomorrow, then,” Alexander says, and then he grabs his coat and storms out of the room.

You were the one who cheated on me,” Aaron says to the empty office, and then he gathers his own coat and gloves, methodically puts them on, and makes his way from the building, locking the door on his way out. It’s a cold night, there’s a thick drizzle in the air, almost like the night he and Alexander met.

He tries to bring himself to regret it, tries to bring himself to regret the fact that he let Alexander Hamilton this deep into his life.

All he feels is tired, though.

~~~

When he gets home, there’s a light in the kitchen, so he heads towards it. He and Eliza will have to talk eventually, and it would be easier to just plunge straight into the icy lake of what they have done and what they must do, than to suffer the discomfort of slowly wading in over the next few weeks, months.

Eliza’s not particularly doing anything, there’s a kettle on the stove for tea, and the entire room has been cleaned spotless, but she’s just holding a cup and staring out through a window. Aaron’s not really sure what she’s looking at.

“Hey,” he says.

She turns around.

He’s not sure what to do next, if he’s supposed to speak or she’s supposed to speak, and the silence stretches on, until she’s the one that breaks it. “Hamilton’s having unsavory relations in respect to our family, eh?”

“To be honest, when I left this morning, I thought it had been rumors of my and Alexander’s closeness during the war,” Aaron says. “I wouldn’t have said it so frivolously if I’d known.”

“Should I even bother denying it?” she says.

“No,” Aaron says. “Jefferson and Madison expect for this to injure my and Alexander’s working relationship, bringing our campaign for the Presidency to a halt. As we do not plan to allow it to do such, they will probably attempt to leak all they have to the press. Denying it right privately to me now now will only waste time. We need to be prepared, have a single, unified story, and consider our options in taking legal action.”

“Legal action?” Eliza says. “So you plan to divorce me?”

“Divorce you?” Aaron’s eyes widen. “No, no, to sue them for libel, if the defamation really reaches such a low. I would never—I would never dream of divorcing you, unless—if that is what you want, it is fully your choice, I don’t wish to—what I’m trying to say is that, with…with the children—“

“I’m not going to divorce you, Aaron,” Eliza says. “Considering I’m the one who’s been sleeping with your best friend.”

Aaron deflates. “We…there are some things that we should discuss. Details that we should arrange. It ought to be easy to simply ignore things, act as if what we’re being accused of is ludicrous, the three of us need to act as if nothing has changed between us, there can be no strain, no…no outward sign that this changes anything. They claim to have seen letters from you or Alexander, you will deny that you wrote or received them, and burn all of the ones that you have.”

“Anything else?”

“The children,” Aaron says. “We ought to…Philip is nearly an adult, and Angie is getting there too. But I am of the opinion that we should not tell them right now, because children find it far harder to keep up a consistent lie than adults do, and if they slip, this could all fall apart. I do think that Philip, at least, eventually deserves to know, as Alexander at least believes that he is almost certainly the father.”

“Philip,” Eliza says. “Do you—“

“He is still my son,” Aaron says, stepping forward. “I held him first, I stayed up at night when he was crying right next to you, I helped him learn how to walk, how to read, I spent the weekends with him, the summers with him, I—I helped you raise him. He is my son as much as he is Alexander’s. I will say that as many times as it takes for you—and for him—to believe that. But now might not be the right time to tell him.”

“This is your…this is your reaction to learning that I’ve been…that for years—you want to protect me and the children?”

“Thank you,” Aaron says.

“Thank you?”

“Alexander first assumed that I wanted to protect the political campaign. I’m glad that I have not fallen so low in your eyes.”

“Do you…do you really not mind?”

Aaron closes his eyes. “I mind, Eliza,” he says. “I mind a lot that the two of you—the two of you didn’t just tell me, we could have made arrangements, we could have been more careful, we could have prepared for this, I wish—I wish you’d trusted me. But it was never…my intention to keep you apart.”

“To keep us apart.”

“I only ever wanted you to be happy, Betsey,” he says.

“To be happy,” she says, and he wishes that she’d stop echoing him, that she wouldn’t sound as…as disconnected from all of this as he feels, because one of them needs to be grounded, and he hates the fact that it has to be him right now. “We can work through this, it doesn’t have to change anything,” he says. “We’ll talk with Alexander when the election is over, if you’d prefer to arrange something—“

“I love you,” she says. “I chose you, I married you, I—you came with us. You came with us back to the lake and he wouldn’t, I begged—I begged the two of you both to come take a break every single god-forsaken summer, and you came, you—you built sandcastles with the children, you swam, you pointed out the stars to them and I still—I still loved him, I still wished he was there too.”

“It’s alright,” Aaron says. “I know the feeling. Alexander is a very easy man to love.”

“You used to.”

“During the war, yes, I was one of the tomcat’s flings.”

“Did you love him?”

“Yes.”

“And yet you broke things off to be with me.”

“I had a vision where you—you had a husband who cheated on you. Not me, but—it broke your heart. I didn’t want to risk doing the same.”

“But when I—“

“Eliza, please stop.”

She’s quiet.

“I’ve had a very long night, and I would like to get some sleep,” he says. Eliza just nods.

He hesitates at the doorway.

“Are you…coming the bed?”

“I’ll be up later,” Eliza says. “I need a little time to…think.”

Aaron nods. “I’ll be there if you need me.”

Eliza says nothing.

“Hey,” he says. “Best of wives and best of women.”

~~~

He wakes up the next morning and Eliza isn’t by his side.

He takes a deep breath. She’s probably in the guest room; he’s done this often enough when he stayed up with Alexander, and didn’t want to disturb her, but it stings to be on the receiving end of it.

It rushes to him all at once, the traitorous thoughts. How many times did she and Alexander—did they do it in this very bed, all of those trips when he was away, France and England and even the Constitutional Convention, no wonder Alexander was so happy that Aaron was invited and he wasn’t, it meant that he had the time and freedom to sleep with his wife

Aaron tries not to sob, manages to turn it into a broken, heaving gasp.

He doesn’t know what he did, doesn’t know where he went wrong, doesn’t know the moment when he was less than, when he was not enough, hadn’t he—hadn’t he done everything, hadn’t he been attentive, hadn’t he listened, hadn’t he cared? When had he been so blind that he’d missed that Eliza—Eliza wasn’t happy.

God, had he ever been happy? Had they ever been happy?

“Dad! Breakfast!” Angie shouts from down the hallway, and Aaron scrubs at his face with his sleeve.

“I’ll be down in a moment!” he calls.

He hears an annoyed sigh, and feet shuffling away, and he hurries up and pulls on his clothes and tries to think if there’s anything he’s missing as he plasters a smile on his face. Philip’s doing very well in college, Angie has been bugging him to go to college, and not one of those colleges for girls, she’s smarter than most of Philip’s friends and she wants to go to proper college—that’s probably what she wants to talk to him about, he hears a scream and a crash and it’s almost definitely Aaron Jr leading Alex and John into trouble outside. Probably chasing one of the cats. The new cat. She's the most skittish one.

Talk less, smile more, don’t let them see what you’re against or what you’re for.

He can do this. There are the children to think of. He has to do this.

He gets dressed, he puts on a smile, and then he leaves his bedroom, ready to face the day.

Chapter Text

When James Madison goes home, he is shaking.

Aaron didn’t know.

He had been—he had been so sure, he had thought this would just surprise Hamilton, that he could have one more thing chipping away that man’s hold on Burr, one more wedge that might be driven between them, one more tiny bit of doubt to plant in Aaron’s mind.

He had no illusions about the fact that Aaron could get around such a threat very easily; from the immediate riposte at Jefferson, he had surmised that this would be a dirty election, that far worse things would be said about all the candidates such that anything of truth would be buried, disbelieved. He hadn’t been betting on the scandal, he’d been betting on Hamilton’s reaction.

He hadn’t considered Aaron’s reaction in this affair at all. Thought that he and Aaron were on the same page in regards to this. Thought that this would be a fairly weak move, a feint, in the game that they yet still played, despite now occupying opposing positions on the board.

The look on Aaron’s face haunts him every time that he closes his eyes.

Of all that has been said between them, he has never hated Aaron Burr. He has been increasingly frustrated about the degree to which he has misunderstood the man, the number of ways that the Seer has managed to surprise him. Increasingly worried that the man he once knew, the man whom he has been once willing to put his life on the line for, is fading to a shadow of a puppet of a man whom he now even more decisively hates. That everything that had so endeared the young Seer to him—the insight, the funny little anecdotes, the weight that he bore with that small sad smile, the dreams of peace that he kept in careful little boxes to unpack and repack on a rainy day—has been crushed under the force of Hamilton’s ambition. James has always considered himself to be a politician first, and a person second, has always put the duty of public service before his own desires, but he had grown up with seven younger siblings, and he understands the all-consuming urge to protect someone from the horrors of the world.

(He has also always understood that he would never be able to protect Aaron Burr from the future, that the man has endured things that no other man could. But somewhat shield the man from the present? That much he thought he had the ability to do.

Oh, how he regrets being so wrong.)

Dolley helps him take off his coat when he enters the house. It had been drizzling miserably and even though he had taken a carriage most of the way home, he is somewhat worried about getting sick from the exposure; he notes it in the back of his mind, like he always notes things like this that might affect his health as so. Such habits are not to be put to the wayside, after all.

Something must give him away from his expression; Dolley stares at him sharply, asks, “What is it?”

James lets out a breath his didn’t know he was holding.

“I have done a terrible, terrible thing.”

~~~

Eliza had stayed up late waiting for her husband that night. Got more and more anxious as the hours ticked on. As the fear, the guilt, twisted her stomach into knots.

Two hours pass, then three. Aaron still hadn’t come home.

What if Aaron was never coming home?

She screams, grabs the nearest thing behind her—a china platter—and hurls it at the wall.

It shatters.

And suddenly she’s sobbing. Sinking to the floor, shaking, her hands are shaking so badly and she can’t catch her breath. None of the children come down to investigate the commotion. Small mercies.

She picks herself up eventually. Picks up the pieces carefully, places then underneath other trash such that perhaps they won’t be noticed.

(On Sunday, when they serve their dinner on the fine china, Aaron will make an offhand comment as to inquire of its absence. “One of the children, or perhaps one of the cats, must have knocked it over,” Eliza will say. Aaron will nod and accept her answer without missing a beat, and somehow, it makes everything even worse. But she won’t be able to bring herself to tell him, she won’t know what to say.)

Back during their courtship, back during the war, Angelica had warned her: “Be careful with that one, love. He doesn’t know his own heart. You will have to know it for him. Or the world will eat him alive.”

Eliza had thought it had been such a great honor, to be trusted like that. That America’s Seer would find her interesting enough to read every single book she recommended, to discuss all the little details with such a light in his eyes, to ask for her hand. How brave he was, how smart, how kind, how gentlemanly. That he might entrust her with so much, it made her feel like the most important person in the whole world.

She wonders what Angelica would say now. Whether Angelica would still love her precious baby sister now that Eliza has fucked up this monumentally. Hopes desperately that Angelica will come to help if—when—Aaron divorces her. Wonders if her own father would let her and the children stay in the house, what with the shame that she’s brought to the family name.

(She hates how relieved she is when Aaron says he has no plans to divorce her, says that he will deny all allegations thrown at them unilaterally. She feels like she’s a child again, and she wants to write to Angelica more than ever, to confess to someone who will—will—will talk some sense into her world again, because she doesn’t know her own heart, or rather, she does, and she doesn’t like what she’s learned.)

She burns ever letter Alexander ever wrote her, just as her husband requested. Her hands tremble a bit, but she does.

~~~

Philip never for a second thinks that the rumors in the papers are true.

He sees his father mildly grimace once morning once the entire family has gotten back, snags the copy of the paper that he’d been reading once he’s put it down, and skims it with wide eyes. He can tell that his father is watching him, hears him sigh.

“It’s going to be a very grimy election,” Pops says. “This is just the start.”

“I’ll—“ He wonders what Alexander would do. “I’ll get ‘em back. Write under a pseudonym, you’ll see what I can do to them!”

Pops smiles sadly. “We’re Burrs,” he says. “We’re above all that messiness.”

“We shouldn’t have to be,” Philip says. “You should sue them. Throw them in jail!”

“It’s going to be a long road,” Pops says. “We can’t afford to get sidetracked now. We keep our goal in mind, we remain aware, but we don’t unnecessarily react. That’s what it means to be a politician.”

“Mr. Hamilton would react,” Philip says, unable to suppress the note of defiance in his voice.

“And as much as I admire the man, in some ways, Alexander Hamilton is not a very good politician,” Pops snaps.

It stings a bit, although Philip tries not to let it show. Pops’s voice is sharper than usual. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that he is upset.

“Dad…?” Philip says.

Pops sighs again. “I’m sorry. I’m used to—I’m used to slander against my own name, when politics gets dirty. I should have been more prepared for such things to be applied to my family as well, but—I’m sorry that you’ll have to sit through this for a year. That we all will.“

“I’m sorry,” Philip says. He feels so helpless, he’s not sure what to do.

“Help me protect your siblings from this?”

“Of course,” Philip says. “They won’t hear a thing.”

He makes sure the papers are cleared from the house. Doesn’t even bother to finish reading the article.

~~~

Angie is a smart girl. She reads the papers, even though she knows her father would be upset that she got ahold of them. Or Philip, who has apparently been enlisted in making sure that no Democratic Republican newspapers make it anywhere near the house. But she finds them herself, and reads them all. She tries to analyze things rationally.

Between all of the rumors and the hearsay and the ridiculous claims, there are a few pieces of solid evidence. The dates. She knows what it means to conceive and bear a child; she’s twelve now, she’s not naive about how the world works. It is undeniable that the dates of all of her brothers’ births correspond to nine months after her father was away for an extended trip.

It could all be coincidences. Her father certainly seems willing to brush it all off, and she knows how much he cares about A Seer never lies, but she also knows that this sort of affair would be utterly ruinous to admit to the public.

That if she were in his position, she would pretend that it didn’t happen, even to her own children, because children find it harder to lie than adults do.

She can. She can keep her chin up, she can protect her father, just as she knows he is protecting them.

At night she stares into the mirror as minutes fade into hours, her hands pressed against the polished silver as if she could reach inside and pull out the truth. Examining her own face for any tell, any sign. That she is his, that she might be spared the fate of her brothers. That her brothers seem so unworried by. So oblivious to.

It’s alright, she whispers to herself, the small comfort that it might be, a refrain to banish the doubt from her stomach. I have his eyes.

~~~

Alex never liked the summers. He knows that Philip and Angie have such great memories of visiting their grandfather for months every single summer, but they stopped going as often once Pa became Vice President, so mostly Alex only has memories of being dragged all the way up from Philadelphia to a house that he doesn’t really consider his in a city that he doesn’t really consider his.

(He really wants Pa to become President, because then no one will make him leave Philadelphia for eight whole years, and by that time he’ll be old enough to stay wherever he wants.)

He’d rather be anywhere but the City, though. He’s jealous of Georges, who gets to stay with Mr. Washington over the summer. Georges has almost become like an older brother now that Philip is off in college. He’s even better at climbing trees than Philip or Angie ever were, and helps him with his Greek, just like Philip used to. He got into Harvard, but he decided to stay in the Capitol instead.

Which is nice. Ever since Philip left…he knows that Angie tries to play it like she’s the one who misses Philip the most, that they’re the two oldest so they’re the closest, but Philip always made time for him. Made him feel special. He know that Ma and Pa love him, but sometimes, as the middle one, he feels like everyone just…overlooks him.

Georges Washington de La Fayette never overlooked him, and always made time for him too. Georges had swooped in just as Philip had left, here to visit America apparently indefinitely while things in France calmed down. Georges and Alex had immediately bonded. “I have never had a little brother before,” Georges confided in him once. “Little sisters, but never a little brother.

Little brothers are annoying!” Alex said. (He’d gone from stumbling over his words to basically fluent in French in two months from having known Georges, and he knows that his parents couldn’t be more pleased.)

Georges tweaked his nose. “Not too annoying, I hope. It would be a great honor to consider you one.

But now he’s stuck in New York City, where it’s too hot and sticky outside to climb any trees, and Georges is far away, and even though he writes letters every week, it’s not the same.

Angie and Philip have taken to arguing about something under their breath when they think no one is watching, and Alex hates it. He doesn’t want to be here, doesn’t care about grandad, hates that he isn’t in Angie and Philip’s special club.

He asks Pa one night if he can go down to Virginia to visit Mr. Washington and Georges. Pa looks surprised, but also thoughtful, like he’s actually considering it. Alex tries not to let himself get to excited.

“Let me talk to your mother,” Pa says.

Alex sneaks downstairs that night after bedtime to try to spy on their conversation. He doesn’t catch much. Just a “maybe it would be best—“ before Angie is dragging him up by his ear, hissing that shouldn’t he know better than to spy on their parents, for shame.

The next morning Ma and Pa look at one another, smile, and say that they’ve decided to let him go visit. That they’ll ask around, write down to the Washingtons, and see if any of their friends are willing to make the trip to Virginia with him.

Alex can’t stop grinning after that. He was wrong. This is going to be the best summer ever.

~~~

Aaron Jr misses Martha a lot. He knows, objectively, that there are five other cats here in the City that all either live inside or outside the house, and another two in grandad’s house upstate, and that there are three other cats in the Philadelphia house to keep Martha company and all of the cats are always there when they get back, but Martha had been special because he’d found Martha in the alleyway and insisted on taking her home and she's been his in a way that none of the others ever were.

(Aaron had let Mr. Hamilton name her, because he couldn’t think up any good names on the spot, and Mr. Hamilton had immediately proclaimed, “Martha, in honor of an old friend who once named a cat after me.”)

Martha was by far his favorite of all of the cats, though. She’d run around and hide under all the furniture and be impossible to find for hours on end, but he insisted on feeding her scraps every single evening after dinner and pouring her milk in the mornings and she curled up on his bed every night. She was special. Aaron was pretty sure that he loved her more than he’d loved anything in the world, besides his family, of course.

But cats don’t like to move long distances, so they’d left her in Philadelphia when they went back to New York, and Aaron can feel himself missing that little spot of warmth and weight he’d expect by his knees when he was sleeping.

He doesn’t want to bother his parents; he knows that his father is running for President and both of them are very busy with the campaign. Besides, he can picture very easily what his father would say: that he is a smart, proactive boy, that he has identified the source of the problem, and now it is only up to him to take action to resolve it satisfactorily.

He wants to see Martha again. But second to that, hearing that she is okay would make him feel better. He’s so, so scared that she’ll run away and he’ll never see her again.

He writes a letter to the servants down in Philadelphia who keep the house clean while they are away. Hello, how are you, I am well but New York City is varey hot and it smells bad and I miss Pheladalphia varey much. I am sorry to bother you if you are busey but I wanted to enquiere after Martha. She is small and white and has broun markings arond her eyes and she likes chicken and milk. Pleese feed her scraps if you have extra, I want her to noe that she is stil luved

He swears Philip to secrecy and then passes on the letter for Philip to send, and Philip promises it’ll be in the first post down to Philadelphia, and adds that he is sure that Martha will be fine. He plops Fat Timmie on Aaron’s bed that night, and Fat Timmie looks mildly put out but too lazy to move, and Fat Timmie is very very heavy and makes wheezing sounds and glares at Aaron every time he shifts minutely. It’s not the same. Philip doesn’t try again, a fact which both Aaron and Fat Timmie are very thankful of.

The weeks drag on and Aaron doesn’t receive a letter back and he can feel himself getting more and more worried. Ma sits him down one night.

“Hey,” she says. “Is there anything you want to talk to me about? I know that things have been a bit crazy recently, but you can always come to me.”

Aaron holds his head high. He’s a big boy. He wouldn’t want to be seen breaking down crying about a cat.

“I’m fine,” he huffs.

Ma still looks worried.

“Absolutely fine.”

Ma’s lips are pressed into a tight line, but she leaves him be.

Three days later, he gets a letter back that Martha had ran away less than a week after they’d left Philadelphia.

(Martha will show up in the City at the end of August, looking bedraggled and a bit worse for wear, but she’ll bound towards Aaron and jump into her arms and he’ll hold her and cry, like he was unable to cry the whole summer. At least no matter what home will be, she’ll always come back to him. At least she will never leave his side.)

~~~

John doesn’t really understand all of the commotion; he can’t read yet, and no one explains it to him.

Aaron is sad, though, that John can tell pretty well. They don’t chase the cats around the house together anymore, and it’s boring to do it alone. The City is hot and smelly and he hates it. He misses the lake. Pops promised that they would all go at the end of the summer, and that John would get to be the lake monster as much as he wanted to be. Philip’s big enough to also be the base of the lake monster, and John won’t tell anyone, but he likes sitting on Philip’s shoulders better. Philip falls over a lot more often, and that’s so much fun.

Mister Hamilton doesn’t come to dinner very often anymore. John wants to say something, but nobody else is saying anything, and he doesn’t want to make them upset. Maybe Mister Hamilton is sick.

The next time Mister Hamilton is over, John makes sure to hug his legs as tightly as possible until Mister Hamilton bends down to give him a proper embrace.

“I hope you feel better,” John says. “I can ask Momma to make you the special soup, if you want.”

“Thanks, buddy,” Mister Hamilton says.

John forgets to ask, though, and Mister Hamilton doesn’t come back for a few more weeks, and when he does, he is smiling again and eats dinner with them like normal.

I’m really glad he got better, John will think.

And that will be that.

Chapter Text

The attacks come three weeks later, and they’re brutal. Senator Hamilton Sleeping With Vice-President Aaron Burr’s Wife?, the headline of The Albany Post reads. Aaron and Alexander ignore it. Was Vice-President Aaron Burr Aware of the Sordid Affair? reads the headlines next week. Aaron catches a glimpse of half a sentence: ‘for a considerable time with his knowing consent.

Aaron shudders, and reminds himself there will be no publishing of a pamphlet this time around.

A month into the smear campaign, it’s starting to look exactly like that: a smear campaign. And one in very poor taste, to boot. A few of the younger Federalist Congressmen publish letters in defense of Aaron and Alexander, and Aaron is completely right: the fact that he and Alexander do not take to the streets defending themselves, but instead concentrate on their campaign issues, adds credibility to their side of the story. Which is ‘there isn’t a story.’ Philip Schuyler very loudly and very publicly denounces the slander against his daughter and his family, and that if Jefferson wants to win an election, then maybe he should have a platform that the actual people support.

The actual people. Aaron’s plan for voting blocs in various states is going even better than he thought it would. All of his old contacts from Tammy Hall are very friendly. Adams seems to find the beginning of the mudslinging to be very amusing, and Aaron guesses that he is happy that he has not been targeted first, and sends the Burr family his condolences and the assurance that no self-respecting Federalist would take anything being said seriously. Aaron and Alexander can win in a landslide. As long as Alexander doesn’t do anything stupid.

And Alexander doesn’t. He spends most of his time holed up furiously in their law offices, working on drafts of potential bills as well as taking a few clients, just to keep himself doing something. He stops coming over to the Burr house almost at all, certainly not for dinner every night like he used to. It bothers Aaron somewhat in terms of public image, but he doesn’t want to push it. Both he and Alexander are very busy, and are presenting a smiling front to the masses, so he doesn’t want to prod Alexander past the breaking point for something as inconsequential as family dinners. Lord knows Aaron is aware how much energy it takes to smile and make conversation and engage with Eliza and the children as if nothing has happened.

The children all feel the ripples of it differently. Philip takes it all in stride so quickly that Aaron considers sitting down with him and having the “you will never, ever, ever set foot on a dueling ground in defense of anyone’s honor but especially not mine or Alexander’s” conversation, but decides that it will only make the situation seem to be more severe than he wants Philip to think it is.

Angie seems a bit distant—Aaron is sure she’s pretending that she hasn’t read the papers at all, and also sure that she managed to get ahold of them, and knows that he should probably talk to her eventually so that she does not assume the worst, but finds it hard to draw the will to do so. Angie has always been the smartest of his children, and he’s not sure he has the energy to put up a facade that she wouldn’t see through.

Alex asks if he can go join Lafayette’s son, Georges, in Mount Vernon, which Aaron thinks is a frankly wonderful idea and writes to Washington immediately. Aaron Jr and John—they’re too young to pick up on what’s going on. So there is nothing to worry about there.

“I’ll be so glad when this campaign is over,” Aaron wants to confess to someone, but he’s not quite sure who. The public excitement of the scandal is wearing off, people are talking and thinking about other things, the summer goes on. And it’s all going to be just fine.

~~~

Eventually, whoever is running the smear campaign—who is Aaron kidding, eventually Jefferson—changes tactics. The papers start to attack Alexander specifically. They call him hot-tempered, uncontrolled, or talk about his wild escapades during the war, even try to paint him as sleeping with various other politicians’ wives and daughters to gain his current position.

“Ignore it,” Aaron says. “They’re baiting you. It’ll blow over.”

Alexander grits his teeth and obeys.

There’s a particularly trying pamphlet that is published, on the subject of Rachel Faucette, James Hamilton, and Alexander’s true roots.

Bastard, it calls him. Son of a whore.

Amongst the other choice things it has to say about his mother, it claims she died of syphilis.

Alexander screams. He tears his office apart, hurling books and inkwells and anything not latched down at the walls. He sobs in Aaron’s arms for three hours—something they both decidedly do not talk about afterwards—and he sits in a daze while Aaron cleans up the room, well into the night.

And then he does nothing.

Aaron can see him deteriorating, see how he stops taking care of himself. How he’s not sleeping, not eating. Silence is eating him alive. Aaron doesn’t know how to fix it. Doesn't know whether or not he's supposed to try.

It’s late June when Alexander finally breaks. He shows up at the Burr house at one in the morning, his hair in disarray and his clothes rumpled and his eyes wild, stinking slightly of stale beer, and pounds on the door until Aaron opens it.

“You have to duel me,” he says.

Aaron’s blood runs cold. “Well, good evening to you too,” he says, keeping his voice as steady as he can.

“It’s the only way to restore your honor, it’s the only way to protect our legacy,” Alexander says. “I need to come clean, I need to clear your name and then you need to duel me, because that’s what cuckolded men do, they duel the—“

“Alexander, come inside,” Aaron says. “You’re going to sit down, I’m going to make you a hot drink, and then we are going to talk about this until you have a rational grasp on the situation again.”

“I can’t—“ Alexander starts.

“Have you sent any drafts of your dreadful pamphlet to the press, or a printing shop, or shown them to anyone, or spoken of them to anyone, or left them lying around where they might be found?”

Alexander grits his teeth. “No.”

“Then we are under no time constraint now, and you are going to come inside and talk with me.” Aaron holds the door open wider and Alexander glares at him for a moment, then steps inside.

They make their way to the kitchen in silence, and Aaron stokes the fire, then puts a kettle of tea on. He lets Alexander sit in silence as he bustles around, collecting the milk and sugar. He considers offering Alexander something to eat as well—if he knows Alex, the man almost definitely has skipped all meals today. But he doesn’t want to, he’s not in a particularly generous mood right now.

He puts a liberal amount of milk and far too much sugar in both of their teas. Alexander hates milk and sugar; Aaron doesn’t care.

“Now why have you decided to come ‘completely clean’ to the public?” Aaron asks after he has pressed the cup into Alexander’s hands.

Alexander makes a face as he sips his tea. “Because…because…because they’re going to tear down anything and everything we’ve done if we…if they think we—we can’t deny everything, it’s too obvious, that there’s truth to what’s being said and we didn’t—the dates, they can always go back to the dates but it’s—I could take the fall, I could save us all—“

“You would bring myself, Eliza, and all of the children down with you in one fell blow,” Aaron says. “Jefferson will find an excuse to destroy what we’ve done if he is in power. We have widespread popular support, the Federalist Party is stronger than ever, I’ve had words with Adams that have ensured that. You are being paranoid that anyone is taking this seriously.” Aaron lets out a deep breath. “I understand that this has been hard for you. That these last few months have been some of the most trying challenges for you to endure. But it’s working. We’re winning. Everyone has moved on to more exciting news by now. I know it’s been Jefferson is banking on the fact that you will take this seriously. That the only way he can win this race is if we drop out amidst a loud flaming scandal that drags our entire party down with us. You ruin everything if you come clean to the public.”

Alexander stares resolutely at the table.

“We can file a libel case, if it will make you feel better,” Aaron says, softening his voice a little. “Clear your name and your legacy for all of posterity, in court, like civilized men. The attacks have been unnecessarily vicious, especially towards you, and I know how hard that can be to bear in silence.”

“So we take it to court?” Alexander says, still staring at the table.

“Take the fight to the people we are actually fighting, instead of allowing it to tear us apart,” Aaron says.

“Okay,” Alexander says. “Yeah. That makes sense.” He looks calmer. “Will you be my lawyer?”

“I’m surprised you wouldn’t want to represent yourself,” Aaron says.

“Nah,” Alexander says. “You’re a better lawyer than me.” To Aaron’s skeptic expression: “Really!”

“Flattery will get you everywhere,” Aaron says.

“You’re incredible in court,” Alexander says. “Succinct, persuasive. I know that I—wouldn’t be able to be there, to get up and keep my cool and get through the case. You would. And I really…I really like the idea of you standing up there and protecting me if I’m not…if I can’t.”

“I will gladly be your lawyer, then,” Aaron says.

Alexander nods, stares off into the distance over Aaron’s shoulder, and Aaron shivers. It’s late, and his tiredness hits him all at once.

“Alexander?” Aaron asks. “Do you feel better?”

Alexander takes a long swig of his tea, and then makes a face at it, like he’s just realized how much milk and sugar there is in it. “Yeah. I guess I do.”

“Good,” Aaron says. “Stay the night?”

“I have a lot of work to do,” Alexander says. “But thanks for the offer.”

Aaron is awake enough to grab his wrist before he can rise. “You do realize that when you say ‘I have a lot of work to do’ and then slink off after having barely been talked down from an existential crisis in which you wanted to admit everything to the public and then duel me, it sounds a lot like you’re sneaking off to do something stupid and want to make sure that no one else is there to stop you.”

“Alright,” Alexander says. “I really, really want to write a long pamphlet about how mudslinging in elections in general is a low and disgusting thing to do, how it removes attention from the actual issues, and is just dirty sensationalism that hurts everyone involved. There are already papers that have taken up calling Jefferson any number of things, so I can make it sound not even like a defense of us. It would look strange if we sued people out of nowhere after ignoring these attacks for months, and even worse if we waited until you were President to take action against them. Just… let me do something. Lay a foundation for future action, make it clear to the public that we do intend to defend our honor.”

“You will show this to me before you publish it,” Aaron says.

Alexander rolls his eyes. “Of course I will, you’ve taken to babysitting me very thoroughly. I’ll be going now.”

“No, because I—“ Aaron takes a deep breath. “I’d like to write a small companion piece. In support of it. Talking about the precedent that it sets, the legacy that it leaves.”

Alexander’s face slowly blooms from confused to surprised to positively beaming. “Oh. That would be nice. Although we’re publishing them at least a week apart because you are not going to steal the spotlight from me on this one.”

“Of course,” Aaron says.

“Right. I’ll be going then,” Alexander says.

There are a lot of things that Aaron wants to say—to ‘please, just stay, you’ll have your work tomorrow’ to ‘the children ask about you every day’ to ‘how about you actually do stay instead of running off not that we just started talking reasonably again and stop avoiding me so that we can become a pair of functional human beings liked we used to be’, but none of it comes out. Instead, he says, “Take care of yourself.”

Alexander smilies again, but this time it’s smaller. “I’ll show myself out.”

~~~

A week later, Alexander has published his Pamphlet: On the Practice of Spreading Lies and Slander, and the Inherent Damages It Causes To Our Republic.

Aaron follows it with a short statement expressing his complete agreement.

They are met very popularly; those who discuss the matter praise Hamilton’s ‘restraint’ and Burr’s ‘assertive tone’.

Instead of reducing the mudslinging, it increases it, but at this point very few people are taking what is written in the papers seriously. Aaron can tell that it bothers Alexander immensely; that Alexander wants to respond immediately, but more importantly, the fact that he was finally allowed to do something and it didn’t fix anything.

Alexander contains himself, though. It’s a nightmare to watch him: he seems at some points twitching, paranoid, obsessed, and sometimes he just doesn’t show up to his offices, Aaron assumes that he just doesn’t get out of bed.

Aaron wants to do something, anything, to break the tension.

Alexander beats him to it.

Alexander approaches him on the second Sunday of July, at not quite as ungodly an hour in the morning, and certainly not smelling of alcohol. He looks…tired. Thoughtful. He’s quiet as Aaron lets him in, and somehow, it’s more worrisome than the loud and out-of-control version of him Aaron has gotten used to in private.

“I was wondering if you’d take me there,” Alexander says, when they’re both seated in the parlor.

“Take you…?”

“To Weehawken,” Alexander says. “To where we…”

“Why?”

Alexander looks surprised. “Because you…you understand the weight of this all. You’ve seen it, how it could have been. I haven’t. I want to…I have nothing to hold onto. I need…I need peace of mind. I need to understand why I did it. I need to understand if it was worth it.”

“You are aware what you are asking of me,” Aaron says.

“Yes,” Alexander says. “Please. I don’t want to go alone.”

“When?” Aaron asks.

“Tomorrow?” Alexander says.

Aaron closes his eyes, and thinks. Madison would say that Alexander is trying to manipulate him, that Alexander is worried that his hold over Aaron is slipping and what better way to remind Aaron how much he owes him than go to the dueling grounds.

But Alexander hadn’t—Aaron can still hear the words ringing in his ears, the accusations of his martyr complex—Aaron’s not so sure Alexander wants him thinking about how much he owes him at all.

And Aaron—Aaron feels like he’s made peace with that ghost, at least for now. Alexander’s done the worst he could possibly to him, and Aaron still feels no desire to shoot him. It’s a sort of pleasant, numbing state, the knowledge that nothing will happen. That Aaron has changed the only thing that he’s ever cared to change in this world, that he’s so done with it all.

“Alright,” Aaron says.

“Alright,” Alexander says back to him. He pauses, looks like he’s waiting for something—perhaps for Aaron to offer for him to stay the night? Although Aaron is tired of that offer being consistently turned down, and wants the space to be alone with his own thoughts a bit more, which Alexander seems to figure out after a few moments, because the man repeats back to him, “Alright,” then says, “I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Tomorrow,” Aaron says. “We’ll meet by the river, row across together.”

“Alright,” Alexander says again.

“Take care of yourself,” Aaron says. “Get some sleep.”

“I’ll try,” Alexander promises.

Aaron doesn’t believe him, but sees him out nonetheless.

~~~

They meet by the river at eight in the morning. They take a boat across the Hudson in silence. Aaron leads Alexander up the winding path the top of the cliff, where they stood all those years ago.

“Where was I?” Alexander asks.

Aaron points out to him the spot.

“I would have had the sun in my eyes, standing here,” Alexander says.

“You drew first position,” Aaron says. “That was the spot you chose. You intended to raise your weapon to the sky from the beginning, I don’t think you cared whether or not the sun was in your eyes.”

“Why would I…?”

“Maybe you thought you wouldn’t die, you couldn’t,” Aaron says. “After all, you’d been my friend, and I’d touched your skin, we shook hands when we first met, and I saw how everyone died when I touched them, maybe you thought that it was impossible I’d been looking you in the eye for thirty years knowing that I would kill you one day. Maybe you wanted to die. Your son was dead, your career was dead, you…you were never the same, after he was gone. Maybe you were ready.”

“Where were you?”

“We’ll have to clear some of this brush,” Aaron says. “Van Ness and I cleared it before you and Pendleton get here. Help me?”

When it is clear, Aaron goes to where he stood instead of pointing it out. “Here,” he says.

“Thanks,” Alexander says, and there’s something dismissive in his voice, enough that Aaron thinks this round of the interrogation is over and he has at least the moment to himself. He turns around, looks out over the New York City skyline. It’s a beautiful view. The last time Alexander ever got to look out on his city.

There’s a noise from behind him, a crunching of leaves, and Aaron turns. Alexander is standing in the spot that Aaron pointed out, the same spot he was standing the day of the duel. The day when Aaron shot him. He sees the sun glinting off something silver in Alexander’s hand.

His blood runs cold, he recognizes the pistol. It is the exact one that he’d killed Alexander with, he’s sure of it.

But Alexander’s not aiming it at him, he’s just looking at it, fiddling methodically with the trigger.

The trigger.

The trigger, the hair-trigger, it’s—

“WAIT!” Aaron shouts, and Alexander flinches, and the gun jerks upward as it goes off.

It’s like time has frozen, and then it hasn’t. Aaron takes two steps back, and then falls to his knees, curling in on himself. He feels cold, he feels numb, he feels nothing.

“Aaron! Aaron, no, I—“

There’s the sounds of fumbling, something being tossed aside, feet hitting the ground, and by the time Alexander gets to him Aaron is shaking like a leaf in a hurricane.

“Aaron, Aaron oh God I—“

“I’m fine,” Aaron says. “You startled me, but I’m fine.”

“What?”

Aaron removes his still-trembling hands from his midsection, and they’re clean, no blood. “I’m fine. In fact, if I had to guess, the bullet will be lodged in a tree approximately twelve and a half feet above my head. It’s fine, we’re done, we’re both fine.”

“I didn’t—I didn’t mean to—“

“The hair trigger, that was what I was trying to warn you about,” Aaron says. “I didn’t want—I wasn’t going to shoot. And then I just flinched and it went off.”

“Oh, God, Aaron, all this time?”

“I came here on that day, I pointed a gun at you while you pointed your gun at the sky, don’t you dare tell me that it wasn’t my fault.”

“But you’re….you’re alright.”

“And you’re alright,” Aaron says.

“You’re alright,” Alexander repeats.

“Yes, we’re both alright,” Aaron says, his voice breathless with the edges of laughter. “We’re both alright, we came here, we didn’t shoot each other, we’re done.”

Alexander offers him a hand and helps haul him up.

“Let’s go, let’s get out of here,” he says. “Let’s…let’s get a drink, can I buy you a drink?”

Aaron laughs. “Eliza will be making dinner, come over, eat with us. We can have a drink after the children have gone to bed.”

“I think I need a drink right now,” Alexander says. “It’s also not even noon. There is a lot of time until dinner. Let me buy you a drink.”

Aaron shivers again. “Yeah. Good point. One drink, and then we’ll walk it off.”

They row back across the Hudson together. The sun is shining on the water, and it’s not cold. It’s the summer, it shouldn’t be cold. Aaron can barely stop shivering. He feels like something momentous just happened. He feels scared to touch Alexander, like Alexander will just disappear.

The Queen’s Head is…practically empty at this time of day and on a Monday, they sit at a table in the back. Not the same table that they’d first met at, but it’s—it’s close enough.

“I can’t believe I shot you,” Alexander says.

At me,” Aaron corrects. “I can’t believe you brought dueling pistols to the dueling ground, what were you thinking?”

“That I wanted to…understand,” Alexander says. “What it felt like. To stand across from you. To hold the weight of the gun in my hand. I wanted to know, before…”

“Before what?”

“Before we lost everything,” Alexander says.

“That’s rather melodramatic,” Aaron says.

“I’m serious,” Alexander says. “I’m so, so sorry. I never meant—I never meant for—us to end up here.”

“Hmm,” Aaron says.

“What?” Alexander asks.

“This is the first time you’ve said sorry,” Aaron says.

“Oh,” Alexander says. “Um. Oops.”

“Oops?”

“I—I really—I am so, so sorry.”

“You said,” Aaron says. He’s trying to hide his smile, but not particularly hard.

“I’m so, so sorry.”

“It’s okay, Alexander,” Aaron says. “Which isn’t to say that what you did was okay, but—“

Alexander smiles, and it’s blinding.

“Come on,” Aaron says. “Outside. Fresh air, we’re walking.”

There’s almost a skip in Alexander’s step, it’s not too hot, there’s the breeze. There’s no direction to their wandering, no need for it. Sometimes there are snippets of conversation—

“You’re going upstate again in a few weeks, aren’t you?”

“Of course. You know the invitation is still open for you to come with us.“

“I’m pretty sure that Philip Schuyler hates me even more than usual right now.”

or—

“Did you know that Angelica and John Church ought to be moving back to the States in the next year?”

“I did not, you know, I’m pretty sure she hates me more than usual right now too—“

“You know, you could always go visit Peggy.”

“What?”

“I mean I’m pretty sure that at least she doesn’t hate you yet.“

“At least I’ll always have Peggy.”

or—

“But I can’t believe how Adams is behind you on all of this, I thought he’d be jumping down our throats to get us out of the race, what did you have to say to him?”

“Oh, I just fluttered my eyelashes and smiled prettily. Everyone loves it when I do that.”

“I’m surprised we haven’t made you President already.”

“You tried, remember?”

“Well now you’re here to try with me.”

or—

“Angie wants to go to college, you know. Be a lawyer.”

“Are you going to let her?”

“Come on, Alexander, you’ve met her, it’s not a matter of let, it is a matter of she’s put her mind to it and no one will be able to stop her.”

“We should probably pass some sort of law that lets women vote before she decides that she ought to and terrorizes the entire capital until we yield.”

“I think I’d much prefer Congress if I got to watch Angie yell at everyone until they yielded.”

“She really takes after her namesake, doesn’t she?”

It goes on and on, their words meandering as much as they are as they walk the length of the city, and it’s like there’s a weight on Aaron's chest that has been lifted. That maybe everything can be fixed. That maybe everything can go just right.

~~~

“Betsey, is it alright if Alexander stays with us for dinner?” Aaron asks as he lets himself and Alexander into the house.

“What?”

“One more person for dinner,” Aaron says. “I don’t know if that puts a wrench in your plans…”

“No, it’s fine,” Eliza says. “Are the two of you…okay?”

“I think we are,” Aaron says. “I think we really are. We had a long talk about…a lot of things, and I think we’re okay now.”

Eliza looks between the two of them, and something akin to worry flashes across her face. “So now you’re…”

“Working our way to figuring out how to be friends properly,” Aaron says. “Hopefully with no shooting of anyone involved.”

“Right,” Eliza says, but she doesn’t look particularly convinced of anything. “Aaron, can I—speak with you privately?”

“Of course,” Aaron says, just as Alexander says, “I actually wanted to go wash up, it got hot and God knows I’m covered in sweat and not fit for dinner.”

Eliza waits until he is out of the room.

“What happened?” she asks.

“Alexander wanted me to…take him to the place where I had a vision of him dying. So that he could…stand there, feel the weight of it. He did. We talked. He apologized. He’s been—he’s been trying so hard, these past few months, and I—I don’t want to stay mad at him. I don’t want to stay mad at you, I don’t want to stay mad at anyone.”

“Are you mad at me?” Eliza asks.

“That’s…that’s not a fair question to ask,” Aaron says. “I think that—I have the feeling that—I messed with time, and time...time tries to mess back when you do that. Not because of any sort of—just—it doesn’t like to change very much. It’s slow, like molasses, and it has weight. But it also always…we always have a choice. We don’t have to live in a world where we grow old and bitter with unspoken words, we were—we were pushed into strange circumstances by the way things have flowed, but they're our circumstances now. We can do whatever we want with them.”

“You’re not making very much sense,” Eliza says.

“It doesn’t…it doesn’t make very much sense to me yet, in my head,” Aaron says. “Except for the feeling that it is true. That no matter the past, we have our chance, here, and now. Please take this chance with me.”

Eliza smiles. “Well. When you put it like that, it would be my honor.”

~~~

Dinner that night is a joyous affair. Philip babbles about his plans for school, Angie talks about how she is thinking of taking up Spanish and Italian as well; considering how good her Latin is, she does not think it should be particularly difficult, and she wants a full set of the Romance languages. She and Alex have taken to bickering in French, Alex, of course, wanting to remain in practice for when he gets to see Georges again. He asks Aaron at least five times if Mr. Washington had written back yet, as well as if Aaron has found someone to take him down.

“Not yet,” Aaron says. “I’ll let you know as soon as I know, alright?”

Aaron Jr is being uncharacteristically quiet, and leaves a small pile of scraps on his plate. Aaron makes a note to ask Eliza if he’s feeling under the weather. John, on the other hand, is absolutely overjoyed that Mr. Hamilton is back and insists on sitting next to Alexander and turns to beam at the man every other minute.

It’s lively, it’s fun, and the time passes quickly, like the whole family can sense that the storm has stopped, that the sun is shining again.

They eventually spill from the dining room to the parlor as Eliza takes the younger children off up to bed; Philip and Angie want to talk politics, so they do. Angie has a lot of opinions on redistricting states and on what the House and Senate would look like if they let new territories become states. Philip jumps on the potential for Maine to break off from Massachusetts and become a new state, sparking a debate about the logistics of governing territory from afar in terms of centralized organization. Eliza joins them for a little while, mostly watching the conversation, before she finally drags Angie away stating it is well past any reasonable hour for a young woman to be up, and Philip agrees to go with her to bed as well out of solidarity.

Alexander and Aaron are left in the parlor alone.

“I should probably be going,” Alexander says.

“Stay with us,” Aaron says. “Stay in the office, like you used to, or the guest room, or with me and Eliza if she wants, our bed is certainly wide enough, just. Stay. Stay for breakfast tomorrow, it’ll be just like old times. We’ll walk to work. Stay.”

“I really should go, I wouldn’t want to impose,” Alexander says.

Aaron shakes his head. “Alex, you’re not an imposition, I wouldn’t have asked if it were an imposition.”

Alexander says nothing for a long time, and Aaron almost thinks that that’s it, that he’s staying. But then he flashes a small little smile, and says, “I have an early meeting out of town.”

“Then stay, it’s late, it’s dark outside,” Aaron says. “It will take you a while to get back to your own apartment, stay with us instead.”

“I need some time. Some quiet. There are some things that I want to write down.”

“Why do you write like you’re running out of time?” Aaron asks.

Alexander raises a quizzical eyebrow.

“Just stay with us,” Aaron says. “That would be enough.”

“I’ll be back before you know I’m gone.”

Aaron reaches out and grabs Alexander’s hand. He’s not sure what he expects, but he sees nothing. No duel. No ”WAIT!” Nothing.

That’s over, he reminds himself. Alexander’s safe.

“Promise?” Aaron says.

“Yeah,” Alexander says. “It shouldn’t drag on.”

Aaron lets go of Alexander’s hand reluctantly.

“Well, I’m going off to sleep,” Aaron says.

“Hey.”

Aaron turns.

“Smile more. We’re gonna win this.”

Chapter Text

Aaron wakes up the next morning in a cold sweat, before the sun is risen. He sucks in air like he’s drowning, like each gasp will be his last, and all he can think of is ‘no, not like this, it isn’t supposed to happen like this.

“Wait,” he whispers.

You could have done so much more if you’d only had time.

Eliza mutters something sleepily next to him, and he lays back, tries to breathe.

Alexander’s safe. Alexander has to be safe. Alexander is going to be safe until 1804 when Aaron shoots him, and then Aaron just won’t shoot him.

He goes back to sleep.

~~~

It’s not much later when Eliza shakes him awake; it’s certainly not much lighter. Her lips are pressed together, and she’s got a robe over her sleeping garments, only it’s falling off one shoulder and she doesn’t seem to notice.

“There’s someone at the door for you,” she says. “Aaron, you need to…I’ll gather the children.”

Aaron dresses as quickly as he can, rushes downstairs, and it’s Pendleton waiting just inside. He freezes. He’d never been friends with Pendleton, there is no reason for Pendleton to visit him this early in the morning.

“Mr. Vice President…” Pendleton says.

What could you possibly want at this hour? Aaron wants to snap. But he’s frozen, he can’t say anything. There’s a part of him that already knows.

“I’m not quite sure how to say this to you, so I will say it straight,” Pendleton continues. “Senator Hamilton was shot in a duel this morning against James Callender, the primary journalist who has been—“

“Been writing the pieces about us, where is he?” Aaron hisses.

“We’re not sure, sir, he left in his own boat after the duel commenced, he wasn’t—“

“Where is Alexander?

Pendleton swallows. “With Dr. Hosack. It doesn’t look very likely that he is going to survive, and although he was very adamant about not letting you know that this duel was happening, I thought that—“

Aaron is pushing past him and sprinting out the door. Hosack’s house—it shouldn’t be far, but Aaron is all turned around—he’s not even properly dressed yet—Eliza and the children, he thinks, but he’s not even dressed yet—he’s at Hosack’s door, Hosack is ushering him in, everything is white noise—

And there is Alexander. Propped up weakly on a few pillows, dying.

The bullet is lodged in his spine, Aaron’s mind provides.

“Hey,” Alexander says.

Aaron says nothing; he can’t, his voice is entirely caught in his throat.

He let Alexander go.

He hadn’t had a vision, so he let Alexander go.

This wasn’t supposed to be possible.

“Good God, you look like you’re the one who’s slowly bleeding out, take a seat.”

Aaron stumbles to a seat by his bedside.

“He went after my mother,” Alexander says. “James Callender. She—we were sick and she was holding me, when she died, and he—he threw it at my feet, he spread that complete shit across the nation and when I asked for an apology he laughed in my face. Said it was just politics.”

“You should have told me,” Aaron says.

“You would have stopped me,” Alexander says. “Maybe I didn’t want to be stopped.”

“God, Alexander,” Aaron says.

“At least you don’t have to worry about me doing anything to mess up the election now.”

“Do you really think I care about the election right now?”

Alexander doesn’t say anything, and Aaron lurches forward, grabs his hand. “Alexander, this was never about the election.”

“I guess it wasn’t,” Alexander says. “Sorry about the timing.”

“The timing?!?

“I’m sorry about everything.”

“You’re not allowed to die,” Aaron says. “You’re not allowed to.”

“I’m pretty sure I’m going to whether you let me or not,” Alexander says. “This is a mortal wound.”

And Aaron…Aaron doesn’t know what to say to that. The only thing he can think, over and over, is this shouldn’t be happening.

“Aaron?”

“Yeah?”

“We had some good times, didn’t we?”

“The Sampson case.”

“Pretty much all of the cases in ’84.”

“The look on Jefferson’s face when you said you’d show him where his shoe fits.”

“And Philip writing poems about us beating Jefferson during Cabinet meetings.”

“I never did get to chastise you about all the swear words you taught him,” Aaron says. He pauses. “The war. Back when we were together.”

Alexander stills, but Aaron continues: “Things were a lot less complicated back then.”

“You didn’t regret it?” Alexander says.

“I never regretted it,” Aaron says. “You were the best thing in my life, you never stopped being the best thing in my life.”

“You had a family.”

We had a family,” Aaron says. “You were my family, you were always a part of my family, you were always supposed to be—“

Alexander coughs and Aaron breaks off in silence immediately.

“I’m so sorry,” Aaron whispers.

“It’s not your fault,” Alexander says. Then he laughs. “God, I spent my whole life trying to avoid the fact that you were holding on to me out of guilt over the fact that I died and, here I am, dying again.”

“I never…it was never about guilt,” Aaron says. “It…you inspired me, you believed in me, you saw me as a person, you were…you cared, you always cared, it was never about—yes, God, I regretted you dying more than anything but that was only because of how much you meant to me when you lived.”

Alexander smiles. “You sure know how to make a guy feel special.”

“Don’t you dare die on me,” Aaron says.

“You have—“ Alexander coughs again. “You have Eliza. And Washington. And Laurens. Adams is on your side. You have the children. They’ll take care of you. I…all I ever had was myself, after she died. I couldn’t just—I realized that—“

Aaron realizes in that moment that Alexander is asking him for absolution.

“It’s alright, Alexander,” he says. “It’s alright. She—“

“I don’t even know if she would hate me for this,” Alexander says. “For who I am, for what I’ve become, if she’d—if she’d be proud or if she—I can barely remember anything from back then and all I can think is that she’ll be waiting for me on the other side and did I—“

“I love you, Alexander,” Aaron says. “You have people here that will always love you, that will always be proud of you, don’t you—don’t you dare think that you are not enough, that you haven’t done enough, you have done more than enough—“

There’s a knock at the door, and both Aaron and Alexander jump slightly.

“May we come in?” comes Philip’s voice.

“Yes,” Alexander whispers.

“Yes,” Aaron repeats, louder.

Philip opens the door; Angie is standing behind him, and Eliza has her hand on her shoulder. “The rest of the children are in the sitting room, I didn’t know if—Dr. Hosack said it looked bad. Very bad. I didn’t know if you wanted the chance to—“

“John shouldn’t have to see this,” Alexander says. “Or—if—“ He looks at Aaron.

“If Aaron Jr and Alex would like to say goodbye, it is their choice, but…”

“I’ll make it quick,” Eliza says. “I’ll give you the room for five minutes, and then I’ll bring them in.”

Philip makes his way over to his father, and takes Alexander’s other hand. Angie looks at all three of them, lets out a little muffled cry, and runs out of the room.

“Mr. Hamilton,” Philip says.

“Philip,” Alexander says. “You be a good boy and listen to your Pa. But not all the time. Someone needs to give him trouble when I’m gone.”

Philip half-laughs, half-sobs. “I think Angie gives him enough trouble for all of us.”

“You’ll do fine, kid,” Alexander says. “You have your whole life ahead of you, you’re going to make us all proud, okay?”

“Okay,” Philip says.

“Be strong for your sister and brothers,” Alexander says. “And for your father.”

“I’ll try,” Philip says.

The door cracks open again, Eliza comes in leading Alex and Aaron Jr by one hand each. Alex looks terrified, Aaron Jr just looks in shock.

“Hey, kids,” Alexander says in a cracked voice.

“Ma said we were supposed to say goodbye,” Aaron Jr says in a very small voice.

“Your mother is right,” Alexander says. “I got hurt, I wanted the chance to see you one more time in case I didn’t get better.”

“But you might get better, right?” Aaron Jr says. “John keeps asking about you.”

“I’ll try my best,” Alexander says, and Aaron can tell that he’s about to start crying.

“Can we have the room again?” he says.

Philip helps Eliza usher the boys out.

“Oh, God,” Alexander says. “Oh, God, oh, God, this is happening, oh God.”

Aaron squeezes his hand even tighter.

“They’ll be—they’ll have to be—“ Alexander’s voice cracks. “At least they’ll still have their father.”

Aaron has to hold back a sob at that one. He leans down instead, resting his forehead to where his and Alexander’s hands meet like some mockery of a prayer. They stay like that for a while, just sitting, breathing heavily.

“God, Aaron, I’m so scared,” Alexander says. “It’s—I thought I was ready, I’m—I don’t want to go. I thought that—I’d imagined death so much it felt more like a memory, I thought I’d—I thought I’d never live past twenty but now that I’m here I don’t want to go.”

“It’s not that bad,” Aaron whispers. “It’s dark and warm and nothing, you just fade and then it’s over.”

“I don’t want to be over,” Alexander says. “I don’t want to die, I—please don’t—please don’t leave me.”

“Never,” Aaron says.

Alexander takes a while to catch his breath, stop his chest from heaving—Aaron is terrified that it is getting more and more painful by the minute, Aaron is terrified because he never had to see this last time, he never had to see how terrified Alexander was, God, had Alexander been this scared?

“I’m not sorry if dying was the price of you being in my life,” Alexander says quietly.

“Don’t say that.”

“It’s true,” Alexander says. “I’m not sorry.”

Those aren’t the last words that Alexander says to him; he holds out for hours longer, well into the night, and he never stops talking, but as things begin to blur more and more for Aaron, they are the single phrase that stands out in his head.

I’m not sorry.

I’m not sorry either, he thinks, and I’m so, so, sorry as well, but at least this time, I get to be here with you.

~~~

He stays with Alexander all through the night.

~~~

On the afternoon of Wednesday, July 12th, 1797, Alexander Hamilton dies for the second time.

Chapter Text

Aaron speaks at the funeral.

It’s only four days after Alexander dies, at Trinity Church, and the casket is closed. Someone arranges for the people inside the church are the ones that actually have known Alexander, because there are crowds gathered outside, people who want to watch the spectacle. That’s what they all, that’s what all of this is, the tabloid spectacle, the gripping story of Alexander Hamilton and Elizabeth Burr with the new twist of a death, what’s going to happen next, come on Sunday, see the funeral. They want to spare Aaron all of this, but he knows it, knows it intimately—how Alexander will be remembered, his legacy, it will depend on what narrative he tells here.

“I feel the deepest affliction at the loss of our dear and inestimable friend Hamilton,” Aaron says. “The world will feel the loss of a man who has left few like him behind; and America, of a citizen whose heart realized that patriotism of which others only talk. He has worked tirelessly for the betterment of this country. I only hope, going forward, that we as a nation can give him credit for all the credit he gave us; that we can be stronger for it, and find strength within one another. The hateful speech which seemed so easy to laugh off has cost us the life of one of our finest. May we always remember what he has done for us. May we never forget what we did to him.”

The funeral passes in a blur. Aaron is pretty sure someone helps usher him away. He certainly doesn’t remember most of it, only looking down, staring at his hands.

He can’t get over it, his mind keeps returning to the same thoughts over and over: had thought they were safe, he had thought Alexander was safe, he had thought—his visions had never before—

He had been wrong.

And now Alexander was dead.

~~~

Aaron is clearing out Alexander’s desk at the offices—the man can no longer pay rent, but the owner offers Aaron the chance to remove Alexander’s things, so here he is, searching for anything he wants to keep—when he stumbles upon it. A letter he wrote, back when he and Eliza were to be married and he’d left for Albany. He traces the words with his fingers. He was never even sure Alexander got it, he wrote him three, four different times, and Alexander never responded, he’d thought—

I know we parted ways hastily, Alexander, but you must know: should fortune ever frown upon you; should those you now call friends forsake you; should the clouds gather force on every side, and threaten to burst upon you, I will still be there. And if my heart, my life, or my fortune can assist you, it is yours.

You are my dearest friend, Alexander, and I will stand by you to face any future, no matter what might occur. You are like the heartbeat interwoven into my life, I could not imagine any of this without you. And this will never change.

He chokes back a sob.

“God, Alexander, what have we done with our lives, and what did it get us?”

It doesn’t seem very funny now. Alexander’s not there. He doesn’t answer.

He’ll never answer again.

~~~

It takes days for Aaron to come out of his room after that. There are crowds outside the Burr house, people worried that he is unwell, people still there to see the spectacle.

He doesn’t want to be a spectacle, doesn’t want the pity of the neighbors, doesn’t want to leave the relative safety of the bedroom to his study where he knows that he’ll turn, expecting Alexander to be at the other desk, to the dining room where Alexander always took the place to his right, or the living room where he’d sit criss-cross on the floor listening to Angie and Philip playing piano. He’d catch glimpses of ghosts on the stairs, hear someone rummaging in the kitchen and almost say, “Alexander, would you mind fetching me some—“ and then stop himself, he doesn’t even want to conceive a reality where he has to face this large, empty house with just the memories of Alexander criss-crossing the living progeny of him.

The Burrs move uptown.

It’s quiet uptown, the house smaller, there’s no more Alexander. Aaron isn’t sure if that makes it better or worse, but he does leave the bedroom. He takes the children to church on Sundays. He never was the religious type, still isn’t, but it reminds him of the fuzzy memories he has of his mother and his father and his grandmother and even his grandfather, as harsh as the man had been. He’s never felt more helpless than he does now. Mother, he wants to cry, mother, father, where are you?

He prays.

That never used to happen before.

~~~

Angelica returns from London.

Aaron is out, walking the length of the city until well past any reasonable hour, and she arrives while he isn’t there. Eliza is asleep as he lets himself back in, and Angelica is waiting for him in the kitchen. She presses a cup of warm tea into his hand. This will probably be the nicest thing she does for him all night, he realizes, and he braces himself for the barrage of questions.

“Is it true?” she asks.

Starting off easy, alright then. Aaron grins wryly. “Can’t quite confirm or deny anything if you don’t specify what it is I’m confirming or denying.”

“You sound like—“

Alexander.

Here it comes.

“I’ll try again. Were you sleeping with Alexander?” she asks.

Aaron’s too tired to shoot back a didn’t Eliza tell you already. “Yes. During the war. First before I met Eliza, and then when I was unsure whether or not we would make it out alive. But as soon as it became clear that Eliza and I really were to be married, I stopped, and I told Alexander that we were stopping for good. And never since.”

“And he and Eliza…?”

“Yes. From the beginning. Although I didn’t know until Jefferson told me.”

Angelica’s face darkens. “The children, how many are…?”

“I love them all, they are all mine, they will all bear my name and carry my inheritance, I won’t—I can’t—I won’t throw any of them to the wayside, I helped raise them, I love them, I won’t abandon them.” His voice cracks a little. Get it together, Aaron, for Christ’s sake.

“You know what I mean.”

“I don’t know.” Aaron pauses. “Philip is almost definitely his. The timing. And…anyone who knew Alexander can see it. Alex too, probably, going off timing alone. All the boys, maybe. I don’t think Angie—but I don’t know. I have no way of knowing.”

Angelica nods, and silence stretches between them.

“I…I certainly don’t plan on divorcing or taking any action against Eliza,” Aaron says. “Or allowing any of this to sully her name, I promise, Angelica, I’ll stand by her side through all of this, I just…” He closes his eyes. “I just need a little time to get back on my feet.”

“We’re moving back to the States,” Angelica says. “Permanently. My husband and I, that is. We’re here for you.”

Aaron smiles. “Take care of Eliza, then. She needs it. None of this was her fault.”

“Because you had a vision where she and Alexander were together?”

“Because things are infinitely more complicated than I understood,” Aaron says. “And she was as caught up in the winds of fate as I was. You can’t be too mad at her. Saying no to Alexander Hamilton takes a herculean effort.”

“You did it,” Angelica says.

“Yes, I did it,” Aaron says. “And look where we are now.”

~~~

Angelica makes good on her word, though. She helps Eliza around the house, helps take care of the children, helps answer the questions of what happened to Alexander? and what happened to Dad? Aaron would almost say that Philip was hit the hardest—he and Alexander were always the closest, and the rumors of him being his bastard son haven’t quieted down yet—but Angie takes it even worse, in her own way. She goes quiet. Aaron sees her sitting by the piano, not playing it, just crying one night when everyone else is asleep. He motions to her, draws her into his lap, rests her head against his chest so she can listen to his heartbeat and rubs comforting circles into his back.

He carries her to bed when she falls asleep, and then, finally then, he allows himself to sink to the floor and sob uncontrollably, Theo, oh how he misses—he misses them all so much. He can’t even make it to the bedroom, sleeps in the office instead. It’s not—it’s not the old office that he and Alexander had shared, but he can’t help but be reminded of the nights that they’d stayed up so late together, the couch that they’d bought because he’d inevitable tire before Alexander, how he’d lay down, how Alexander would sometimes brush his hair from his forehead when the man thought he was asleep, how his quill would scratch on until dawn.

He falls asleep and he dreams of drowning. He doesn’t wake up screaming this time—what’s the point? Who would be there to hear his voice?

Alexander is gone. He’ll never—he’ll never see his face, hear his voice, he’ll never—he almost wishes it was his fault, because then he could hate himself, instead of this terrible, terrible emptiness he feels.

He dreams of drowning, and he dreams of swimming down.

~~~

Eliza finds him in the garden one day. She’s barely spoken to him since Alexander died. He looks up as she makes her way over to him, but says nothing. What he’s done to her—what they’ve become, in a way he’s hurt her just as much as he’s hurt Alexander. And now Alexander is dead and Eliza has lost her love and her husband—

“It’s quiet uptown,” she says.

Aaron keeps staring at the flowers. They used to walk in gardens a lot before, or the woods, or the lake. It feels like a lifetime ago. That had…that had been enough for him, had it ever been enough for her?

Words stick in his throat, he can’t say anything, but she seems to understand. “Do you like it uptown?” she asks.

He reaches for her hand. “It’s peaceful here.”

“I can’t…I can’t even imagine what you’ve lost, I know that he was very dear to you,” she says. “If I could turn back time, if I could…if I could change it all, I would, and he’d be standing here with us, and you would smile, and that would be enough.”

“Eliza, none of this is your fault,” Aaron says.

“I—“

“Please don’t. It’s not your fault.”

“It’s not yours either.”

Aaron closes his eyes. “I’m the one who can see the future, I should have known. He…he walked with me to the dueling ground, the day before, he—that night at dinner, the way he was…the way he was acting, the way he was talking the way—‘I have an early meeting out of town,’ he said, when I asked him to stay and I didn’t think, I didn’t realize—“

“It’s not your fault,” Eliza says.

“It was my fault the first time, why shouldn’t it be my fault now?” Aaron says. “I put the bullet in the gun, I was the one who told him ‘you should take the fight to them,’ I was—“

“Aaron, Aaron, hush, it’s not your fault,” Eliza says. “Alexander was such a headstrong man, he would not have allowed you to stop him.”

“I’ve failed him, and I’ve failed you,” Aaron says. “I don’t know…I don’’t know what to do, I don’t know how to go on right now.”

“I’m not afraid,” she says. “I know who I married.”

“I’m not…” Aaron closes his eyes. “I don’t know if I’ll ever be the same, Betsey, if I’ll be able to—“

She takes his hand. “That doesn’t matter. I’ll be standing by your side now. I never thanked you for standing by mine.”

Aaron starts shaking; he realizes, belatedly, that there are tears dripping down his face, but he makes no move to wipe them away. “I love you,” he says, and it’s true. Not in the way that he loves Alexander, but he would give his life for her, he would—he would at least try for her. He never took care of Alexander’s children last time, he has the chance to at least—at least support them now.

“I know,” she says, and she leans into him as he shivers. It’s a simple act, sharing warmth, but it feels like…a lot more. He allows himself to cry into her shoulder, and she holds him. “I know.”

~~~

He can’t hide from the world forever. His friends try to shield him from it as best they can. The Washingtons send their regards, and an offer if they ever need to visit. Laurens offers to come up, but the work he’s doing in South Carolina is too important. If he can win the gubernatorial race—

Everything that they’ve worked so hard for, everything that Alexander’s worked so hard for, he needs to—he’d need to stand up, to speak, to—

But it’s unimaginable, unimaginable to do any of it without Alexander.

1797 is the slowest to pass. He quietly drops out of the Presidential race.

Alexander would have wanted him to continue. Alexander would have wanted him to win, to build them both a legacy worth remembering. Alexander would have done it, if Aaron was the one who died. But he can’t. He sits down with his pen and tries to write, and no words pour forth. There are no pretty speeches, no policies, no visions or plans of the future that he can grasp, let alone articulate; his world has become bleak, colorless, consisting only of the lines that he walks from point a to b.

Alexander wouldn’t like it uptown. It’s too quiet uptown. But he likes it just fine.

The days blur into weeks, or perhaps months, long past what one would expect the mourning period to be. He expects the rumors to start once more, that there was an unnatural attachment between him and Alexander, or at the very least that he is weak, unfit, and always was if the death of a friend would rattle him this much.

Instead, soldiers come forward, some who guarded him during the war, and some, perhaps, who merely felt loyalty towards their seer and wish to be included in the discussion. They tell stories of how Aaron had great and terrible visions, nightmares constantly, how the future and its ever-changing vastness was all the more overwhelming for his mind alone, and that his one constant was that Alexander Hamilton was always at his side. Alexander helped him through the nights when he would wake up screaming, they say. Alexander was the only one who was able to calm him down, talk him away from his visions of death and destruction. That is why they were so close, that is why they stayed so close. Aaron Burr never spoke before he met Alexander, it was Alexander alone who understood him. Even after he married, there was only so much his wife could do to help him, Alexander had to practically move in with them, that’s why they were all so close.

The refrain is repeated around the country: What he sees, the burden he bears, it is unimaginable. Alexander was the only one who could help him bear it.

The election draws closer. The whispers take a turn for the worse.

Thomas Jefferson was the one behind what got leaked to the press about Hamilton and Mrs. Burr. Thomas Jefferson made up those rumors to try to drive Hamilton and Burr apart, because he knew he could never win the election against the two of them. Thomas Jefferson hired Callender to write those articles.

Thomas Jefferson blackmailed Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton to drop out of the presidential race, or he would leak this falsified scandal.

It doesn’t help when Callender shows up a few weeks later, drowned. No surprise that a temperamental and alcoholic man so hated by the public might get himself terribly drunk, and trip and fall into a river, the Jeffersonian camp argues. There are no marks on the body.

That doesn’t make it any less suspicious in the minds of the general public.

This is all Thomas Jefferson’s fault.

Aaron is asked to comment. He brushes everyone away.

“Hasn’t enough damage already been done?” he writes privately to Philip Schuyler. “Haven’t enough people been hurt by this mudslinging, by accusations left and right in the press about this or that? Does it matter? Nothing good can come of digging ourselves deeper into this rabbit hole.”

It does nothing to quell the rising flames. Aaron isn’t sure why he doesn’t just tell them that this was all Jefferson, and at the very least ensure the man never gains power and protect his and Alexander’s legacy from being dismantled, but he can’t even answer that question himself. All he knows is that he’s tired, and he wants this to end.

Then Sally Hemmings sues for her immediate emancipation on charges of Jefferson’s refusal to free her children violating the Temporary Statues of the Constitution.

In any other time—if there had been any different foundation built—this would have been unimaginable. But it’s not, not with what he and Alexander have done, they live in a world now where women like Sally Hemmings can speak.

Still, Aaron can’t.

The irony is, this is precisely the sort of case that Aaron and Alexander would have taken if they still had their law practice. It doesn’t matter, the country is out for blood, dozens of the best young lawyers flock to her cause, rightly viewing this as one of the best and easiest ways to kickstart their own political careers.

John Adams wins the Presidential election again, and Timothy Pickering comes in second as his Vice President.

“When considering the fallout of all of this and the imploding of the Democratic Republican party, please take into account that Madison is a good man,” Aaron writes to Adams, “and was a good friend.” And Madison is spared from suffering Jefferson’s downfall with him.

Aaron still walks the length of the city, sometimes long after dark, sometimes sits on a bench and forgets the time or where he is until suddenly he’s lost and drowning and he doesn’t know what to do. But people notice, women, at first. They bring him blankets, wrap him in them when he’s non-responsive, they bring him hot drinks, usually tea. They sit and talk with him. Freed slaves, veterans, or just the new generation that has started to believe in the equality that was so radical when he and Alexander first spoke for it, they start looking out for him. Taking care of him. They don’t forget him.

Bit by bit, things start to heal.

1798 passes. He takes his first case in years, a simple divorce case, pro bono. A few more bedraggled lost souls trickle into his cold, empty offices. He talks with them quietly, offers them legal counsel and money when he is not well enough to go to the courtrooms himself. He sits down every night and tries to write, and that’s usually when the tears come, unbidden, dripping silently down his face and he shakes and he shakes until Eliza leads him to bed.

1799 begins. He finds in one of his old desk drawers plans that he’d written up with Alexander, legislation that they’d wanted to pass, half-sketched ideas for policy that would turn their dream of a free and prosperous nation into reality. Bills about legal rights, anti-discriminatory measures, hell, even the Twelfth Amendment. He doesn’t have the heart to truly sit down and read them, to edit them, to finish them, to hear Alexander’s voice whispering in his ear again, vibrant and living as it is in all of Alexander’s work. He publishes them in series, with a brief introduction: a collection of bills, proposals, amendments, and policies that my friend Hamilton and I considered implementing in the wake of the election of ’98.

James Madison is the one who becomes their biggest advocate, who rewrites all of the laws so that they are workable through Congress, who champions every single measure. He works tirelessly, he works across partisan lines, he works selflessly. He refuses any credit when credit or even goodwill are offered towards him. When questioned about his change of heart, he says he didn’t have one: he has only ever and always wished for the best of his nation, and that means to serve the will of the people, and the people are more united in their support of these measures than they have been about much else before.

(It’s not true, there are the racists, the ‘traditionalists,’ and they kick and scream and rage against the change, especially in the South. But the black voting population is also growing in the South. Laurens is governor of South Carolina now, pushing changes through their legislature which are matched by efforts of young men and women, of freed people, in other states.)

Why?, the country asks Madison.

Aaron feels like he is perhaps the only one who understands the answer.

Repentance.

~~~

The summer begins, the anniversary of the duel draws near, and Aaron retreats in on himself more and more. He feels terrible, that he cannot even handle the simple cases that come his way, especially because the work often takes his mind off things, cheers him up. And he simply doesn’t have the funds anymore to give everyone who comes his way enough money to hire another lawyer.

Eliza is the one who comes up with the idea: to set up an open fund, that anyone can come to and donate money for these sorts of cases, so that Aaron can sponsor all of the unfortunates who come his way. Aaron drafts some plans on it, but mostly allows Eliza to take charge. She enlists Angelica’s help, and Angelica agrees to run the finances, and considering that she’s run her husband’s business interests for decades, she’s very good at it. Aaron mentions the idea to a few friends, and Pendleton says that while he can’t quite afford to donate a lot, he’d be willing to take some pro-bono cases, and suddenly Aaron is collecting a list of lawyers who are willing to take these cases either completely free, or for an extremely discounted charge. The entire setup is up and running by late August, someone writes about it and newspapers country-wide publish the article, the Burr household is solicited by people who want to try to expand this, open up chapters in different cities and different states. Eliza takes charge and runs all of it, Aaron merely watches in awe at all of the good she’s doing.

He tells her one night of the orphanage she founded, of the school for girls that he and Theodosia founded, of all that he wishes he could do. She’s quiet for a long time, then says that maybe when this network is off the ground and running, she’d prefer to pass it off to Angelica, set up the orphanage and the school together with him. If it receives anything of the attention or donations this is receiving, they’ll be able to help raise hundreds of children.

Raising hundreds of children—being there for hundreds of children, being responsible, getting up every day—it seems like a momentous task, but somehow, with Eliza by his side, he thinks he can do it. It’s not something Alexander would have the patience to do, but he’s not Alexander. He and Eliza actually sit down, actually write out the plans, actually talk about buying land and getting this started.

The summer fades, September and October pass. Eliza starts coming with him on his long walks, and he loses himself less, he takes her hand and she leads him home. Life falls into a pattern, it starts to stitch itself back together.

Look at where we are, he thinks. Look at where we started. Look at how much we’ve done for this country, Alexander, for your country, your new nation. Look at all that you’ve done, even though you’re gone. You’d be so proud.

October comes and passes, November begins. It’s starting to get cold, and Aaron stays inside more, bundled up. He plays piano with Angie, talks with Philip about what he wants to do when he graduates from King’s College next year (“Being a poet is a perfectly respectable career, even though it’s not a lucrative one. If that’s what you want to do, though, we will support you entirely,” he promises. “Writing can change the world. And you are an incredible writer.”) Angie still wants to go to King’s College herself, now that things have settled down. Study law, follow his footsteps, become a lawyer. It ignites a small spark of pride through all the dullness in Aaron’s chest, and he writes a few letters, pulls all of the strings it takes to get Angie accepted for the following year.

~~~

He and Philip sit down and have a long talk.

“Was Alexander my father?” Philip asks.

“We’re not sure,” Aaron says. “He and…he and your mother were together at the time. It very well might be the case.”

“Do you…do you mind?” Philip says, and Aaron can see the tears gathering in his eyes.

“No, Philip, I don’t mind. I—you are my son, you are my first child, you will never be less in my eyes. And if you have some of Alexander in you as well—then you should be proud. Alexander was a great man. I loved him very dearly. I won’t—you can’t let this tarnish your memories of him, he cared about you very much too.”

“Why?” Philip asks. “Why would he…why would he do something like that?”

“We were very close during the war,” Aaron says. “I think he just didn’t want that to end.”

“Dad, why do you never get mad?” Philip says. “Why do you…why do you try to hard to be…to not be angry?”

“I had a vision when I was very, very young,” Aaron says. “In the vision, I got angry and I lashed out and I hurt someone that I loved very much. It felt so real, Philip, it felt like I lived the whole rest of my life regretting hurting this person. So I made myself a promise. That nothing—nothing—was ever worth hurting someone like that.”

“Did you ever want to hurt Alexander?” Philip asks.

“No,” Aaron says.

It’s the truth.

~~~

It’s a Saturday, a day that should be like any other, late November, when Aaron is awoken by a pounding at the door.

Alexander, he thinks, but Alexander usually comes late at night, not early in the morning, and Alexander is gone.

“What is it?” Eliza says sleepily.

“I’m not sure,” Aaron says.

She rises to go with him.

It’s one of Philip’s classmates at the door. Price. Richard Price. He’s wringing his hands. Aaron’s blood goes cold.

“Sir?” he says. “I—Philip was just—Philip was just shot. In a duel. I—we both—I’m so—I’m so sorry—“

Aaron can’t speak; Eliza does.

“Is he breathing? Is he going to survive this?”

It’s the look on her face, it’s the look on Eliza’s face that absolutely kills him.

“Who did this, Aaron, did you know?”

Did he know, did he know, had he known from the beginning, because he had held his own son’s hand, how could he not have stopped this—

“Alexander was the one who gave him the guns,” Aaron chokes out. “Alexander gave him the guns in the vision, I told Alexander never to duel, I told him never to let Philip duel, I told Philip that he should never set foot on a dueling ground I thought I—“

Eliza faints.

Aaron thinks for a moment—a very long moment—that he’s going to too.

Philip.

No.

~~~

When she awakens, they rush over to Dr. Hosack’s house again, and it is so much worse. This isn’t Alexander. This is his son.

Philip is lying there, looking pale, looking—his arm and whole midsection are swathed in bandages, his face is twisted in pain, Aaron can hear the doctor’s words—“I’m doing everything I can, but the wound was already infected when he arrived”—but he can’t breathe, can’t think, can’t move—no—PhilipPhilip was innocent, he never hurt a soul, he must have been so scared—

“Pops, I’m so sorry for—for forgetting what you taught me—“

“My son,” Aaron says, reaches for Philip’s uninjured arm and grabs his hand and squeezes it, his son, his son is bleeding here, dying, his son

“I was aiming at the sky. I thought that—I thought that he’d follow suit. That it wouldn’t be a duel. It wouldn’t be a duel if I was aiming at the sky, and then—“

“Shhh, shhh,” Aaron says. “It’s alright, it’s alright, you did everything just right, it’s—“

“I’m going to die, aren’t I?” he says.

“Oh, Philip,” Aaron says. “Philip.” So much like his father, so much like his father that it hurt, and now Aaron was going to lose him too—

“But I—I would’a made you proud,” he says. “I stood there like a man. Even before we got to ten, I was aiming at the sky—“

Philip coughs and blood comes up, and Aaron feels silent sobs wrack his own body. Philip is opening his mouth, trying to form words, but can’t quite get the shape of them, and the pain, it’s written in every line of his body, on every line of his face.

“Just save your strength and stay alive,” Aaron whispers.

Eliza is right there next to him, Eliza puts her hand on his, Eliza is—she’s silent, she’s distraught, and Philip slips in and out of consciousness.

“Mom,” he says. “Mom. Pops.”

“We’re here,” Aaron says. “We’re here, we’re here, we’re here, just stay alive.”

They wait with him all day as the fever gets worse, all night as he slips in and out of coherence, Aaron wipes the sweat off of his brow and repeats the mantra over and over to his son: “save your strength, stay alive.”

It’s nearing five in the morning—stay alive, stay alive, stay alive for one more sunrise, just one more day, just stay alive—when Philip begins speaking again. Aaron leans in closer, cradles him, but his eyes are closed, unseeing, and he’s whispering something and Aaron bends down to hear it—

Un, deux, trois, quatre, cinq, sex, sept, huit, neuf…

The old piano exercises that Betsey used to go through with him, when he was small, when Aaron could prop him on his knee, the exercises that he’d then insisted on teaching Angie every morning, the two of them sitting at the piano and grinning as they counted it out:

Un, deux, trois, quatre, cinq, six, sept, huit, neuf…

And Aaron has seen death, he’s seen death so much it feels more like a memory, he knows it so intimately, he can see it coming now—

Un, deux, trois…

Philip,” he sobs, but there’s no answer.

~~~

He can’t eat. He can’t sleep. He can’t feel anything, see anything other than gentle hands that lead him through motions.

Philip.

Alexander.

There are voices that are speaking at him, to him, he can’t tell, he’s not sure if he gets up for days because he’s lost track of all time.

Philip.

Alexander.

He’s lost them both.

He wonders if there’s an afterlife, wonders if—if Alexander is there, if Alexander hates him for letting his son die, Philip, Alexander, Philip, Alexander, it’s all he can think over and over as his heart keeps breaking and he keeps staring at nothingness, waiting for nothingness to take him.

Names start to stick with him that the voices speak over him—Laurens, they keep saying. Laurens, Laurens, Laurens. Did he let Laurens die too, he remembers Alexander heartbroken, Alexander refusing to be torn away from his work because Laurens had been ripped away from him—but Laurens didn’t die this time, Laurens is alive, he distinctly remembers that Laurens is alive now—

“Laurens says he can host him for a few months, that the weather in the South will do him good, Laurens helped him during the war, Eliza, if there’s anyone who can help him now—“

Laurens is alive, Laurens is Governor of South Carolina and doing all sorts of important things, Laurens is—Laurens is still alive. Laurens is still alive, he did something right, he saved one person, and Alexander loved Laurens, maybe Alexander will forgive him because he managed to save Laurens—

“Will he be strong enough to make the journey?”

“We’ll send him with Green, he’s a friend of John’s who has some medical knowledge, it’s better than him sitting here and wasting away.”

Wasting away? Is that what he’s doing? Philip. Alexander. Oh, how he wants to join them, oh how he wishes his stupid stubborn body might waste away so that he could be done with the utter catastrophe that was his life, Philip, Alexander, he wants them back, he wants them back or he wants to be gone, he doesn’t care which.

He tries to go back to sleep, he drifts in and out of it.

“He’s not eating, Eliza, we can’t keep him here. Laurens will be able to help, no one was closer to either of them during the war.”

“Alright. Alright, I—you’re right. Make the arrangements.”

They put Aaron on the first ship from New York City to South Carolina.

And the ship is lost at sea.

Chapter Text

When Aaron is one, his father dies.

He’s rather distracted at the time, he sees it more of a landmark than anything else. Besides, he’s a baby, no one expects him to mourn.

When he is two, his mother dies.

He wouldn’t bother with talking except for the fact that the adults around him are taking his silence as something serious, so he pretends to be a small child, smiles and says a few words for them sometimes, and they mostly leave him alone. He collects papers, ink, and writes like he’s running out of time, writes everything he can remember and possibly think of. After the first horror of one of the pages he’d written falling into his grandmother’s hands, he makes a code for himself, and writes in that.

Alexander was right, he decides. They must have been memories and not a vision.

Because he has two sets of memories now.

His grandmother dies; he mourns her a little. She was always kind to him. His grandfather, not nearly so much. His grandfather thinks that his scribbles are nonsense, that he is wasting his days doing nothing, that Aaron is an idiot and will never uphold the family legacy.

When Aaron is four, he reaches a conclusion. His powers as a seer are, and always were, far stronger than his mere ability to see death. It all traces back to Alexander Hamilton, everything always traces back to Alexander Hamilton. Specifically, the conversation that he had with Angelica Schuyler Church when he tried to see Hamilton on his deathbed—where she practically accused him of being Cain, and he swore he’d rather die seven times over than shoot Hamilton again—that had either been a prediction or a curse, but that was what he now had the opportunity to do. He would die seven times over, which meant he would live seven times over.

Well, six more times. He had already managed to mess up the last life pretty spectacularly.

He tries to make a list of absolutely everything that he has ever said in any of his lives. But that’s not enough, that won’t tell him enough, there is so much that he just doesn’t know.

So he decides to start testing.

“Tomorrow, my grandfather will give me a chocolate cake,” he says when no one is listening.

Tomorrow, nothing happens.

Perhaps only things that he says to other people will come true, a tree falling in a forest sort of paradox. He finds his sister Sally. “Tomorrow, grandfather will give me a chocolate cake,” he tells her.

She asks him if he’s feeling alright. Tomorrow, they don’t get a cake.

So he’s not God, he can’t just say things and snap his fingers and have them be real. That’s a bit of a disappointment.

He returns to his writings, he looks for a common denominator in the times when he’d said things and they came true. The problem is, there are a lot of things that he’s said that could have come true, or could be interpreted as coming true, but he has no way of being sure. His memories are limited to what he experienced. They’re only what he saw, what he heard. He doesn’t know how to devise tests, he doesn’t know how to go about answering any of these questions.

Most of the things he said, he said by accident, he decides. And at times of heightened emotions. All the “predictions” he’d made during the war about battles, the pamphlets that he’d written. Were they prophecies slipping out? Or self-fulfilling ones? Or maybe the probability of saying something while upset that later comes true is statistically the same for him as for everyone, and he’s just being more sensitive to it than everyone else because he’s a seer?

There’s so much he doesn’t know, so much that no one knows, because seers are so rare and are always unique it’s not like anyone has done an in-depth study on them.

That thought gives him pause.

No one has done an in-depth study on them yet.

Of course there’s the war, there’s the Revolution, there are politics, there’s the Presidency that is so close he can almost taste it, there’s Alexander Hamilton. But if his theory is correct, he’ll have five more lifetimes after this one to enjoy all of that. Maybe, the clever thing to do here is take a step back and figure out exactly what is happening to him.

(Maybe he isn’t sure which hurts more: the memories of Alexander dying in his arms, or the fact that when he next meets Alexander, Alexander won’t know, Alexander won’t remember all the time they’ve spent together, all the touches and smiles and decades of understanding that they’d built, that when he meets Alexander again, it’ll be a blank slate, they’ll have to start all over from the beginning. Maybe he doesn’t want to start all over from the beginning. Maybe the prospect of seeing—seeing Laurens, seeing Eliza, seeing Angelica, seeing Philip, seeing any of them and knowing that he’d only be a stranger to them is too much.)

(Maybe he still sometimes gets mad, picturing the screaming match that he and Hamilton had had when Jefferson and Madison had marched into his office and told him that his best friend had been sleeping with his wife for the course of their entire marriage, out of petty revenge, and the entire illusion he’d had that he’d ever belong to a large happy family had been shattered, right along with the illusion that any of them had actually given a shit about him.)

(Maybe he still has nightmares of being paralyzed and nightmares about drowning. Maybe he’s tired of collecting deaths. Maybe Alexander Hamilton is what reminds him a bit too much of death right now. “That man will be the death of me,” he almost says, but then remembers his hypothesis about saying things out loud so he very specifically doesn’t say it, or write it down.)

He’s nearly six at this point, and he hasn’t been confirmed as a seer yet. He reflects on this a lot, what would the repercussions be of not turning himself in. He’d have a lot freer reign to do what he wants, he’d be able to travel the world, he’d be able to drop out of the public eye, he’d be able to conduct his own business. Maybe he’d be able to go into politics without his name and career being dragged through the gutter.

This lifetime, he has already decided, is devoted to figuring out what is happening to him. He will have a lot more freedom to do that if everyone thinks him to be merely a normal person. So this lifetime, that’s exactly what he’ll do. He’ll be a normal person.

Sometimes he thinks about Hamilton, wonders what Hamilton would do in his position. Ruin everything and get himself killed, most likely. But at least Hamilton wouldn’t be scared.

He’s not standing still, he reminds himself, he is lying in wait.

~~~

His grandfather dies when he is eight. He’s rather pleased that his grandfather is an outspoken proponent of smallpox vaccination on his own, and that it’s his grandfather’s choice to get the vaccine that ultimately kills him. Of course, it would be unseemly for a little boy to look smug about his own grandfather’s death, so he mourns appropriately in public. Now that he’s had time to think about it, now that it’s the third time that his grandfather has died in front of him, he can come to the conclusion that he never particularly liked the man and probably would not have wanted to spend time with him if he were given a choice.

His death is unfortunate, yes, but also inevitable. Aaron can’t go around crying over everyone who drops dead, he’s seen far too many deaths already for it to faze him.

He and Sally still stay with the Shippens for a little while, until Uncle Edwards adopts them and they move to Elizabethtown. Princeton still turns him down at eleven, which frustrates him immensely. They still accept him at thirteen, which makes him incredibly proud. No one can say now that he got in from fame rather than talent.

He breezes through every class they have to offer him. It’s hard, though, being thirteen and in the sophomore class. Without his title to protect him, without his reputation casting such a shadow that he is guaranteed to be left alone, he gains the derision of the other students. “Little Burr,” they call him.

It’s a lot harder to avoid shaking hands, too. He has no excuse.

Well, it only means that he can imagine their deaths in perfect detail when they spit taunts at him. He takes a grim enjoyment in that. None of them will ever face it with the composure that he’s had. That’s who he is now: Burr, the Prodigy of Princeton College. Burr, the young genius who doesn’t waste much of his time socializing. Burr. Not America’s seer.

Princeton is also the first time he is faced with a true challenge, a true crossroads, in regards to his previous…lifetimes.

Because Princeton is where he is first confronted with James Madison.

He had avoided the man the two times he had attended before, just as he had avoided everyone; he had, after all, been attending for his education and not to make friends.

But now…

It’s a tempting prospect. With classes, and strangers, and none of the previous respect he had before grating on his nerves…

Why not?, he thinks. Nothing else here is pleasant.

So he shows himself to James Madison’s door.

~~~

“Who—Little Burr?” comes a weak, confused voice from a literal mountain of blankets.

“How utterly on the mark of you, astute observation,” Aaron says. “I do not know what I would do without your incredible ability to pick up exactly my measure of elevation from the ground, you have changed my life.”

“What are you doing here?”

“Bothering you, isn’t that obvious?”

“Why?” Madison asks.

“Because I’m bored, and I think that of all of the miserable people that I might have to engage with in this lifetime, you are one of the least loathsome.”

“I don’t even know what to say to that,” Madison says. “Are you real? Am I hallucinating you?”

Aaron shrugs. “I’m thirteen. I’m allowed to be as melodramatic as I want. I’m going to make you some tea, and then I’ll read you whatever text you’re stressing out about not getting read for class. I can even write down notes or essays for you, if you’d like to dictate. As for whether I’m real or not, who cares, is any of this real?”

“I—wait, what?”

“Okay, pretend I’m a hallucination because you’ll waste less time asking stupid questions that way, where do you keep your tea leaves?”

“I—that box.”

“Great!”

There’s a small blaze in the fireplace, and Aaron throws another log on it. “Do you have the books you need? Or should I pop upstairs to the library to grab them?”

“Here. On my desk.”

“Perfect!”

Madison is bundled neatly and halfway through his second mug of tea, and Aaron comfortably reading one of the Latin texts—they spent ten minutes bickering about Aaron’s pronunciation, as he has decided to go with medieval and Madison prefers classical, but once Aaron finally yielded (“you don’t have to listen to it, besides, I’m the sick one, try not to give me a headache”), but after that they fell into quite a comfortable rhythm—when the door opens and some random classmate of theirs walks in.

Aaron stops mid-sentence, and looks rather put out for it. “Who are you? And what are you doing here?”

“I—Philip Freneau? I—I live here, this is my room? What are you doing here?”

“Reading,” Aaron says. “Obviously. Although apparently, leaving now. Jemmy, I’ll see you in class.”

And he marches out the door, past Freneau, leaving Madison to turn to his poor roommate in bewilderment. “Was Aaron Burr just in our room? Or am I having fever dreams?”

“I’m pretty sure that just actually happened. What was Little Burr doing here?”

“Apparently I’m not loathsome,” Madison says. “Although he must be mad if he thinks I’ll see him in class tomorrow.”

~~~

Aaron Burr does indeed see Madison the next day in class. (They have philosophy, Latin, and Greek together, because Aaron has bullied his way into what upper level classes he did not skip into). Madison himself looks surprised to be there, but a lot better than the previous day. He lasts the entire week, in fact, before he’s back in his room under the weather.

Aaron takes to stopping by. “Brought you notes,” he’ll say. “Keep them.”

“You don’t need them?” Madison asks.

“I have a perfect memory,” Aaron says. “Sort of. For some things. Certainly for these classes.”

“So if I were to write something down and you were to read it, or even just say something to you now, in a week would you be able to—“

“No,” Aaron says. “You don’t get to test it, it doesn’t work that way, the way that it works is that I don’t need my notes from class because I remember everything the teacher said in perfect clarity.”

(The truth is, he wrote the notes up for James without ever going to class. He’s been at Princeton for less than six months and he is bored out of his mind sitting through the exact same lectures the third time. He has taken to sneaking off to the library instead when there isn’t something else to amuse him, searching for any primary sources that he might add in his great quest for knowledge about Seers. Witherspoon is going to bother him about it eventually, but he has been writing absolutely fantastic essays of far higher caliber than a thirteen-year-old ought to be able to write, courtesy of things that he has written before, or steals lines from particularly clever things that weren’t his but have not been written yet so no one else should know the better, and thus Witherspoon won’t want to lose him. He might have to sit in on a few classes, though, considering the amount that discipline is emphasized at a school that mostly produces ministers. Should probably perfect some of his code so that he can amuse himself privately in the back of the room with whatever he wants to write instead of paying attention.)

“Your handwriting is…”

“What?”

“Very small.”

Aaron peers at him. “Well, you’re not old yet, are you? You’re what? Eighteen? Don’t tell me you need glasses. I know you can read.”

“I’m just saying, my head hurts,” Madison says very slowly. “Read them to me instead? While I make us both some tea?”

Aaron scrunches his eyebrows, then lets a small smile flash across his face. “Alright. I suppose can do that.”

And if the conversation eventually turns to things beyond just the classes that James has missed, well, who is Aaron to complain, it’s not like he had any other plans for his evening.

~~~

Aaron talks with Witherspoon about his classes, and gets permission to pursue more independent studies on things. Aaron thinks it’s mostly because Witherspoon is impressed that he can recite every single text the man names. Witherspoon still wants him to learn discipline and self-control, just as Aaron predicted, so Aaron just wheedles his way out of the most boring classes and calls it enough. He can always take a leaf out of Madison’s book, pretend to be sick when he gets really antsy.

James, of course, is not witness to any of this drama because he actually is terribly sick, to the point where he has missed all of his classes, and somehow seems to be making it worse by the mounds of work he still insists on doing. Aaron has taken to his funniest impressions of the professors as he quotes them word for word for James; might as well give the man an interesting show, if he’s stuck in his room all day otherwise.

And that is how it begins: Aaron coming back to James’s room one afternoon after a very fruitful day spent holed up in the library to see his friend in the traditional mound of blankets, and not even a fire going in the grate.

“Oh come on, it’s freezing,” Aaron grumbles as he tries to stir one to life using last night’s embers. “Are you awake?”

“Mmmph?”

“You’re going to get sick if your room is this cold,” Aaron says. “And I’m very bad at starting fires. Be more careful next time.”

Aaron manages to get it going after a good ten minutes of trying—I was in the Continental Army, I should remember how to do this better, he thinks, but his hands are smaller and the motions are not the same—before he’s ready to regale James with the lesson of the day.

If James’s eyes are a bit sharper than usual for someone supposedly so sick, Aaron doesn’t say a word.

After all, James was smart. He was sure to catch on soon enough. This was what Aaron wanted, right?

When Aaron is done—a full two-hour lecture reproduced with all of the same broad sweeping gestures and sometimes even intonation on important bits, he does enjoy doing his impressions—James looks at him thoughtfully.

“That was rather remarkable,” the man finally says.

“Why yes, thank you,” Aaron says. “I know, I’m rather good at this, I should run for Senate.”

“You were right about your memory.”

Aaron flashes a grin, but his heart is racing. “Well. Yes. I tend to be right.”

“That was, as far as I can tell, word-for-word the lecture that was given in class today.”

Deep breaths, Aaron reminds himself. This is James. You decided to trust James. It’ll be fine, because it’s James.

“You know, I didn’t see you in class today at all.”

“Mmm,” Aaron says.

“You’re—“

“The Seer,” Aaron says. “Yes, that is obvious, can we get this over with, and please don’t tell anyone, it wouldn’t be particularly pleasant for me, which is to say—”

James looks at him expectantly until he shuts up.

“I know you’re the Seer,” James says. “You’ve been dropping hints constantly, perfect memory for an incredible variety of things but such that you can’t control and refused to reproduce for me when I wanted to test it? Certainly knowing me—picking me out of everyone here as the ‘least loathsome’—” (Aaron blushes at that, mutters under his breath “I didn’t mean—”) “—but you didn’t even realize I had a roommate? Not to mention that your writing style is very different between your notes and your finished essays; your handwriting, in fact, changes, it gets a lot worse on your essays, and they employ a more sophisticated style than you usually do in your speech. The amount that you know about everyone here on campus. The amount that you know all of the nooks and crannies on campus, despite only having been here for a few months. And you are utterly obsessed with Seers; the only books you ever look at in the library are either about them or about a specific historical period and events surrounding one. That much has been obvious. What I was trying to say is, you have the power to see the future and you’ve been using it to skip class all this time?”

Aaron tries not to look too pleased with himself. “I don’t skip class all the time.”

“You petitioned to be here!” James says. “Specially! You’re thirteen!”

“About to be fourteen!” Aaron says. “And you have no idea how boring it is to sit in on courses that you’ve already had to sit through, twice.”

“You have no problems recounting them for me,” James says.

“That’s because it’s fun, I get to make fun of the professors while doing so,” Aaron says. “As you can probably tell, I am a very mean and terrible person. Oh my God, don’t give me that look. Are you going to stare at me like that until I go to class?”

James just keeps looking at him with what can be described as nothing other than puppy-dog eyes.

“I usually do go to class! I talked to President Witherspoon and everything!” Aaron says. “I’m being responsible, okay? Responsible, and I—“ He crumbles under the weight of James’s expression. “Alright. I won’t skip more than one day of classes a month.”

“That’s a lot.”

“You skip more than ten times that many.”

“I get sick easily! I don’t want to! You have an unparalleled opportunity here—”

“One which I’ve already taken advantage of,” Aaron says. “I could have never come to Princeton and still gotten a Princeton education. Visions, remember? I’m here for their library. For the things I don’t know already.”

“Which is?” James asks.

“What I am,” Aaron says. “Why I’m here. What I’ve done to deserve this.”

James sighs. “Let me know if you ever need help with your research. Two of us can read twice as fast.”

~~~

Aaron learns to be at least passably nice to Freneau—he has nothing against the man, and while the shocked expression on Freneau’s face whenever he opened his mouth was at first amusing, he really doesn’t harbor any grudge towards this person that he never knew, so he tones down the abrasiveness a bit. Freneau also eventually goes from finding excuses to be out of the room when Aaron is visiting James to realizing that he will never spend time in his own room other than to sleep if he keeps this up, so learning to be mildly nice to Freneau makes all of their lives easier. Aaron and James simply discuss things that are entirely innocent and have nothing to do with the topic of Seers when Freneau is present, it’s not like they have a dearth of other things to discuss.

It happens completely by accident one day.

Aaron is sitting by James’s bedside, James is sitting up in his bed, and they are preparing topics for speech and debate (Aaron has ardently refused to join the American Whig Society with Madison, instead investing himself heavily in the Cliosophic Society, insisting that James needs at least one person to keep him on his toes; he tries to ignore how happy James looks that he is participating in school activities), when Freneau comes over to say something to James and decides to do so by leaning over Aaron and placing his hand on Aaron’s shoulder.

It shouldn’t matter, it really shouldn’t; Aaron’s shirt covers all the way down to his wrists, he doesn’t see anything, Freneau didn’t really touch him, but he still flinches violently, almost knocking over the chair. Both James and Freneau stare at him in shock.

“Philip,” James says, after a moment. “Do you think perhaps we might have the room?”

Freneau beats a hasty retreat.

“Aaron?”

“I’m fine.”

“You clearly—“

“Completely fine!”

“Is someone hurting you? Has someone hurt you? Because I can—“

“I see people’s deaths!” Aaron blurts out. “When their skin touches my skin, I can’t control it, I can’t stop it, I have an incredibly realistic vision in which I see their deaths like I am standing next to them, and not just see, I can hear it, I can feel it, I can smell it, and I can’t control it, so I don’t like touching people, that’s all.”

“You’ve—“

“Touched you before, yes, if we are going to continue to associate closely it is bound to happen and I wanted to get it over with, besides, you die peacefully of old age safe and sound at home, which I already knew, because I’ve known you personally and thus haven’t only had death-visions about you.” Aaron tries not to look out of breath when he’s finished.

“Would you…would you like a hug?”

“I’ve just told you about how I don’t like touching people and you offer me a hug,” Aaron says.

“You’ve just told me about how you don’t like touching strangers,” James says. “And more specifically, how you don’t like being touched, outside of your control. You’ve had no problem touching me at all in the months that you’ve known me, in fact, the sicker I am, the more excuses you make to check my temperature. I’d surmise that for the people you are close to, you actually do like some measure of physical contact.” Then, quieter: “I wouldn’t have offered if I didn’t think it might make you feel better.”

“It reminds me that they’re alive,” Aaron says, and then he buries himself in James’s arms, and he doesn’t come out for a very long time. And if he’s shaking, and leaves a damp spot on James’s shirt, well, for Aaron’s dignity James refrains from commenting.

He’s here, and that’s enough.

~~~

James graduates in ’71, but decides to stay an extra year to study Hebrew and politics with Witherspoon, at least that’s what he claims. Aaron tries not to look incredibly pleased about this fact, especially because he is burying himself more and more into research on his thesis, which is listing the pros and cons of each side as to whether or not John Calvin may have been a Seer, as well as the political and religious ramifications afterwards that may have influenced the general consensus to declare him not a Seer instead of examining the evidence surrounding his life more closely. James reads over his thesis, helps him edit the drafts, helps him make sure that it matches his previous writing styles. It’s the first real project that Aaron has applied himself to, and he’s very, very proud of it when he is finished.

(He can tell James is just as proud; the man doesn’t stop beaming all day, also insists on being the one to tell Aaron that he is graduating top of his class and is valedictorian.)

They talk briefly about what they plan to do afterwards. Aaron has been itching to study law again; he never thought he had been particularly attached to the subject in the first place, but now without it, he positively longs for it, and James takes it up with him with an indulgent smile.

James can’t put off returning to his family forever, though. And Aaron must return to his. He moves in with Tapping Reeve and his sister, and drops law for the time being. His thesis has just been published and spread to other academic circles, and he knows that if he can produce a few more exemplary works, he might get the sponsorship to travel to larger universities in Europe and make use of their resources to try to come to the bottom of the mystery that is Seers. Digging through whatever dusty tomes he can get his hands on is frustrating, especially now that he is isolated from the college and anyone else that he might consider a peer, but he keeps working. Pushes his frustration aside. Nothing good has ever come of impatience. He will discover important things, useful things, and if he wants to go about this life and the next and the next not just blundering into one pitfall after the next, he needs to know what’s going on.

So he gets used to lying, he gets used to pretending both to care about this intellectually, and to not care about it with the core of his being, and he gets down to work.

~~~

“Pardon me, are you Aaron Burr, sir?”

Oh. He should have expected this. Although the chances that Alexander would run into him on the one week he was visiting the City—

“That depends, who’s asking?”

“Oh, sure, sir! I’m Alexander Hamilton, I’m at your service, sir! I have been looking for you!”

Aaron doesn’t have time for this, so he cuts straight to the chase. “Why?”

Alexander looks taken aback, and Aaron feels a fierce rush of pleasure. But he picks up his rhythm again in an instant. “I heard your name at Princeton, I was seeking an accelerated course of study when I—“

“Punched the bursar,” Aaron says. “Yes, I know.”

Alexander stares at him, eyes wide. “How did you…?”

“My research demands that I keep professional ties with the institutions that support me,” Aaron lies easily. “Witherspoon mentioned the incident in his last letter.”

Oh, he’s enjoying Alexander’s silence, Alexander’s shocked gape, Alexander’s hesitation all very much.

“Are you here to ask me how I did it?” Aaron continues. “How I graduated so quickly, how I got involved in my research in the first place, or are you soliciting me for a less mundane reason?”

Again, it stops Alexander for a moment, and an ugly satisfaction curls in Aaron’s gut. But only for a moment. “I wanted to talk to you about your research, actually, I’ve read your thesis, I’ve read, well, everything I can get my hands on, what you wrote on Calvin, how you inexhaustibly proved—“

“That’s a rather firm position to take,” Aaron says. “I laid out some evidence as for why or why not he might be a seer, and discussed the cultural and religious bias against naming him as one. I took no personal stance.”

“Yes, but your evidence, the writings, the entire argument about predestination, it’s masterfully crafted, by the end of your work there’s not even a shadow of a doubt that—“

“You wanted to ask me something?” Aaron says, and he tries to make it evident through his tone of voice that this entire conversation ought to be over.

“Yes, well, right, I was wondering what you were working on now?” Alexander’s mouth is set and his eyes are shining; Aaron forgot how much his resolve was unshakeable, his enthusiasm inexhaustible. And Aaron can feel his own resolve crumbling.

“Can I buy you a drink?”

“What?”

“The grand sum of the work I’ve been doing for the last three years is not the sort of hour-long conversation I’d like to have out here in the rain,” Aaron says, trying to keep his tone patronizing in a desperate attempt to maintain control over the situation. “Since I can’t seem to get rid of you—“

“No, no, that would be nice,” Alexander says quickly.

“While we’re taking, let me offer you some free advice,” Aaron says.

He adjusts his course towards the Queen’s Head naturally, then thinks better of it. If there is even the slightest chance that John Laurens will be there—Alexander is friendly, Laurens will not be, why should he be, Aaron is just another rich kid who isn’t wholeheartedly on the side of the Sons of Liberty, and thus worth only derision, and he can’t—he can’t let go of his own memories that he has of John. Of John caring about him.

“What?”

“Hm?”

“Your free advice,” Alexander says, looking a bit put out.

“Oh,” Aaron says. “Talk less, smile more.”

Alexander gives him a look. But he doesn’t say anything, because Aaron’s paying for dinner. The end up at the first place Aaron sees, and it’s smaller and far less nice than the Queen’s Head, but Aaron doesn’t care. He puts in two orders for whatever the house special for the night is, and then he begins to talk. After all, he might as well get this over with. He is continuing an in-depth study about Seers and religion, and the controversy that arises with the currently fractured nature of Christianity about Seers belonging to one faction or another, which would elevate that faction as a more “true” form of the faith. He’s just starting to get into the complete cognitive dissonance of the fact that Troy’s Cassandra and Apollo’s Pythia are conventionally accepted at Seers, yet many associate seers with the Judeo-Christian God. He’s outlying how despite Constantine’s post-mortem classification as a Seer—as primary sources are either vague or contradictory about whether or not there was a wide scale acceptance of the existence of male seers at the time of his rise to power—but the association actually probably arose from Joan of Arc and the extreme Catholic presentation of her gift, when Alexander gets bored of the “him not talking” part and interrupts.

“Right! I had a theory I wanted to run by you!”

Aaron raises his eyebrows. “Go on.”

“First I need to know—how common are seers?”

“No one really knows, because not all seers are necessarily known and confirmed,” Aaron says. “The most common accepted theory is that when one dies another is born. It’s supported by Greek tradition, mostly. But as powers manifest in unique ways—“

“Yes, about that,” Alexander says. “I think that all of the powerful seers arise when there’s a war.”

That stops Aaron short. “Seers during wartime become a lot more famous,” he says. “The correlation you see could come from the inherent tendency to tell their stories more. Or the fact that seers are pushed into the public eye and used during wartime—“

“And I think there’s a seer now, here, already,” Alexander says. “The Revolution is imminent, the fact that no one has raised his or her head—unless they know and they’re waiting so that the British can’t stop them—“

“That’s an awfully strong assumption to make,” Aaron says. His heart is pounding in his ears, he resists the urge to blink, to look any form of shocked, but he feels naked. Trust Alexander to strip him down to the most vulnerable he’s felt in years with a few casual remarks. Hamilton can’t know anything, he reminds himself. You’ve been so careful, there’s nowhere that you’ve slipped, he can’t know.

“But I’m right,” Alexander says. “You know that I’m right! You do!”

“You have a gut feeling that has no—“

“So what do you think?”

Aaron sighs. He can spare Alexander a partial truth tonight. “I think that it’s just as likely as not.”

Alexander grins. “Which is as good as you saying I’m right. I need your help, I’ve been thinking—a seer on our side would be a strategic advantage, it’s a morale boost, it’s useful tactically, but more importantly, with tensions high between Britain and France? France has never forgiven them for Jeanne D’arc, they’d come in on our side of the war in a heartbeat. We need them, if we have the seer, we can win. And you’re the world’s leading expert in seers! If there’s anyone who could find the seer, it’s you!”

“No.”

“Hear me out!”

“No way!”

“If we succeed, you prove that everything you’ve ever written is true!”

Aaron shakes his head. “You fundamentally misunderstand the nature of what I’ve written.”

“I’m not! It’s clear in every word that you write that you intimately understand the nature of Seers in a way no one else—“

Aaron needs to put a halt to this line of reasoning immediately. “Searching for a Seer is like attempting to locate a needle in a haystack. If there even is one alive, they could be in rural China for all we know, and there are no clear outward signs that—“

“They’ll be here,” Alexander says. “There’s been a Seer at every important junction of history, and this—this here—it’s—“

“I’m afraid your gut instinct is simply not good enough for me to risk my job and my reputation on,” Aaron says. “Now, if that will be all—“

“It isn’t all,” Alexander says. “Can you at least let me see your research, your notes, everything, I can copy all that I need in a day, two at most. If I find the Seer, I’ll credit you, and if not, it’s none of your time wasted. Mister Burr, sir.”

“But it is much of yours,” Aaron says. “Even if your theory is correct, you won’t find your Seer if they don’t want to be found, and exposing them won't do either of you any good.”

“How do you know? Are you in contact with them?”

“No.”

“Are…are you a…”

“No.”

“Can I at least read your research?”

“When it’s published, like everyone else.”

Alexander sighs. “Well, thank you for the drink, Mister Burr, sir.” He turns to leave, and Aaron feels a flash of guilt.

“Hamilton. Take care of yourself.”

Alexander turns around and gives him a sad smile, and then he’s gone.

~~~~

Aaron doesn’t see Alexander again before the war; he returns to Connecticut, and Alexander remains in New York City. He does cross-reference all known and supposed seers, as well as the relative strength of their powers (although that is a very qualitative thing, and their powers are generally not well-documented), and tries to find a correlation between Seers and wars, but there is none. It’s a frustrating dead end that he has wasted months on when all is said and done, and he can only blame himself for listening to Alexander again.

News of the battles of Lexington and Concord arrive, and Aaron realizes that if he wants to be taken at all seriously in the future nation, he’ll have to serve during the war. So he goes and enlists in the Continental Army. It’s strange to do it without having to sneak over, it’s strange to sign his name without any flashes of recognition. He’s assigned to Montgomery’s forces in Quebec, which suits him just fine, he can stop that tragedy from happening before Montgomery and all of his men die.

Only General Montgomery isn’t inclined to listen to a nineteen-year-old aide-de-camp with no military experience.

Aaron tries to drag Montgomery’s body from the field when it is all done. He fails; he is too small and Montgomery is too heavy. He isn’t captured by the British, though; instead, he is sent down to join Washington’s body of troops.

He considers what is to happen.

He considers his position.

He considers what he can do.

And he decides that the fiasco that was the Battle of Quebec should never have to happen again.

~~~

“Your Excellency.”

“Who are you?”

“Aaron Burr, sir.”

Washington shows no signs of recognizing him. Aaron presses on. “Permission to state my case?”

“As you were.”

“Sir, I was a captain under General Montgomery until he caught a bullet in the neck in Quebec, and well—“

How can he nicely say I know the entire course of this war, and if you follow my advice, you will never lose another battle?

“I have some questions, a couple of suggestions, about how to fight instead of fleeing West.”

“Yes?”

Washington doesn’t sound particularly happy, but Aaron can work with that.

I think that we should start preparing to cross the Delaware river, he’s about to say, when someone else bursts into the room.

Oh. Of course.

“Your Excellency, you wanted to see me?”

Aaron barely stops himself from cussing Hamilton out, but grits his teeth and smiles politely instead.

Washington is smiling at Alexander as well, and looks a lot less cold. “Hamilton, come in. Have you met Burr?”

“We keep meeting,” Aaron says, and Alexander says it at exactly the same time, and Aaron wants to punch him. Tens of thousands of lives, that’s how many he saved over the course of the war, and Hamilton is going to ruin it all by snatching the position of Washington’s aide de camp right out from under him.

Aaron opens his mouth to say something, anything, that might stop this scene from happening, only:

“Burr?”

“Sir?”

“Close the door on your way out.”

~~~

Aaron eventually gets promoted to Lieutenant Colonel. It’s not enough. He becomes somewhat of a national hero. He lasts all the way until the Battle of Monmouth, where the heat and the memories of his old visions overwhelm him.

This time, there’s no one waiting for him in the sick tents.

He stays with Washington and the other officers at the Hermitage for a short while afterwards. He avoids Mrs. Prevost. He writes back to his sister; she offers him her house for as long as he needs to stay, and while he does return home,

Go to France, James writes. Finish your studies. There are more resources there on Seers than there ever were here.

You will be fine, you will be safe, you will get through this war, Aaron wants to write back, but he doesn’t, because James has made him promise to never put any of his predictions in writing in a manner in which he might be exposed, so he doesn’t.

He gets on the first reliable ship to France. He tries not to feel sick when it leaves port. It’s strangely freeing, to sail away, to leave this entire mess behind.

This is his life. And for once, he’s going to live it on as many of his terms as he can.

Chapter Text

The boat ride over isn’t particularly pleasant, but it isn't terribly unpleasant either. Aaron finds that he can avoid thinking about where he is by concentrating on books he has read in prior lifetimes, as that distracts his senses entirely. The aquatic portion of his journey passes in this way. He then travels as quickly as possibly over land to Paris; after all, he doesn’t have that much money, certainly none to waste.

He tracks Benjamin Franklin down in two days to the house in Passy that Jacques-Donatien Le Ray de Chaumont donated for the American ambassador. Aaron knocks on the door until it is opened. He recognizes the boy who opens it and places where after a moment's thought: he had been at the Treaty of Paris. One of the people frantically writing things down, if Aaron remembers correctly. Some sort of secretary. Probably one of Franklin’s grandchildren, his mind supplies.

“I’m here to see Benjamin Franklin,” Aaron says. “I bring information that he will find very interesting.”

“He’s out right now,” the boy says.

“Then I will stay until he returns,” Aaron says.

“What is the nature of your information, that it is of such vital importance?” the boy asks.

“Of enough importance not to share its nature,” Aaron says.

“Are you a spy?” the boy asks.

Aaron sighs; he’s getting tired of this already. “I’m whatever you want me to be, as long as whatever you want me to be gets a meeting with your grandfather.”

The boy hmphs again, but then moves aside. “Well, come in, I’ll get you set up in the parlor. It’ll probably be all day.”

“I have time,” Aaron says. “I have all the time in the world.”

~~~

“So, who are you? You sill haven’t told me.”

Aaron tries to keep his polite mask from cracking; he had not expected William Temple Franklin to continue bothering him in the parlor after he’d seated Aaron and brought Aaron some tea. But apparently, the interrogation is going to continue.

“Aaron,” Aaron says.

“Aaron what? Are you American? Or French? You don’t look French. Are you English? Are you—“

“American,” Aaron says. “I was a Lieutenant Colonel before I was forced to withdraw due to health concerns.”

“What sort of health concerns?”

“Heat stroke during the Battle of Monmouth,” Aaron says.

“Are you here because of the war?”

“I’m here because Benjamin Franklin is here.”

“But what are you here to do?”

“Hopefully collaborate with your grandfather.”

“On what?”

“On any range of scientific interests,” Aaron says. “And perhaps help on some of his duties as an ambassador.”

“I’m already his secretary,” William says. “We don’t need any more help.”

So Aaron was right, secretary, and he’ll probably get the appointment to the Treaty of Paris on nepotism along with whatever good work he’s doing right now. Aaron doesn’t remember a William Temple Franklin from anywhere else in history, so it seems safe to assume that this will be the high point of the little squirt’s career.

“I have an essentially perfect memory, and I am fluent in more languages than you are,” Aaron says. “It is not a matter of how useful you are. It is the fact that I can be more useful.”

William puffs his chest, looking upset.

“I’m not looking to replace you,” Aaron says. “I’m just saying I will be able to crack a lot of codes far faster, if there is any intercepted British transmission that your grandfather is trying to help with.”

“Oh,” William says. “Is that your important information? That you’ve cracked secret British codes?”

“If I had, it would need to remain a secret, wouldn’t it?” Aaron says. “Or the British would change their codes, and then we’d be at point zero again.”

“Right!” William says. “That makes a lot of sense.”

Aaron suppresses the urge to roll his eyes as he takes a long sip of his tea. The stupidity of, well, everyone who isn’t James is somewhat remarkable. Humans have the tendency to jump to conclusions and stick with them, he didn’t even have to come up with a lie and this boy is already eating it right out of his hand.

“So how do you learn how to crack codes?” William asks.

“You go to college,” Aaron says.

“And study languages?” William says.

“No,” Aaron says. “Math. Codes are mostly patterns; decoding them is all about searching for frequency of words and letters and using that to re-construct the cypher.”

“Is there any way to have a perfect code?” William asks.

“You’d want to use a very obscure key, and change it often,” Aaron says.

“What’s do you mean?”

Aaron sighs. “Let’s say I have a book, and you have the exact same copy of the book. Some silly romance novel, something no one would ever think of. Then I send you a letter that is written as a series of numbers, where each word is indicated by a page number, then a line number, then a word number for you to look up in your book. Unless someone else knows what book we are using, if we only use this code once, it is virtually impossible to crack.”

“But you can crack it?”

“I never said I could crack it,” Aaron says. “An eidetic memory does make it far faster for me to look up words, though, as I do not have to physically look them up, but can just pull them up in my head.”

“Wow.”

Aaron takes another sip of his tea.

“So how does most cryptography work?”

Aaron successfully maintains his calm facade, and decides that it is not the worst fate in the world to explain cryptography to a sixteen-year-old until Benjamin Franklin gets back. He is immensely grateful that he did research into all of this when devising his own code as a child, after a few ad hoc attempts didn’t seem secure enough. “It depends on the complexity of the system being used,” Aaron says. “There’s the Caesar Cipher, in which you basically shift the alphabet letters down a certain number. That is particularly easy to crack, you just look for common words like “a” or “I” or “the” as well as common letters that go together—qu, th,—as well as frequency of various letters, and you can usually by hand figure out which letters are assigned to which other letters. Slightly more sophisticated versions of the Caesar Cipher involved just scrambling the alphabet instead of shifting it, but again, frequency analysis. There’s Vigenere's Cipher, which works almost the same as Caeser’s Cipher except you have a key—let’s say you’re literally using the word “key” as your key, then the corresponding numbers are 11-5-25, and you do the Caesar Cipher with the alphabet shifted 11 letters for the first letter, 5 for the second, 25 for the third, then 11 for the fourth again, etc, etc.”

“That sounds—“

“Also very easy to crack,” Aaron says. “Frequency analysis.”

“So what can you do?” William asks.

“Put in as many safeguards against frequency analysis,” Aaron says. “Use more than 26 numbers, have multiple numbers that stand for the same letter, or null numbers that mean nothing. Switch up your encryption key as often as possible. Have the text be written in multiple languages, and switch languages arbitrarily, it’s easy enough for someone with the key to translate all into one language once they have the key, but very very hard to crack it if words are in five or six different languages with no rhyme or reason as to when. The list goes on, as you can imagine I am not going to tell you all of it. But those at least seem rather obvious, I thought of them when I was far younger than you. I still suggest you do not mention this to anyone, as the majority of communication out there are not employing such rigorous methodology, and we don’t want to give the enemy ideas.”

“How do you…know all of this?” William asks.

“I was very, very worried about my sister reading my diary when I was a child,” Aaron says. “Or anyone reading my diary, really. So I got good at coming up with techniques to stop them.”

“Why do you need a diary if you have perfec memory?” William asks. “Couldn’t you just write things in normal English and then burn the paper?”

I want to kill this child, Aaron decides. “I have no guarantee that my memory won’t worsen with time, I don’t want to be eighty years old and unable to recall facts from my childhood because I didn’t write them down.”

“But wouldn’t you have forgotten the key?”

“Not if I’m still using it,” Aaron says. “Short-term memory is different than long-term memory. Also, I like the idea of leaving behind a challenge for future generations.”

“Are you going to publish essays on cryptography?” William says.

“There’s a conflict of interests in doing so that must be carefully navigated,” Aaron says. “Just as there is a conflict of interest in the development and publishing of any form of science and technology that can be used in warfare, namely: if you publish something, the enemy will gain the technique. One must ask themselves very carefully before releasing anything to the world, about how much harm it can do, versus how much it can be used for good.”

“So you secretly share it with our government?” William asks.

“So I secretly share it with one, maybe two people I trust,” Aaron says.

“Like my grandfather?” William asks.

“You do realize this entire conversation is hypothetical,” Aaron says. “I’m not going to tell you whether or not I’m here on some secret cryptographic meeting. Because if I was, no one could know.”

“Right,” William says.

Aaron almost relaxes. Almost.

“So can you, like, write out something in a Vigenere Cipher and then show me how to crack it?”

Aaron barely—barely—doesn’t scream.

~~~

It takes Benjamin Franklin five hours to get back.

Five hours.

The first few hours are fine, Aaron created a rudimentary example of a Vigenere Cipher for them both to crack and then William had spent an hour and twenty minutes—an hour and twenty blessedly silent minutes—on the other side of the room, insisting Aaron not peek, designing his own Vigenere Cipher for Aaron to crack.

This boy is supposed to be sixteen years old, Aaron thinks. Sixteen. Angie was ready to go to college three years younger than him, and she would have—

Aaron concentrates fiercely on the sheet of paper when it’s put in front of him, and cracks it in about half an hour. Not at all bad, for someone who hasn’t actually tried to crack codes in years.

William looks suitably impressed, and Aaron thinks, for a moment, that he’s going to be free.

It’s a swiftly passing fancy. William runs off and comes back with a stack of letters.

“What about these? Can you crack these?”

Aaron takes the stack of papers, and carefully turns the top one over. Something about it feels weighty, fragile, like it might disintegrate under his hand. Strings of numbers, but they look familiar. His head hurts. The surrounding light seems to flash—suddenly he’s in Washington’s command tent again, pouring over maps and plans and there are letters scattered all around that the Culper Ring, the key books that they would pass around, the numbers blurring before their tired eyes, the times when his hand would brush Alexander’s, passing a paper across the table, the comforting presence of Laurens standing guard, always at his back—

“I don’t need to crack them,” Aaron forces himself to say. “I’ve seen the Culper Ring’s key. These are American reports. Fairly old intelligence too, from months back. I could translate them if you want.”

“Please do!”

Aaron closes his eyes, brings up the key in his mind’s eye, when—

“William? What’s going on?”

Both Aaron and William’s heads shoot up, as Benjamin Franklin and John Adams enter the room.

Aaron realizes, a moment too late, that he is very obviously holding a stack of secret American intelligence reports that William has probably pilfered from Franklin’s study. Adams’s eyes certainly hone in on them, but Aaron can see from Franklin’s glance that the man notices them as well.

“Who is this?” Franklin asks.

“Aaron, umm,” William says. “Aaron. He was a Lieutenant Colonel in the American forces, though. He came here because he wants to work with you. He’s an expert in cryptography.”

Aaron can imagine the wheels turning in these two gentlemen’s minds; that Aaron no-last-name who claimed to be an American officer had successfully wheedled his way inside and now was being shown secret intelligence reports after revealing he had the ability to crack them—

“Aaron who?” Adams asks.

“Aaron Burr,” Aaron says.

“The Prodigy of Princeton College?” Franklin says. “I’ve heard of you. Thought you did history and theology, not cryptography.”

“I’m a man of many talents,” Aaron says.

“One that, you now understand, we must investigate for treason,” Franklin says.

Well, this is going even better than Aaron planned, he’s being accused of treason before revealing that he’s the Seer.

“I didn’t come here to look at these,” Aaron says, shoving the armful of papers back at William. “I came here to talk to you. I’m looking for employment.”

“Talk,” Franklin says.

“Alone,” Aaron says.

John Adams makes a small noise of protest.

“You’re not really one to be making demands here, considering what a compromising position we found you in,” Franklin says.

“And you’re not going to want to report this to the authorities, considering it was your grandson, whom you are grooming for a diplomatic appointment, who sneaked into your study himself to try to find these because he wanted to see me breaking more codes in action,” Aaron says.

Adams glances between the two of them, and looks very ready to explode. Aaron feels a pang of fondness; he missed getting to watch Adams yell at people who weren’t him.

“Let me talk to you alone for thirty minutes, and if I have not made a convincing case, you can drag me to the authorities and say I broke into your house and stole the intelligence reports,” Aaron says. “I’m not here to argue.”

“No, apparently you’re here to work magic,” Franklin says. “Well, in my study, then.”

~~~

Adams squawks for another five minutes, but Aaron refuses to say anything in front of him, so he moves on to yelling at William while Franklin whisks Aaron up to his office. Aaron drags a chair over from the corner to sit in front of Franklin’s desk as Franklin closes and locks the door, then settles behind the desk on his own chair.

“So,” Franklin says. “What brings you here?”

James is going to kill me, Aaron thinks.

“I’d like to negotiate the terms of a collaboration,” Aaron says.

“On what?” Franklin says.

“On the only thing that has ever interested me,” Aaron says. “Seers. There has been no wide-scale scientific evaluation or survey done on any of them, and given how impactful the phenomenon has been on human history, the fact that it is still shrouded in superstition and religious mystery is a detriment to us all.”

“You want me to put my diplomatic post aside to help you with your little college research project?”

“No, I want you to put two and two together,” Aaron says.

“You either are the Seer, or know the Seer,” Franklin says. “You want me to put my diplomatic post aside to help you design experiments so that you or this person can figure out whatever the hell is going on.”

“Hence the nature of this negotiation,” Aaron says. “This person is worried that harm will come to them if the pubic ever learns they are the Seer. These are not worries based in gut instinct, but rather in visions that they have had. I want assurances that all work will be done in complete secrecy—that no one will even know the work is happening—before agreeing to work with you. Some sort of arrangement such as any publications will only be released with this person’s permission, or after this person’s death.”

“How do I know that they are actually the Seer?” Franklin says.

Aaron grins. “Oh, they can prove it. They can prove it in any number of ways.”

Franklin raises an eyebrow. “The nature of the visions of Seers—you’d probably know better than me, but from what I’ve read, they do not control their visions. You claiming that you have a Seer who can produce visions on demand to quickly and easily prove that they are the Seer increases my skepticism.”

“Oh, this should be fun,” Aaron says. “The fastest and most obvious way of confirmation is they see people’s deaths when first touching them skin to skin. They can also do it to animals, if you find skulking around a hospital to be unsavory. They have also had extremely explicit visions on how the next fifty or so years go already, which means that they have any manner of information that if you want, they can verify. They can reproduce writings of things that have not been published yet, word-for-word. Give you information about the war, battle, troop numbers, political intrigue, anything. You want a blow-by-blow of how the US government is going to work for decades? They can write the exact text of the Acts that are going to go through Congress, here and now. It’s the after fifty years part where the visions become shaky and cannot be produced on demand, but that’s not a problem for instant verification, is it?”

“You really think this person is the real deal,” Franklin says. “You trust them? You have verified these things yourself?”

And this is about where the stress of this entire situation—this entire day—finally cracks him.

“Let me be explicit,” Aaron says. “I am the real deal. I have lived through hell. Twice. You think that I’m crazy? Do you want to know a secret? The difference between being a genius and crazy is being right. And I. am. right. I can prove it to you, as many times over as your heart desires. But I’m not going to sit here doing nothing anymore. I’m going to figure out how the world ticks, with or without you. You know, it’s funny.”

“What’s funny?”

“Back in the version of the world in which I was officially confirmed to be a Seer at age four, you were the one who came to me begging for me to assist you in research.”

“Interesting,” Franklin says.

“Do we have a deal, or not?” Aaron spits.

“Calm down,” Franklin says. “We have a deal. The cover story of why you managed to convince me is that my daughter, Sarah Bache—“

“That I helped her deal with the British occupation of Philadelphia or something along that manner?” Aaron says. “Easy. I’ve lived with her and the family for four months, I know all about her, the children, the house, that is a lie I can easily keep up.”

What?” Franklin asks. “When?”

“During the Constitutional Convention, seven years from now. Although it’ll probably be nine, considering how the war is shaping up. Like I’ve said, visions.”

Franklin says nothing.

“You arranged for it,” Aaron says. “I would have been fine staying at Mrs. Payne’s Boarding House, you specifically arranged for it, it’s not like I’ve been stalking your family—“

“I believe you,” Franklin says. “Or at least that you are dangerous enough to take at face value, and thus we will cooperate for the time being. When would you like to start?”

“As soon as possible,” Aaron says.

“Where are you living?” Franklin says. “Until I see proof that you actually have the abilities that you claim to, there is still the chance that this is an elaborate scheme to gather intelligence for the British, in which case it might be safer for me to detain you at this house until I am satisfied that you are what you say you are.”

“I was staying at an inn on the outskirts of town, and rapidly running out of funds,” Aaron says. “I would not mind accepting such hospitality.

“You’ve put me in a difficult position,” Franklin says.

“Your grandson really should have just left me alone,” Aaron says. “Then this would have been a much different conversation.”

“Although now we have a cover story, which will allow you to pass on information to me about the course of the war,” Franklin says.

“One rather full of holes, considering that not a lot of encoded British communication passes through this house. Or if it did, you’d have a far more serious problem.”

Franklin waves his hand. “Irrelevant. I’ll take you on as a personal assistant, whatever information you give to me regarding the war, I’ll make whatever excuses necessary to pass it on.”

“And if I refuse to tell you anything about the war, what will you do then?”

Franklin sighs. “You will have put me in another incredibly difficult position, one in which I will be forced to choose between my word and the lives of my countrymen.”

“It’s alright, I’m used to being safe only as long as I cooperate,” Aaron says. “If it’ll give you peace of mind, though, the Americans will win without me or any of my visions. I’ve seen them do it.”

Franklin still looks deep in thought, and deeply upset.

“This was a terrible idea,” Aaron says.

“Hm?”

“I never should have come here.”

“What else would you have done?” Franklin asks.

“Figured this out on my own,” Aaron says. “More historical research. I don’t know. Just…this isn’t safe for me, and this isn’t pleasant for you, I probably should have thought this through more.”

“But you trusted me.”

“Because of an inkling of a thought I’d had in a vision,” Aaron says.

“Does anyone else know?” Franklin asks.

“Only one person,” Aaron says. “And him I trust with my life for a reason.”

“You must be really, really desperate, to come here and confess all of this to a stranger.”

“You could not imagine.”

“Desperate men do stupid things.”

“So keep me under house arrest here and make sure I don’t do anything stupid,” Aaron says. “I’ll feed you information about the war, because how useful I can be to someone’s pet political project is, was, and always will be the crux of my personal safety. You can, in return, help me design some form of methodology to investigate the phenomenon of Seers. Rega