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Acts of God

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At first, it was assumed that the hurricane was an act of god. The only one who could direct that much rage at an island full of degenerates unfit for the British Isles was God. But then they learned that wasn’t the case. The only one who could direct that much rage at an island full of degenerates unfit for the British Isle’s was a little slave girl who had seen her mother whipped for the first time.

The island was a mess after the Hurricane, so many homes destroyed, so many people dead, so many lost at sea, and a little girl’s head displayed on the spiked fence at the fort. There had been no saving her; mutation was illegal in the Empire (unless you were in the military) and turning her power against the white slavers (however accidentally) was considered an act of rebellion. All rebels died. It was a mercy that they killed her quickly.

Like all free men on the island Hamilton had to report to the fort every morning for militia drills, in case of insurrection. Now they went there to organize the clean up effort. The first time he passed by the head bloated from the humidity and sun, he vomited into the bushes. He made up a lie about being ill (as he often was) because he couldn’t afford to being seen as a sympathizer.

That night he wrote about the destruction, about the hurricane that destroyed his town, every sentence a metaphor for the needless taking of an innocent life. He thought that maybe his heart would ache less if he got his feelings down on paper. He thought that maybe he would be less scared if he didn’t mention mutation in his essay, if he didn’t hint at the way every sick malevolent thought of the people around him twisted in his gut like dysentery. He was wrong.

But his writing did buy his way out of hell. Those twisted malevolent people paid his way to America. It was part of the Empire, but he had heard rumors of a school there, for people like him. Maybe he would finally find home; he hadn’t had one of his own since his mother died.

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Hamilton ended up in New Jersey, in the winter with out even a coat to his name. He wrapped himself in the old blanket he’d brought with him from home, one of the few things of his mother’s that hadn’t been sold at auction to line the pockets of his adult half-brother because his mother’s “whore-children” didn’t deserve care, despite their childhood. The blanket wasn’t warm enough. He’d never been anywhere this cold before; it sunk into his bones like death. Even so the blanket made him remember the warm arms of his mother and the warm glow of her thoughts when she held him. Sometimes, her thoughts were putrid and stank of rot and illness, but not when she held him; when she held him her thoughts were sunshine on a spring day, all fresh flowers and light.

His former employers had arranged lodging for him with the Livingston’s while he caught up on his education before he could apply to college. He was shivering when he arrived, teeth chattering, wearing linen pants, and wrapped in a threadbare blanket. The Livingstons’ housekeeper almost didn’t let him in when she opened the door.

“I promise, ma’am, they are expecting me.” Something in his manner must have convinced her, because she did let him, looking sideways at this strange boy, and nervously at Mr. Livingston when he entered the room.

“You’re excused, girl.” Mr. Livingston dismissed her in a tone that was too dismissive, even for a paid servant.

It shocked Hamilton that she was a slave. She bore none of the marks a slave of her age would have had on the island. She had all of her fingers, she had no shackle marks on her wrists, she walked as if her feet had never been broken, she moved as if the skin on her back had never regrown tight like a drum. But she was cowed, head bowed, and no pitch in her thoughts, as if this was the normal state of affairs. Mr. Livingston’s thoughts were sour. Hamilton had to work not to let his face pinch like he had swallowed a lemon.

“Welcome,” Mr. Livingston smiled at him and the man’s thoughts brightened, like cotton candy. “I see no one told you what to expect of our winters.”

“No, sir.” Hamilton nodded. “They said it would be cold, but I’ve never known cold like this before.”

“Well, I have some things I can loan you, until we get your allowance from the bank tomorrow.” Hamilton hoped the man had a son, because he would drown in anything of Mr. Livingston’s and the sensation of drowning was becoming all too familiar in recent years.
Then a girl swept into the room, with bright eyes, skin like polished rosewood, and thoughts like Bach’s Sonata No. 1 in G Minor, BWV 1001 IV: Presto. She made him feel like he was floating on top of the waves. Maybe the colonies could live up to his expectations after all.

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The chill of New Jersey’s winter settled into the back of Hamilton’s throat with a persistent tickle. Ironically, it was never at it’s worst when he was out in the cold. It was at it’s worst when he was at school with the spoiled milk of his classmates jealousies or over dinner sitting next to Mr. Livingston with the man’s sour thoughts after a day in court.

He always felt in his best health when with Kitty Livingston. She was light and she was music. He’d steal moments at her side after classes and before his studies; she was a respite from the seriousness of life. He’d never known someone who didn’t let the negativities of the world stick to them. A part of him new it was because she cared for nothing but her own pleasures, but he still felt like she should be worshipped for the rare creature she was. He might be nothing but a momentary plaything for her, but he would revel in the time they had together.
He would never dance with her at parties for more than one song. It would damage her reputation if the unrelated young man living in her house showed too much interest. But he watched her dance. Her thick, silken black hair would billow as she twirled, like her voluminous skirts. It was as if she had her own wind. Sometimes, he thought she would float away.

There were nights that she’d slip into his room after her father was asleep and the press of her lips would banish all thoughts of thoughts from his mind. She kept him on his toes. Someone like no one he had met before, neither innocent love, nor town harlot. She was constant motion, music, and dance. When he left for King’s College, still hiding, but with higher hopes than he’d ever had before, he doubted that he’d ever meet anyone like her ever again.

The first time Hamilton got his hand on Kitty’s thigh, the wind in the room picked up, whipping up Hamilton’s bedcloths and tugging at his hair. In the midst of all of the chaos was Kitty: she looked like a goddess; she looked like she would eat him alive.

“You’re not worried I’ll tell?” He asked her voice caught in his throat.

She just laughed, high and peeling. “The world’s changing, Alex. Haven’t you heard? Or have you been too into those books about dead men they make you boys study? The dead can’t plan a revolution. Who cares about what the empire thinks of me when no one here who matters wants to be a part of the empire.”

Hamilton blinked at her, torn between warring impulses. He wanted to know of what she meant, but he also had a lap full of warm girl. He kissed her. “You’re talking of sedition.”

Kitty’s laugh rang around his head like bells. “I’m talking of war, maybe, if these colonies have the balls.”

It was coming. His opportunity to really prove himself, to fly above his station. He’d dreamed of war since he was 14. He kissed her again, passionately, and there was no more talking of war that night.

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Aaron Burr was an enigma. Hamilton knew it the moment he ran into him in the street. He could not get the color of his thoughts; the man smiled, but Hamilton knew from experience that didn’t mean much with most people. The young man’s advice proved it: he took pride in being inscrutable. He had to be a mutant, but it was the strangest mutation Hamilton had ever seen. It made him want to shake Burr’s secrets out of him.

He felt much more at ease stumbling drunkenly out of the pub with his new friends: Mulligan, Laurens, and Lafayette. He felt an ebullient joy and excitement in them that echoed his own thirst for revolution. He rattled off his thoughts and they followed, interested and understanding as only future brothers-in-arms could. Who was he kidding? After one night, they were already a band of brothers.

Hamilton was so busy basking in the company of these new friends that it took him a few blocks to notice the eyes watching them. It wasn’t until the owl that had watched them with reflective eyes in the dark as they approached it’s tree, gracefully left it’s perch to follow them that Hamilton started paying attention. There was a dog following them. How long had it been following them? It’s tail was wagging and it’s tongue was lolling out of it’s mouth, but it was following them. Did he hear the scurrying of a rat on the cobblestones? He could barely make out the shape in the dark, but there it was. Hamilton shivered.

Mulligan noticed the shiver and followed Hamilton’s eyes. “Laurens, control.” He whispered gently.

Laurens went stock still and blanched. A stray cat came from between two buildings and comfortingly whined around Laurens’ ankles. “I’m sorry.” He whined crestfallen.

“Nothing to be sorry about, man.” Mulligan sighed, putting a big hand on his friend’s shoulder, grounding him. “Just you need to send ‘em on home, before there’s a scene.” He looked at Hamilton’s pale face. Stray animals carried disease in Hamilton’s experience; this many feral things in one place was unsettling.

Laurens took a deep breath and closed his eyes. Nothing happened. He took another deep breath. Nothing happened. He sighed and took another deep breath. Nothing happened. “I don’t know how.” His face look pinched, his eyes tight. It wasn’t manly to cry.
Mulligan gave his shoulder a squeeze. “When you can’t do big start small.”

“Right.” Laurens took another breath. “Right.” And kneeled to pet the cat at his feet. “Hey, thanks for the support, but I need you to go home. You’re going to get me in trouble. Thank you, but you have actual kittens to take care of. I’m not a kitten, I promise. Yes. Okay. Have a good night.” Hamilton’s eyes went wide at Laurens actually holding a conversation with a cat; he looked to see Lafayette’s reaction and the Frenchman had his fist stuffed in his mouth to keep from laughing. The cat curled it’s tail around Laurens’ leg one last time before stalking off.

Laurens beckoned the dog forwards next. He gave the dog a few good scratches behind the ears. “Good boy. Yes, you are a very good boy, but you should go, the butcher should be throwing out the meat parts we don’t eat about now. You should go before the other dogs eat it all.” The dog licked Laurens’ cheek and trotted off.

Laurens’ smiled at the rat. “Off you go too and go that way.” He pointed in the opposite direction of the cat and the dog. “Or else you’ll end up someone’s dinner.” The rat squeaked and scampered off.

Laurens’ stood and raised an eyebrow at the owl, which had settled in the branches of nearby tree. “Let him be. There are lots of other critters you can snack on. Go find yourself one of them.” The owl hooted. “At least I get your nominal agreement.” The owl hooted again and Laurens smiled before sagging against Mulligan. “We wont have anymore followers tonight. I’m sorry.”

“No need to apologize.” Mulligan sighed. “We just need to remember that your control gets rough when you’re drunk.” Mulligan glanced at Hamilton who was working, drunkenly to compose himself. “You have a problem with mutants?”

“No.” Mulligan didn’t look like he believed him, and his thoughts were a storm cloud. It didn’t help Hamilton regain his composure any. Mulligan was very imposing, without booming righteous anger echoing in his head. “I’m an empath.” Hamilton rushed out. “I have a problem with animals, well strays, they can make people sick.”

Laurens frowned, and the tide of self-loathing Hamilton was trying his best not to pick up on was tempered by what Hamilton figured was incredulance or it could just be how tired he was, face and limbs slack. “They weren’t sick. I would know.”

“Okay.” Hamilton nodded. “I believe you.” It didn’t necessarily make him feel better.

Mulligan smiled. “So you said, you’re going to King’s?”


“There are a lot of us there.” Mulligan got an arm around Laurens and started them walking again. Hamilton realized he had no idea where Mulligan was leading them, but he didn’t mind. “None of the faculty that I know of, but there’s a community, underground of course. Good place for you. They’re all a bunch of revolutionaries.” Mulligan grinned at him.

Hamilton put that away to mull over later and instead grasped onto something else. “Us?”

“I’m pretty strong.” Mulligan smirked. “It’s less useful then it seems.”

“Says you.” Laurens butt in from where he leaned bodily against Mulligan for support.

“You’re not that heavy.”

“Et vous?” Hamilton switched to French, to address Lafayette, over the course of the evening he’d picked up that it was much easier for the young man than English.

“Je suis pyro-cinétique,” Lafayette grinned all teeth and pride. Hamilton remembered that mutation wasn’t illegal in France and that it was badge of pride for many of the nobility to have mutants in their employ, but none that he knew of publicly claimed mutations of their own.

“Stop preening.” Mulligan cuffed Lafayette gently with his free hand. “I should still have some stew at home. We should get something into this one.”

They continued to walk and Hamilton did his best to subtly watch Laurens. It was a hard task in the dark, with Laurens leaning on Mulligan sapped by powers and nerves, but Hamilton didn’t need eyes to see that the malaise in his new friend was only growing as they walked.

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Mulligan introduced him to Robert Troup, a mutant at King’s College two years ahead of him. At first, Hamilton was sure that Troup was going to be just as much of an enigma as Burr, but then Troup laughed jolliness coming through in all it’s sincerity.

“You’ve never heard of shielding before have you?” Troup clapped Hamilton on the back. “There are ways to keep people from seeing what you think and feel.” Hamilton frowned; it seemed duplicitous. “It’s not keeping secrets. It’s polite. I’m not strong enough a telepath to get a read on anything but your surface thoughts, but the nape of your neck how long has it been sore?”

His nape wasn’t sore. Wait. It was. “It’s been sore for so long I don’t even think about it anymore.”

“And you get a white hot pain behind your eyes when you’ve been around too many people for too long.” Troup continued.


“If everyone knew how to shield or you knew how to shield you’d be more comfortable, but people aren’t born knowing how to shield, so if you can shield it’s polite,” Troup grinned, “plus it literally saves you a pain in the neck.”

Hamilton couldn’t help smiling, but his eyes darted to Mulligan.

Mulligan rubbed the back of his neck and Hamilton didn’t need to be an empath to know he was embarrassed. “It’s really hard to learn to shield if you’re not a telepath or empath or something like that. I’m working on it.” He shrugged.

Troup genially shoved Mulligan, who didn’t budge an inch. “He says he can’t shield but I’ve never met anyone better at layering thoughts and diverting attention away from thoughts they don’t want you to see.”

Hamilton raised an eyebrow at Mulligan, who shrugged.

Hamilton stayed for Troup’s study group that night, that met in Mulligan’s parlor. They started the evening by commiserating about awful professors (“Professor Wadsworth spent two hours lecturing on the mutant’s responsibility to crown and country”), then they moved on to critiquing each other’s school essays and ended by separating into groups with similar powers to work on improvement and mentoring.
Hamilton ended up in a group with Troup and Laurens. Laurens was seething over something. His anger was acrid tendrils of smoke and Hamilton was almost having as hard of a time blocking it out as Laurens was keeping it in. Hamilton wasn’t sure he wanted to block it out though. He’d felt drawn to Laurens ever since the first night they met. Not only were their ideals the same but he was intriguing. The care he held for others, even animals was not something Hamilton saw often, neither was the amount of disdain the young man held for himself (though there was an amount of self-hatred that Hamilton had dispared to learn was almost endemic to the mutant population).

“What’s wrong?” Hamilton found himself asking. Troup smiled fondly at Hamilton’s care even though it was derailing the point of the exercise.

“The accounts of my father’s firm came in for the year.” Laurens told him with quiet control. “In the last year he has traded in nearly nine hundred enslaved lives.” His freckles stood out starkly against his angry red cheeks. “My schooling is paid for by the blood of innocents.”

“You are not going to drop out.” Troup sighed and Laurens fixed him with a glare. “Work on your shielding.”

“I can’t shield you and them at the same time.” Laurens jerked his head to the window, there was an unkindness of ravens in the tree outback. “And what else am I to do?”

Troup opened his mouth but Hamilton stopped him. “You can’t change the world by dropping out. You’ll need your education if you’re to change his ways. I was planning on writing an anonymous essay for the paper on the subject of the slave trade. Would you like to collaborate?”

“Yes. We should start now.” Laurens smiled and went to grab his lap desk.

Troup rolled his eyes. “We’re supposed to be working on your control!” He called to Lauren’s back. Then he grinned at Hamilton. “Thank fuck. You’re a miracle worker.”

Mulligan wasn’t there when the next study group started, even though it was in his home. Laurens read a rough portion of their essay for peer review and Troup clucked.

“If that’s a rough section I’d hate to see the polished parts; it’s like to make me cry with despair. I’ll never be that eloquent.”

Mulligan got home while they were working on their powers. He smelled of gunpowder and beer; his shirt was mussed. “If anyone asks I was here all night, boys.”

Mulligan wasn’t the only group member to use the group as an alibi. No one ever asked where anyone had been, even when Lafayette came back smelling of smoke and ash or when a ship or two was found to have sunk to the bottom of the harbor in the morning or when all of the Redcoat’ food supplies rotted overnight. To all outsiders the group had perfect attendance, they were all just so dedicated to their educations.

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Hamilton didn’t think about the implications of being a political dissident at King’s College until he was walking to campus with Troup after lunch one day and felt Troup’s excellently maintained shield on his surface thoughts drop and Hamilton got a rush of wild surprise. Hamilton looked at his friend, shocked but Troup just smiled, unease seeping from him, as he made pointed eyes at the British soldier at the campus gate.

It was a fucking imperial telepath.

Hamilton wanted to snarl that the man was a traitor to his kind. Seeking out fellow mutants for conscription was something Hamilton could never fathom doing. Mutant soldiers were slaves. They may have been paid and had the ability to shop and own property, but they could never leave. They could only have children with whom the government said, when the government said. They lived in the military baracks. Hamilton could have spit.

Instead he bumped genially into Troup. “Get it together.” He started reviewing a part of Plato’s dialogue on Laws, that he was to recite in rhetoric class the next week.

“Did you do Plato’s laws in your rhetoric class?” Hamilton asked.

“Yeah. Why?”

“What part? I’m doing Book I as Cleinas for class.” Hamilton grimaced. “I need to practice.”

“I was the Athenian Stranger.” Troup offered eyes wild.

“Great. You can help me.” Hamilton grinned.

“If I can remember it.” Troup sighed.

“Just try.” Hamilton shrugged. “It’s not going to hurt. Um, it starts: ‘A God, Stranger; in very truth a, God: among us Cretans he is said to have been Zeus, but in Lacedaemon, whence our friend here comes, I believe they would say that Apollo is their lawgiver: would they not, Megillus?’ And then Megillus says ‘Certainly’”. Hamilton looked at Troup expectantly.

“Um, ‘And do you, Cleinias, believe, as Homer tells, that every’ fuck, I’m awful at remembering numbers. It’s fucking arbitrary.” Troup groaned as they passed the soldier.

“Try. I need your help.” Hamilton didn’t actively think about the wretched feeling he got from the soldier, but it didn’t stop it from rolling over him like nauseau.

“Um, ‘every ninth year?’” Troup sighed. “Okay, ‘every ninth year Minos went to converse with his Olympian sire, and was inspired by him to make laws for your cities?’”

The young men continued to walk past, but then before Hamilton could stop himself he was throwing up in the grass, the stew he had bought with his allowance coming up in thick brown chunks.

“Oh shit!” Troup pulled Hamilton’s hair away from his face. “Are you okay?” Troup put his hand to Hamilton’s suddenly hot forehead. “You’re on fire. I’m going to take you home. You better not have yellow fever. If you die on me, I’ll kill you.”

Troup let Hamilton lean on him as they walked back past the soldier. Hamilton almost vomited again when they passed the man and his foul mind.

Neither Troup nor Mulligan could get Hamilton to lay down when they got to Mulligan’s place, where they shared a room.
“Not until I know everyone’s okay.” Hamilton mumbled as Mulligan put a wet cloth on his forehead.

Throughout the afternoon, members of their group stumbled in as they were able to escape campus without attention.
By six they were still missing four: Laurens, Lafayette, Jowett, and Conall.

At six-thirty, Lafayette opened the door looking every inch the dissaffected noble and closed it looking wild-eyed and hunted. “Ils les ont emmenés. Les salauds les ont emmenés. Ils ont pris Laurens et Conall et Jowett. Je ne savais pas quoi faire. Je ne pouvais pas les faire sortir sans se faire attraper. Ils les ont emmenés. Qu'est-ce qu'on fait?”

Hamilton’s head jerked up at that, from the bucket he’d been leaning over. Everyone looked at him, he was the only one who spoke French. Well, besides Laurens. “They took them.” Hamilton slurred.

And Mulligan swore. “Do you know where they are?”

Lafayette took a deep breath. “I hear. Someone. Say Fort Hardy.”

“That’s a long way away.” Troup groaned.

“They can’t have left yet.” Mulligan pulled out a map. “They’re probably at the jail for now. We need to get them out before they leave for the fort.”

As Mulligan pulled a map of the city out of his desk, the door opened again.

It was Laurens.

Hamilton heard someone gasp. It might have been him.

Laurens’ shirt was ripped. There were stains on his pants, brown, possibly drying blood, possibly something else. The stains on his shirt were definitely blood. From his face, which was a mess, bloody, purpling and swollen.

“How’d you get away?” Troup asked what they were all thinking.

“They let me go.” Laurens’ response was deadpan.

“Mais? Je ne comprende pas.” Lafayette gaped.

“I have other secrets besides mutation to keep them busy with.” Laurens snapped. He glanced at the map. “They took the others to Fort Hardy hours ago. It’s no use.” He trudged up to his room.

“They probably wanted to know things about his father.” Mulligan supplied an answer as he gathered bandages and a clean wet cloth, before following Laurens to his room.

“I didn’t know his shielding was good enough to take all that.” Troup whistled. “Good for him.”

Hamilton looked after his friends, something not quite feeling right, but then he was throwing up again and the thought left his mind.

Chapter Text

Hamilton kept his bucket in his lap the next day as they planned how they might get Conall and Jowett back. They didn’t want their friends conscripted but they were also worried about being found out. The telepaths they had in the city weren’t strong enough to dig too deep and Conall had probably been caught because while his shields were the strongest they were the most obvious. It wasn’t like Burr whose mind didn’t even seem to be there, you knew Conall was there but trying to get any read on him was like trying to get a grip on wet glazed pottery or glass, the expensive kind without the grit, some of it had come through where he worked in St. Croix but he hadn’t dared touch it; it looked slick like blood. So while the telepaths in the city hadn’t found out about their group of rabble-rousers, who knew what was waiting for their friends at Fort Hardy.

“They’re probably just keeping them there until they have a good time to send them to England for indoctrination.” Laurens offered. “Everyone knows they move goods through Fort Hardy.”

“Nous faisons enculer.” Lafayette swore.

Laurens sighed and then winced as the action pulled at something sore. “No I mean, the big guns, any really powerful telepath is probably already in Boston, and they’re not sending them there. They probably think it’s harder to escape from Hardy, less people around.”

Troup frowned. “But doesn’t Captain Schuyler live near there? It’s rumored that he’s for the revolution.”

“Just because he might be for the revolution, doesn’t mean he’ll be willing to break out two mutants, especially not ones he doesn’t even know.” Hamilton spat.

Mulligan shrugged. “Doesn’t matter how he feels about mutants; he can’t want the British to have anything else they could use as a weapon.”

Troup nodded, but something about it seemed off to Hamilton.

It was Lafayette that spoke, slowly and clearly. He wanted to make sure he was understood. “It is easier to disable or destroy your enemies weapons than to steal them.”

Laurens swore.

“Maybe, we shouldn’t try to contact Captain Schuyler then.” Troup whispered.

Hamilton wasn’t sure. He didn’t know what kind of weapon he could be, but he knew he’d rather be a disabled weapon then a weapon in the hands of the British. He could see his own sentiment reflected in Mulligan’s eyes.

His friends were sad and angry and there were waves of shame and guilt rolling of Laurens; Hamilton thought he understood, his friend had come so close to sharing Conall’s and Jowett’s fate and had somehow escaped it. There was also a strong undercurrent of fear in the room. It was the first time that they had ever really been afraid in this whole endeavor, so it made sense that Hamilton was just now realizing that not all of the fear was coming from his friends. There was a streak of pure terror in the room. Hamilton let it lead his eyes to a corner shrouded in shadows that had no business being in Mulligan’s house mid-afternoon.

There was a boy in the corner, one that Hamilton hadn’t noticed there when he insisted on stumbling down from the room he shared with Troup to help in their planning. The boy was maybe 15, it was hard to tell with how dark it was in the corner and how he was hunched in on himself. He had smooth, dark skin and high cheekbones and his knees were pulled up to his chest. There was a bowl of the soup Mulligan had made for lunch at his feet, untouched.

“I’m not sure you know this, but there is a boy in the corner.” Hamilton continued to stare.

Mulligan grimaced. “His name is Cato. At least that’s what the man who sold him to me said. I gave him some soup told him to make himself at home.” The rest of the group looked at him shocked. “What was I supposed to do?” Mulligan asked them. “He’s obviously a mutant, though the man selling him didn’t seem to notice, but with the soldiers around I couldn’t to risk it. I can’t let him go, not yet. Not when there are slavers prowling the street for anyone with the look of a runaway.”

Lafayette hissed. Everyone knew that ‘the look of a runaway’ meant anyone who looked like they didn’t have anyone who cared about them or that the people who cared about them didn’t have the money to put up much of a fight. “How much?” Lafayette asked while pulling out his purse, “Purchase would be full pay, yes?” Lafayette started counting out money. Mulligan looked like he didn’t want to except it but Lafayette was right, buying the boy had probably taken Mulligan’s full week pay from his apprenticeship.

As Lafayette counted the boy whimpered. Mulligan was kneeling in front of him in an instant, big as Mulligan was he still dwarfed the boy despite how small he was trying to make himself. “Hey, you’re not going anywhere.” Mulligan soothed softly. “I just really didn’t have the money to pay for you but I had to get you out of there so he’s giving me a loan to help me until I come into some more money.” Mulligan looked down at the soup. “Aren’t you hungry?” The boy nodded. “Let me heat this up on the stove, it’s gone cold. I’ll get you some bread while it heats up.” The boy looked at Mulligan with wide eyes, full blind panic obviously warring with hunger.

When Mulligan took the soup to the kitchen Troup followed him, looking green.

Mulligan returned with bread a moment later and the boy ate it in chunks like a starved dog as Mulligan went back to the kitchen to confer with Troup.

If anything the mood in the house had turned even more sour.

Hamilton threw up again.

Chapter Text

Hamilton published three more essays about the horrors of slavery under the name Publius in the next two weeks. He published two essays about the plight of mutants in the empire as well. He published those under the name Haud Domitius. Anyone paying attention knew who Publius was by now, especially after his friends had cheered his takedown of that Seabury fellow. And Haud Domitius had a cheeky meaning for the endeavor: Not at all having been tamed. Haud Domitius was a mutant and proud of it, something Hamilton couldn’t be sure he could say of himself.

Things at Mulligan’s were still tense. Their spirits had taken a beating when they realized they had no way to get their friends back. The homes of two British officers had caught fire since they were taken. Hamilton inwardly applauded the restraint of the arsonists, especially since both officers were single men and neither was home at the time of the fire. Cato was barely talking, still, but he’d stopping hiding from them so much. He was still terrified and he did lock himself in the pantry where Mulligan had set up a cot for him at night.

All of the rooms at Mulligan’s were taken and while several of them had offered to share quarters with the boy, Mulligan had insisted that Cato have his own space. So the pantry it was.

Mulligan was stewing because he had to come up with something for the boy to do. You couldn’t just buy a slave and then have them do nothing all day; people would start to talk. He wanted to teach the boy to read and write, but he didn’t know how to do that until the boy started talking to him.

Laurens thought Mulligan was being ridiculous. “He’s a slave. He was born a slave. He has skills, just find out what they are.” Mulligan just clucked at that and went back to fixing the loose button on Lafayette’s coat.

Laurens sighed, annoyed by Mulligan’s lack of response, and went to find the boy himself. He found Cato in the kitchen starring at the sandwich Mulligan had given him at noon.

“Just eat the sandwich, Cato. It’s not poisoned.” Laurens sighed, annoyance waining some at the sight. He was sure the boy found them very strange.

“Yessir.” Cato gulped as he warily picked up the sandwich. His eyes on Laurens the whole time. Cato’s voice had been slow, the type of slow that reminded Laurens of home. It was odd, southern slaves were rarely sold north.

“Did you work in the fields?” Laurens asked. Cato opened his mouth to answer but Laurens shushed him. “Keep eating, shaking your head yes or no will suffice.”

Cato shook his head no.

“So you were in the house?”

Cato shook his head yes.

“Did you cook?”

Cato shook his head no.

“Did you clean?”

Cato twitched, but shook neither yes nor no.

“Cato?” Laurens inquired.

Cato swallowed a mouthful of sandwich. “I used to help sweep when I was small.”

Laurens nodded, small menial tasks were normal for slave children though it made it Laurens want to scream, when Laurens was small he had had lessons and time to play in the garden. “Well, that’s a start. What did you do when you got older?”

Cato did not speak and did not meet Laurens’ eyes. He put his sandwich down and gripped the table in front of him.

Laurens eyes caught on Cato’s hands. A slave wore their work on their hands. The way callused or pruned or scarred. If Cato wouldn’t tell him what he did, his hands would. “Give me your hand.”

Laurens picked up Cato’s hand with no resistance. The first thing Laurens noticed was that his skin was dry, obviously unused to the change in climate. Laurens made a note that the boy might need a balm once winter really kicked in, to keep his skin from cracking and bleeding the way Laurens’ own did. The second thing Laurens noticed was that the Cato’s hand was completely smooth, not one callous to be felt. It was odd, because Cato was definitely a slave with the way he carried himself, the way he looked at them; this boy was not a free child kidnapped off the streets and sold miles from home. He would have said. He would have taken up space, but Cato worked not to. Laurens couldn’t think of why a slave would have such smooth hands. Then he noticed that the boy’s hand was trembling and Laurens’ stomach dropped.

“What did you do?” Laurens asked as he carefully laid Cato’s hand on the table.

“What I was told.” Cato whispered at his hands. Outside a dog started to howl.

Laurens stood. “I’m sorry for bothering you. You should. You should finish your sandwich.”

When Laurens made it back to Mulligan’s workroom every dog in the neighborhood was yowling.

Mulligan grimaced at him. “I told you to leave it alone. I’m handling it.”

Laurens ignored him. “The longer you don’t give that boy a proper job, the more scared he’ll be.” He snapped. He looked around Mulligan's work room. “You are going to teach him to sew. What kind of tailor doesn’t have an assistant?”

“An apprentice.” Mulligan managed, head reeling with guilt and with the shock of Laurens’ snapping at him.

“You need an assistant.” Laurens’ repeated with an eery calm as a cat started to join in the cacophony outside. “And I need to find Lafayette. He’s the only one of you that’s a half decent sparring partner.”

“In his room.” Mulligan passed Laurens Lafayette’s coat. “Take him this, I doubt he’ll leave without it.” Lauren’s grabbed the coat and swept out of the room. “Don’t run him through!” Mulligan called to Laurens’ retreating back.