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At least three men have been in his tent that night to complain of the variable Washington has no control of. The water is undrinkable, the heat is unbearable, men are sick. Washington knows every grievance of his camp, and Hamilton writes letters to families and to Congress airing those grievances.

But Washington is the one who’s forced to listen to them, as well as the various critiques of his methods - fair and unfair alike.

“Sir,” Hamilton says from his desk, perched in the corner. Washington forgets him sometimes, his presence almost always just silence or the scratching of his pen. “Are you quite alright?”

Washington thinks of the sweltering, uncommon heat, the tension on his back, the aching in his thighs from riding.

“Quite,” he says, voice clipped.

Hamilton chuckles.

“Perhaps,” Hamilton says, abandoning his quill and paper and eyeing the general as he steps across the tent and hovers near Washington, “We could find an agreeable way to relieve your irritability?”

Washington raises an eyebrow but says nothing as Hamilton continues to smile at him.

“The Baron has taught me...techniques. I think I’ve become quite adept at relief, sir.”

Washington stills. “You learned from von Steuben?” he says, slowly. The implication hangs between them, and after a pause, Hamilton nods.

“If you’d allow me to show you, I’m sure I could convince you of its usefulness.”

“Then show me,” Washington says. He knows his voice is a little too deep, almost a growl, but he finds it hard to focus on that when Hamilton is now collapsing onto his knees, pushing between Washington’s legs, reaching out to tug at his waistcoat and the buttons and straps of his breeches.

Washington pulls Hamilton closer when he’s spent inside Hamilton’s hot mouth, fumbles with sweat-slick palms to get Hamilton’s cock out. Hamilton lets out a breathy sigh, mutters “Sir,” with his hands on Washington’s shoulders.

Washington fists Hamilton’s cock despite the slight resistance from his aide, mutters something about returning to favor. He glances at Hamilton’s face; he’s biting his lip and staring down between their bodies. He’s teetering awkwardly in Washington’s lap, shivering with each stroke of Washington’s fingers. He isn’t so skilled as Hamilton, but he makes quick work of him anyway; Hamilton comes with a tight and quiet breath, spilling directly into Washington’s palm.

They move away from each other, Hamilton turning his back on the general as he adjusts. Washington watches, silent, as Hamilton wipes his mouth and sucks absently on his thumb before looking at Washington and nodding.

“Sir,” he says, his voice verging on hoarse.


Nothing else is shared between them.


Hamilton steps into the tent with his back stiff, hands at his side, sweat on his brow. The air is almost soggy with the rain that refuses to fall, his hair falling loose from its usually tight ribbon. Washington looks up from his desk and stands.

“Come in, son,” he says, and with almost no hesitation, Hamilton says, “Sir, all due respect, but I would prefer you address me otherwise.”

Washington knows he cannot lead without appearing as a person himself, one with his men. It is his closeness with his aides - the intimacy of his company that he can provide, on the rare occasion - that makes people trust him. He cannot be a general without both issue of command and issue of his men.

So, he nods. “Hamilton,” he says instead. “Come in,” he repeats.


They bicker most days. Sometimes it’s the heat; it’s been because of the cold, too and by the time October sweeps in, it can be both. It’s easy to become irritable, and the general only blames himself to a point. There’s tension in the camp, and he misses home, he misses things being quiet, he misses being alone.

Hamilton plays the buffer between Washington and his more easily intimidated soldiers well.

“Sir,” Hamilton says, his voice almost a snap with the hardness that’s seeping into it. “You can’t expect me to just sit back and watch your folly unspoken. The men need someone to lead at your side - not just someone with status, someone who -”

“And you’re going to suggest yourself, Hamilton?” He cuts his aide off and Hamilton bites his lip, perhaps resisting another clipped response. “You’re more trouble than you’re worth, sometimes.”

He doesn’t say it with any specific intent, but he watches the effect it has on Hamilton, who clenches his fists at his side and makes a guttural sound in the back of his throat that barely crosses the tent.

“Alexander,” Washington says, letting out a breath as his anger dissipates. There’s a chilly breeze that night, and though Washington finds it blissful release from the sticky nights, he still shivers at the cold starting to settle in his bones. “Don’t mistake my appreciation of all you do,” he says, watching as Hamilton’s eyes turn heated. “Every letter you write absolutely proves your worth, and we...we need that, here, now. It’s the most difficult time of the war…”

“I see,” Hamilton says. “Is it really my life you’re worried about losing, sir?”

‘We need you alive,” Washington says, shaking his head. It should be obvious. “You’re invaluable.”

“Of course. General.” With that, Hamilton sinks directly back behind his desk, though he avoids looking at Washington for the rest of that evening.


Hamilton swallows.

Washington’s cock twitches and he presses his hips back. Hamilton takes the cue and slides off of Washington, licking his lips.

Washington has moments when even he cannot control his very base urges, and once Hamilton has tucked Washington into his breeches, he reaches down, cups the back of Hamilton’s neck, and draws him closer.

They brush mouths awkwardly, Hamilton’s fingers resting on Washington’s thighs before he draws back.

Hamilton laughs as he pushes himself to his feet, drags his thumb over his chin before sucking on the digit and wiping his mouth with the back of his hand. Washington swallows, the bitter taste of himself lingering on his lips and tongue. He wants to chase Hamilton’s mouth, grab him again and tug that boy - he’s not even twenty-three yet, and Washington’s stomach sinks and his neck starts to ache - into his lap, kiss him until they both need to gasp for breath.

“Sir,” Hamilton says, still refusing to turn his eyes back on the general as he brushes the dirt off of the knees of his breeches. “I don’t believe that quite suits me.” He says it like a joke, a soft jab at Washington perhaps, who in turns says nothing. He only stares as Hamilton readjusts his hair, combing his fingers through messy strands and carefully wrapping it back up with the ribbon. “Good night.”

“It’s cold,” Washington says. December is bitter; it’s prone to light dustings of snow and freezing rain, no matter where they march. Hamilton turns his gaze to Washington. “You could stay. We could sit by the fire.”

Hamilton chuckles and sighs, detaching himself again, busying himself with buttoning every button of his jacket. “I appreciate it, sir, but I...promised Laurens we would play cards.”

Washington licks his lips. “Will Lafayette and von Steuben be there?” he says, making sure there’s a lilt in his voice. Hamilton smiles.

“It’s nothing you should concern yourself with, sir.” Hamilton pauses. “Though perhaps they will be. I hadn’t thought much of it.”

They’re both quiet, until Hamilton looks at him again and nods. “Good night, sir.”


It’s mid-February with a roof over their heads, when Washington admits he wants Alexander in such a way it digs shame into his chest.

“Ah,” Hamilton says, turning from his desk. He brushes his fingers across the chair, perhaps with a purpose of distracting Washington’s gaze, before he sits on the bed. He spreads his legs in such a way that Washington sees men do in taverns. “Whatever you need, sir, you know that.”

Washington isn’t sure he does, but he nods anyway, approaches Hamilton and rests his hands on his shoulders. Hamilton falls back against the bed with a laugh, and Washington doesn’t kiss him, although there is stirring inside him wishing for it. Instead he gets Hamilton completely naked, strokes his hands over Hamilton’s smooth skin, mouths over places where he has scars.

He can hear Hamilton’s heart beating and smiles, giving himself the pleasure of mouthing Hamilton’s cock. There are nights when Hamilton gets on his knees in front of his general, sucks him down - sometimes for minutes, sometimes for what feels like hours - and then leaves before Washington can get his own hands or mouth around his aide. To have him like this - soft gasps and indulgent moans - feels like a treat in itself.

So Washington makes things stay slow, teases Hamilton as best as he can. Perhaps he doesn’t have the experience of von Steuben or the youth and determination and strength of lungs as John Laurens, but Hamilton seems to fall apart under his tongue, the press of his fingers, the hollowing of his cheeks.

He tries to copy his favorite trick of Hamilton’s - it’s the way he slides his mouth as far down as he can, his throat relaxing, his tongue warm and enveloping Washington’s cock before he slides back, careful to only just barely let his teeth graze. Washington can’t quite do it with the same ease as Hamilton, tears pricking at his eyes, his throat too tight, but Hamilton still groans and scrapes his fingers across Washington’s head, arching his back.

It’s perfect.

Washington slicks himself with oil (a rarity, he keeps a small bottle to himself, he never was quite sure if it would come in handy but he’s glad he’s kept it, looking at Hamilton, who takes his fingers so well and so easily, God - God, who taught him this?) and gently rolls Hamilton onto his stomach.

By the hitch in Alexander’s breath, the way his fingers clench in the sheets, the position is appreciated.

Washington is tired enough to fuck him slow, enjoy the drag of his cock. Hamilton shudders underneath him but performs just as well, holding himself up on his elbow, knees spread, taking and muttering, whispering, occasionally begging.

Washington gives everything he has, and he’s amazed when he bites down on Alexander’s shoulder, fists Alexander’s cock, and feels him clench and shiver as he gasps and comes. It doesn’t take more than a few thrusts, lazy and for Washington, well-deserved, for him to spill and sink deep into Alexander, who sighs again.

Washington doesn’t exactly know what he expected.

Hamilton’s eyes are half-lidded, his face flushed, an arm thrown over his eyes. There’s a stain on the sheets that Washington thinks will be a pain to get out, but he can’t concern himself with that as he watches Hamilton’s chest heave, his mouth finally twitching with a grin.

Washington allows himself that peaceful moment, brushing fingers through Hamilton’s hair as he dozes.

He only has a few minutes of it before Hamilton stirs again, cursing under his breath. He looks at Washington for a moment and bites his raw, reddened bottom lip, glancing away and hauling himself out of the bed.

“Alexander,” Washington says, sighing.

“There’s work to be done,” Hamilton says, dressing.

“It’s the middle of the night, Alex,” Washington murmurs. Sleep is already approaching his tired and aching body. He wishes Hamilton would stay.

“Work that’s been long-ignored,” Alexander says, a quick and quiet lie. He doesn’t look at the general. “Sir, sleep well. I’ll see you bright and early in the morning, I’m sure.”

He doesn’t argue.


He receives the first letter from Elizabeth Schuyler - Hamilton - in late May. She’s married to Alexander now. She is young; friendly with Martha, from the couple of times they had met.

Her letters betray a sense of hopelessness, and a fear that her husband will disappear in the war.

Occasionally, her words are misspelled. Washington traces his fingers across the parchment and the poor spelling, smiling at the words.

She begs him to send her husband home, though with more careful phrasing.

She’s just found out she’s pregnant with their first child.

She knows he won’t quit on his own.

Hamilton, just the other week, again begged him for command.

He tucks the letter aside. Washington needs Hamilton. He’s valuable. Losing him now could have dire consequences.

So he stays quiet, pens Eliza a short letter telling her that he will send Hamilton home as soon as he can, when the time is right. For now - he is too needed.


Laurens is full of fire and a willingness to die for the smallest of things.

Hamilton carries that same passion with him, much to Washington’s frustration.

Washington, atop his horse and commanding soldiers across the field, keeps one eye on John Laurens, who cocks his gun and just barely misses a shot from a much quicker redcoat. Hamilton is not far behind his friend, laughing, gasping, shouting and ducking. Washington tries to focus; he is not here to watch two boys fall, nor to watch them succeed.

He cuts down British soldiers, and they don’t win the battle. Washington isn’t confident they’ll win the war, either, and he retires that night with ribs bruised from where he fell from his horse.

Hamilton enters the tent with scrapes on his face, his expression worn but his eyes bright. A fear curls in Washington’s stomach. Deeper cuts, a shot to Hamilton’s ribs, and the man - only twenty-three now, barely older than a boy, he could be Washington's son, what if Hamilton would have a son? - would have never even known his wife was pregnant.

“Sir,” Hamilton says. “Laurens has been shot.”

Washington doesn’t rise from his chair. “I see,” is all he says, slow as he watches Hamilton twitch. “Is he getting medical care?”

Hamilton hesitates. There’s something strange about his gaze, a flicker of panic hidden behind a layer of hardened solitude. Washington shifts and leans forward on his desk.

“Yes, and he’ll be fine. Thankfully.” Hamilton pauses, dragging his eyes down and away from Washington, to his own hands.

“What do you need, son?” Washington slips into old habits easily, and though Hamilton looks at him and frowns, he doesn’t offer any outward resistance.

“Do you have any other meetings?”

Washington frowns. “No.” Hamilton is still, but he stares at Washington. “I asked to be left uninterrupted tonight. Although, perhaps that news hasn’t been received by everyone in camp quite yet.”

Hamilton flicks his gaze back up to Washington and sighs. “Sir,” he says, hesitating again and shaking his head. “No, I heard, that’s - I hoped I could...speak with you, knowing there would be…” He trails off.

“You’re perhaps the only soldier in this camp who would disobey my direct order,” Washington muses, though his voice is gentle - he can’t ignore the affection laced in his own words. He chides Hamilton, if only because it’s what’s expected of him. “What do you need?”

“It’s been a long day.”

Washington laughs. “A drink?”

“Perhaps not.”

Washington stares at Hamilton for a moment. “Alexander,” he says, focusing on keeping the warmth in his own voice. He motions for Hamilton to cross the small space in the tent.

There are some commands even Hamilton is prone to follow.

Alexander still avoids kissing him, though there are moments when he breaks, when he presses himself tight against Washington’s neck and clings, back and chest slick with sweat, rocking his hips.

Sensible or not, they find themselves collapsed on the floor, and Washington doesn’t move. Hamilton’s arm is slung around Washington’s chest and his head is in the crook of his general’s shoulder. They stay like that for moments, ignoring the mess, the ache, the scrapes and bruises and the underlying fear that always seems to follow tense, hard-fought battles.

“I’m sorry,” Hamilton says, stirring and pulling away from Washington. He stands, stumbles a little, shakes his head. His hair is dirty, and so is his face, and Washington sighs as Hamilton scrambles for his clothes, breathless.

“Don’t apologize, Alexander.”

Hamilton laughs and looks down at Washington, who pushes himself onto his elbows. He’s - too old for this, he notes, his neck cracking awkwardly.

“Coming here was a mistake,” Hamilton says, waving an arm. He looks away when he says, “I never meant to make this - it’s not your responsibility.”

“Do I ever do anything I don’t want to?” Washington says. His voice is gravelly, exhausted, and he sits up more completely, watching Hamilton pace.

Hamilton shoots him another sharp look, a frown, nose wrinkled. “Ugh,” he mutters. “It was stupid. I shouldn’t have come to you.”

“It seems mutually beneficial on all parts, Alexander.”

“Stop,” Hamilton says, his voice tight. He shakes his head again and Washington stands, teeters slightly but uses the chair to leverage himself. “Just...I have to go.”

“Alright,” Washington says, though the word burns as he says it.


Eliza’s second letter is closer to real pleading, and Washington sits as he stares at it, thinks about penning another response. What more could he tell her?

That perhaps she is right - Hamilton would be safer at home?

He could have died; that’s why he refuses to relinquish Hamilton command. There’s nothing that makes Washington sense that the decision is badly made. Seniority does matter - Hamilton doesn’t have the experience. He’s foolish, just as foolish as Laurens, and Laurens isn’t there anymore, he’s away and Hamilton writes him letters and seems to write to his wife too, but his wife must not be begging him to come home himself.

Eliza knows Alexander well, Washington decides.

She hopes the baby is a boy, though it makes little difference to her. She confides certain private worries to Washington - perhaps because his responses are short, unemotional. She misses the tenderness of her husband’s smile. She’s afraid to tell him or her condition; would he just feel guilty? She feels she knows him - even in this short time, she understands why he needs to serve.

Washington thinks of Martha’s children. He thinks of Lafayette, young - younger than even Alexander.

He thinks of Alexander, bleeding out on the field, or drowning in a storm out at sea, or freezing to death like he almost did that winter. Perhaps catching malaria, yellow fever, with no proper doctors to care for him. Amputated, losing blood, his eyes rolling back into his head.

He doesn’t write Eliza a response, the second time.


Washington opens his eyes slowly as Hamilton throws his naked legs out of the bed and then stands, reaching for his breeches, his ruffled white shirt, his waistcoat, all scattered across the floor. “There’s no need to be in such a rush. It’s late,” Washington says. He’s letting the laziness seep into his brain, images of home, the vast stretch of the Potomac, the sunset bleeding over the river, sweet blues and oranges in early June.

“And there’s no reason to stay,” Hamilton says as he pulls on stockings, then tugs his breeches up to his hips. Washington rolls onto his stomach.



“I don’t invite you to my bed with the direct intent of sending you packing immediately afterwards.” Now Hamilton tucks his shirt in before buttoning and tying the laces. He doesn’t exactly look complete, and he’s moving too quickly, shoving his arms into his jacket so everything will undoubtedly wrinkle.

“What purpose would it serve for me to remain, sir? It’s much more sensible this way.” He doesn’t even spare a look over his shoulder, though Washington can see the slightest smirk on Hamilton’s face in the candlelight.

Washington turns again to lay flat on his back, looking instead at the ceiling. “Do you have plans? Someone else who needs your attention?”

“You’re not the only person in camp I spend time with.” Hamilton chuckles.

“Your Laurens?”

Hamilton is silent, though only for a brief moment. “Our Laurens. John doesn’t belong to any one singular person, sir.”

“Perhaps you wish it weren’t so.” There’s tightness in the words, something he can’t seem to force back. Hamilton stills before adjusting his buttons once more and standing.

“Do you claim to understand my motives?” He turns around, face glowing in candlelight as he peers down at the general. “I hope not.”

“Stay. If only for a few moments.” Washington can already feel Hamilton slipping away; if he had spoken sooner, he doubts the outcome would have been any different. Still - he grips the sheets, hopes perhaps, that Hamilton will dip down and touch him once more.

“Sir,” Alexander says instead, catching Washington’s gaze.


“Good night, sir.”


Hamilton’s presence isn’t unexpected, but Washington still sighs when he enters the tent, anyway.

“General,” Hamilton snaps, already pacing circles in front of Washington’s desk. “Charles Lee? Charles Lee?” He spits the name, despicable to Hamilton’s mind.

“He has the title, the experience; it makes sense to give him command.”

Hamilton huffs out a sharp laugh, rolling his eyes. He crosses his arms over his chest. It’s early June - his brow is sweaty, and his face is red with the heat and the anger.

“It makes sense,” he repeats, a sharp hiss. “What, because you’re afraid of your band of critics? Appease them with an idiot like Lee -”

“Watch your tone, young man.”

Hamilton pauses, but his glower is no less dark.

“Lee will get us killed, if not worse,” he says, tongue still razor edged. Washington’s head throbs, a familiar ache cutting through all his other concerns. The anger mixes with the fear, the admiration, and he stands. He doesn’t tower over Hamilton, who has always had his shoulders set in such a way where he doesn’t appear small, even in comparison to taller figures.

“All due respect,” Hamilton growls, “but you’re making a fool’s decisions.”

“Don’t make me question where you belong in this ranking, Hamilton.” He sets his tone to dangerous, warning Hamilton to take a deep breath, hesitate for once in his life.

“What - do you think this will appease them?” Hamilton splays his arms out, shaking his head and laughing, though the laughter is cold. “What is this all for? Who are you serving, Washington?”


Hamilton quivers a little at that, drops his hands and breaks eye contact. “Sir,” he says, and his voice seems to shake now. “You will regret this decision. I don’t need to be able to see the future to know that.”

“Get out, Hamilton.”

“Sir…” Softness now.

“Leave. I’m done talking to you about this.”


They don’t touch each other - hardly speak - for a good week and a half.

The lack of a presence, the lack of communication between Washington and his trusted aide, spreads across camp quickly.

Perhaps Washington should have known they’d meet each other behind a bar, Hamilton’s mouth tasting of cheap liquors, in the wicked heat of mid-June.

There’s anger in his kisses (and God, Washington can’t help but want those kisses to last forever, even as Hamilton drags his teeth along Washington’s bottom lip, sucks bruises into tender, thin skin) and Washington manages to drag him into an actual rented room unseen.

He shouldn’t - he shouldn’t, he repeats to himself, over and over, pulling Hamilton’s hair loose, whispering, “Alexander,” against Hamilton’s skin, listening to Hamilton gasping beneath him, reaching for his cock, hissing - Hurry, hurry. It’s unlike anything they’ve ever done before, Hamilton pressed face first into the wall near the door, gasping and jerking his own cock while Washington fucks him from behind, holding him still against the wall, neither of them completely naked.

Alexander comes onto the carpet, and Washington comes inside Alexander and maybe it’s just the timing and the alcohol, but Hamilton turns around when his commander slides out and kisses Washington again and they end up on the bed, pressed tight and sharing rugged kisses until they dissolve into silence. There’s nothing to say.

Washington has damn near fallen asleep when Hamilton slips out of bed. He’s reaching for his boots, already mostly dressed, and Washington sighs.

“Alexander, please.”

“What?” Hamilton says, sighing gently. “Sir.”

“Just...stay. You won’t be missed elsewhere.” As he says the words, he knows it’s useless. Hamilton doesn’t stay. It’s against his very nature.

“Sir,” Hamilton says again, leaning back with his palms pressed against the bedspread. Washington’s eyes are adjusted to the dark, but he can still only make out the silhouette of Hamilton’s form, can barely see his eyes or the ghost of his jawline. “Isn’t it time?”

“Time for what, Alexander?” He indulges Hamilton, if only because this might be the last time he can.

“I’m not just girl.” Hamilton’s eyes flick away from Washington and back to the doorway.

Washington stills completely. “What?”

“I know how to fight, sir. I...I can do more than sit at a desk. I know I can do what you need, and accomplish it just as well, and I…”


“Perhaps what you’re afraid of losing isn’t my life.” He draws his gaze back to Washington with those words, pressing his teeth into his bottom lip.

The jab hits Washington right in the stomach and he leans his head back against the pillow, says nothing.

“Consider it forgotten,” Hamilton says, with a wave of his arm. “Good night, sir.” The phrase seems so familiar now and Washington lets his eyes flutter shut. He’s afraid to look up and see Hamilton’s figure slip out of the room, but the door closes and eventually, Washington drifts back to sleep.


He rests the glass of wine on Hamilton’s desk. The tavern seems to shake below them, the yelling of soldiers, truly drunk and happy for the first time in months, echoing down the stairs.

Hamilton spares the glass a cursory glance and says, “Thank you, but I’ll pass.” He spreads a palm out on the parchment, and Washington sips his own brandy, dragging a chair across the room to sit on the other side of Hamilton’s desk and watch. They’ve barely spoken; June is hot, miserable, men are dying. They barely have time to themselves, and not Alexander won’t even look at him.

Hamilton’s eyes rest on the parchment. He doesn’t spare a glance to his inkwell as he dips his quill inside and returns to an unfinished sentence, brow furrowed.

“To Eliza?” Washington says.

Hamilton ignores him. Then, finally, he says “Laurens,” and turns to a fresh piece of parchment.

“I thought you were drafting a response to Congress,” Washington says, trying to work through the thick iron of Hamilton’s exterior.

Hamilton lets out a breath through his nose. “I was,” he says, and then shortly, “it’s finished.” He nods towards another stack of papers besides the ones he’s scrawling on, and Washington takes them and leafs through each piece one by one.

Hamilton has been locked upstairs for only four hours, and he’s written with such eloquence and careful consideration that Washington finds his own heart rate steadily increasing.

“Laurens must appreciate how often you write. Have you had dinner?”

Hamilton’s quill stops, but only for a millisecond, leaving a mark on the paper where the ink splotches. His scrawl continues, and he leaves Washington’s question unanswered.

“Do you write your wife so frequently?” He knows his voice is still quiet; there’s no demand intoned in it, not on purpose. He knows what letters from Hamilton look like. They read like poetry. He scolds his reader. Begs for their attention. He thinks of Eliza’s letters, the one she wrote, so soft and hopeful, desperate for her husband’s voice, his hands at her side, his instinctively protective gaze. He sees Hamilton kneeling in front of his wife, kissing her swollen stomach, her fingers, telling her he loves her, would do anything for her and this child.

Guilt shifts in his chest.

Hamilton finishes his sentence and rests the quill on the wood. “Sir,” he says, and his voice betrays his exhaustion and frustrations. “Do you have some need of me?”

For a brief, unfettered moment, Washington wants to reject him. Whisper, ‘No, Hamilton - good-night,’ and leave, perhaps join his men, drink beer and forget.

Instead he says, “I do,” and watches Hamilton push back his chair, stand up straight, and tilt his eyes down to Washington.

“I’m afraid,” he says, “That I must retire for the night.”

The words sit between them.

“I understand.”


The break is palpable but sudden, and Washington sees his own limits reflected in Hamilton’s hardened eyes.


It comes as no shock for Washington to ride in that afternoon and find John Laurens standing besides Alexander with a pistol hoisted at his side, eyes full of fire as Aaron Burr hoists Charles Lee to his feet, the man bleeding from the side and spitting curses at the ground.

They are children, Washington thinks as he dismounts, staring at the mess around them. Children who play with pistols and challenge each other like a game at sundown, like there’s no risk if there’s no reward (there’s no reward, Washington also thinks, taking Lee by the shoulder and apologizing for his men, like they’re his unruly sons).

He looks at John Laurens, looks at Hamilton, and Hamilton’s eyes glitter like a dare, egging him to say something, to scold them (like the goddamn children they are).

“Hamilton,” he says, curt and hardened. Laurens flicks his gaze from the general to his friend, hand sliding up Hamilton’s arm and squeezing. “Inside.”

Hamilton doesn’t hesitate to follow Washington, hovering behind him, and when they’re alone Washington breaks.

Hamilton argues, windswept and enraged, and it edges into his voice in the same way fear edges into Washington’s. He shouts about disrespect - Washington laughs, Son, you think I don’t understand? - about titles, about land, and each word feels like a separate little cut, an ache that vibrates through Washington, and then there’s, I’m not your son, spoken like a threat, the underlying message of, Would you treat a real son the way you treat me? Perhaps.

“Is this what this is about? Jealousy over a position in command? You’re twenty damn years old, Alexander,” Washington grits out, dropping down at his desk, shaking his head.

“Do you think I’m not willing to - to die, to not even live to see America free?”

“Your wife needs you alive.” It’s a last ditch effort. If he can convince him - convince Hamilton that living is worth it, then maybe - but Hamilton is shaking his head, the words sliding off of him, not reaching his heart. “I need you alive.”

(He wonders what he would have said, if the duel had never happened, if he had received Eliza’s letter, if he would have found some other excuse to send Hamilton home, if he would have kept him there, if it would have taken more convincing - it turns out that Hamilton gives him reason enough.)

“Go home, Alexander,” because having him here severs more than it bonds.