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talk less (or your publicist will strangle you)

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Holly Cowden was actually humming when she got home from work. Humming and smiling.

“Honey, I’m home!”

“I resent that you’re making me Lucy--you’re in a good mood.” Holly just grinned wider as she bounced over to kiss her longtime girlfriend, Alina, before dancing into the kitchen.

“Wanna go out tonight? Ooh, actually,” Holly corrected herself, reaching into one of the cabinets. “Remember that super-fancy non-alcoholic wine stuff Stark sent us on our anniversary when he was trying to prove he knew everything about me and intimidate me into quitting? Let’s open that up. I’ll make that pasta you love.”

“What is going on?” Alina leaned against the kitchen doorway, smiling a bit bemusedly. “You never come home from work in a good mood. You usually come home murderous.”

“I,” Holly announced, turning grandly to face Alina. “Got promoted. You are looking at the the one, the only, publicist to Captain America.”

Alina squealed, bounding across the room to sweep Holly into her arms. Holly laughed, pressing her cheek into the fabric of Alina’s hijab as Alina spun her in a tight circle. “Holly, that’s amazing!”

“I know!” Alina gently set Holly down, both of them still giggling. “I was so surprised, I almost accused Agent Coulson of lying. That wouldn’t have ended well.”

“No,” Alina agreed, her grin rivaling Holly’s. “Oh, babe, I’m so happy for you!”

“It is, without doubt, the best thing that’s ever happened to me. Other than meeting you, of course, my darling, my love,” Holly added quickly when she saw Alina’s look. “Moon of my life. My sun and stars.”

“Stop,” Alina said, stern-sounding despite the grin tugging at her mouth. “You’re forgiven for now. I’m just so happy you’re off Tony Stark’s detail. The man was driving you mad.”

“Oh, God, tell me about it,” Holly moaned. “No more covering up wild parties, or bribing women not to go public with their affairs and paternity suits, no more mysterious experiments or explosions--it’s heaven.”

“It’s a little odd though, isn’t it?” Alina mused aloud. “I mean, take one of Stark’s very best PR people and assign them to Captain America? Stark’s gotten better now that he has his CEO, what’s-her-name, but still.”

“Pepper Potts,” Holly corrected automatically before shrugging. “Maybe they just want to make sure their golden boy has the best press possible? I wasn’t about to ask questions. There is no way in hell I’m going back to Stark’s team.”

“You’re not worried he’s going to start spewing his racist-Grandpa morals at everyone?”

“Well, I’ll ease him into the fact that I’m living in sin with a Muslim woman,” Holly teased. “But seriously, if I can put a positive spin on Stark blowing up his Malibu house, I can handle a little racism from America’s golden boy.”

Holly sighed, long and blissfully, before going to pour very fancy drinks for her and Alina. “One thing’s for sure--after Stark, Alexander Hamilton’s going to be a walk in the park.”

---------------------------------------------------------------------------

“Captain?” Holly knocked lightly on the dressing room door. She was dressed in one of her nicer blazers, her hair pulled back in a smart bun, every inch the controlled SHIELD-trained representative.

If she was just a little bit giddy about meeting Captain America, that was nobody’s business but her own.

“Captain Hamilton?”

“Sorry--come in, come in.” She pushed the door open, quickly shutting it behind her before turning to face the man fully. “And it’s just Alexander, please.”

“Alexander,” she repeated, her smile professional with just a hint of awe. Alexander Hamilton--the legendary Captain America, just recently found and thawed and the savior of the city, if not the world--grinned as he jumped to her feet, looking a little uneasy in his 21st-century suit but shaking her hand enthusiastically nonetheless.

“You must be my publicist! Excellent, I was hoping to meet you, Mrs Cowden, was it?”

“Holly Cowden--just ‘Holly’ is fine actually--”

“My apologies, Holly--listen, I had a few things I wanted to go over regarding my statement for this press conference, what you’ve given me is--well, it’s honestly just bland. I know I’ve only been awake for a few days, but I’ve been doing a lot of reading and frankly, there are already a lot of issues in this century that really need addressing. The wage gap for one thing--I look out my window and there’s people driving incredibly fancy horseless carriages past people living on the streets, there’s clearly a problem there that needs to be solved. There’s also the fact that I’ve been told blacks and whites are supposed to be equal in this modern society, yet of the elite SHIELD agents I’ve met, one has been black. None of them have been female, either, and yet I’ve also been told that women are supposed to be equal to men now. Something clearly has to be done there, and I already have a few ideas I’d like to put out there--”

He said all this without even pausing to take a breath, and, as Holly stared, somehow kept going.

“Um,” she managed, squeezing herself in the miniscule gaps between his words. “I-I’m sure we can...address your concerns at a later time. For this conference, if you just wanted to stick to the prepared statement--”

“That’s what I wanted to talk to you about. I’ve actually written my own statement. I can use that, right?”

“Sir--”

“Captain?” One of the press conference staffers stuck his head in the door. “They’re ready for you.”

“Actually,” Holly said desperately, “If we could have a few minutes--”

“No need. I’m ready.” Alexander grabbed what Holly hoped wasn’t his rewritten statement--it looked like a good twenty pages at least--and darted out the door before she could stop him.

“I am fucked,” she whispered.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------

Hamilton ended up speaking for two hours before even opening up the floor for questions.

“Captain, what would the other founding fathers think of modern America?”

“Why do you call us that? The founding fathers--you realize we were a bunch of twenty-somethings who were out drinking one night and decided to start a revolution, right? The stories I could tell you about Thomas Jefferson, that motherfucker--”

Holly buried her face in her hands and made a small whimpering noise.

Hamilton kept ranting.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------

Three days later, Holly knocked on the door of Captain America’s SHIELD-issued apartment.

“Coming!” There was a shuffling sound, then the door opened. Alexander looked considerably more frazzled than he had the last time she’d seen him--he was in standard SHIELD-issue work out gear, his long black hair pulled back messily and were his fingers ink-stained?--but he still grinned and stepped aside to let her in. “Holly, wasn’t it? What a surprise!”

“I’m here on official business, I’m afraid,” she said, her annoyance with Hamilton faltering for a moment as she looked around the apartment. The walls were bare, the furniture all standard-issue and untouched--the only sign of life at all was on the desk, where a laptop that almost looked like it was smoking sat next to several reams of paper.

A laptop. Something like terror settled in the pit of her stomach.

“That...computer... it’s not--does it have internet?”

“What’s internet?” Alexander asked curiously, and Holly breathed again. “I just use it for my writing--it’s so useful to have it all in one place, but the computer does overheat after ten hours or so, hence the ink,” he said, wiggling his stained fingers. “Why? Should it have internet?”

“Never mind,” Holly said quickly, reaching into the file she’d brought with her. “I’m here about these letters that have been arriving at a lot of news agencies since your press conference the other day.” She pulled out copies of said letters, though she had no doubt that he knew exactly what she was talking about.

“And what about them?”

“Alexander,” she said slowly, “You cannot challenge entire news networks to duel.”

“Well, I couldn’t remember all the names of the reporters, if you could get me a list, I’d be happy to readdress the challenges--”

“That--that is not the issue,” Holly said, a little weakly. “It’s--you can’t challenge anyone to a duel.”

“The things they’ve been saying are direct challenges to my honor--”

“Freedom of speech,” she blurted, grabbing at a reference he was sure to understand. “They’re allowed--”

“Freedom of speech means they’re allowed to say it, not that they can’t be held accountable for it. The press is free to bash me, and I am free to challenge them back.”

“Okay--okay, I can’t win a fight about rights with a founding father,” Holly muttered to herself. “But duelling is illegal. Namely, because murder is illegal.”

“I’ve been in plenty of duels, none have ended in death--”

“You still can’t,” Holly sighed, “I’m sorry, but you really can’t. Look, SHIELD will cover up the challenges, placate the agencies, just please don’t issue any more challenges. Please,” she added, and Alexander sighed.

“Duels really weren’t nearly as fatal as people think--”

“Alexander--”

“Fine,” he sighed, like he was making a massive concession. “No more dueling challenges.”

“Thank you. Sir,” she added, gathering up her files again. Alexander nodded, his gaze already drifting back to his thankfully internet-free computer. “I’ll leave you to your writing.”

“It was good to see you, Holly,” he said brightly, even though his attention was clearly back on whatever was in the pages and pages of writing he already had on his desk.

“And you, sir.”

---------------------------------------------------------------------------

The next week, anonymous essays ranging from ten to thirty pages long and all systematically destroying the reporters and news agencies that had been at the press conference started appearing in various newspapers.

They made surprisingly specific references to various founding fathers. Including details that never made it into the history books. Details only someone who was there would know.

“They’re anonymous and not my problem,” Holly muttered to herself, over and over. “Anonymous and not my problem. Anonymous and not my problem.”

---------------------------------------------------------------------------

When Alexander Hamilton got arrested at a protest, however, it was her problem.

“You told them your name was James Madison? Really?” she asked as she drove him home, her SHIELD-issued credit card a few thousand dollars lighter after paying bail.

“Needed the name of an asshole, Thomas Jefferson was too obvious.”

“You’re trying to posthumously give Madison and Jefferson a bad reputation?”

“It’s what they did to me.”

Holly couldn’t even argue with that--even though Hamilton had sacrificed himself and turned into a war hero, he hadn’t been the most well-liked of the founding fathers. It wasn’t a secret that most, if not all of his work would’ve been destroyed or forgotten if it hadn’t been for his wife--though it was left out of most history books.

“Do I need to tell you how bad it could be for SHIELD if it gets out that Captain America’s been protesting and getting arrested?”

“Have you heard about these statistics? This system has been corrupted since I wrote it, there is something that seriously needs to be done and somehow nobody’s talking about it. Labelling it ‘class warfare’ and trying to shut up the immigrant and working class--you know, I’m an immigrant--”

“Are you just going to write a new system?”

“It’s what I did last time.”

“Last time, you weren’t the face of a government agency--”

“No, just the founder of a government. So much less stress.”

“Alexander, I’m on your side--”

“You’re on SHIELD’s side, I know the difference,” he snapped back, the closest to really angry she’d seen him get--though, based on the essays which were anonymously published and could not be proven to be written by Alexander Hamilton, no matter the speculation, it wasn’t the first time he’d been angry since waking up.

“There are a lot of people who already want you dead, you’re not making it any better. I’m trying to give you a good public image, to protect you--”

“I don’t want to be protected. My legacy’s been mutilated, I need to fix it, make it better--”

“You’ve been awake for less than two weeks, have you considered taking a break?” Holly suggested, trying to get him to do something that would benefit them both. “Taking it easy while you readjust?”

“I don’t need to take a break,” Alexander replied, almost petulantly. “I need to work.”

---------------------------------------------------------------------------

The number of anonymous essays that kept getting published was, frankly, getting a little alarming.

“Relax,” Alina said, snatching the phone out of Holly’s hand. “One man can’t be writing all these essays. It’s got to be a group--”

“It’s him,” Holly replied, making a grab for her phone before collapsing back onto the couch. “It’s all him. It’s a plot to force me into quitting in disgrace and beginning a life of crime because of Alexander fucking Hamilton.”

“Holly--”

“He got arrested three times. He just keeps writing essays and swearing at TV hosts and he just never stops.”

“Holly,” Alina repeated, lifting Holly’s legs so she could sit on the couch. She settled Holly’s legs back into her lap and gently started rubbing her feet. Holly moaned happily. “Take a break. Breathe, for once.”

“I don’t think he breathes. I don’t think he sleeps--”

“Shh,” Alina murmured again. “We’re going to have a movie night, you’re going to drink your butterbeer, and nobody is going to say the words Alexander Hamilton until 7 AM tomorrow morning.”

“You just--”

“Holly.”

“Fine,” Holly said, groaning a little as Alina pressed her thumb into a sensitive spot on her sole. “That--sounds really nice, actually.”

“Doesn’t it?” Alina murmured. “And maybe later--”

Holly’s phone buzzed.

“Alina--”

“No,” Alina said quickly, tightening her grip on Holly’s legs to keep her from getting up. “No, it is a Friday night, you are not doing any work--”

Holly’s phone buzzed three times in quick succession.

“Alina, I need--”

“It might not be him.”

“It’s always him. Alina--”

Holly’s phone started buzzing again. This time, it didn’t stop.

With a long sigh, Alina pulled Holly’s phone out of her pocket and passed it over.

“Oh my god,” Holly whispered, the horror in her voice making Alina look up sharply. “He’s on twitter.”

---------------------------------------------------------------------------

When Alexander called Holly to tell her that he was adopting a 16 year old named Philip, her first thought was that even he couldn’t make an adoption a scandal in the press.

Two days later, SHIELD called to tell her that Philip Hamilton had just challenged the speaker of the house to a duel, and could she do something about it please.

“How,” she asked that night, burying her face in Alina’s shoulder, “Can the universe hate me enough to put two Hamiltons in one century.”

---------------------------------------------------------------------------

On June 24, 2011, Holly was dancing in the streets next to Alina under all the confetti and rainbow flags, her throat sore in the best way from shouting and her lips sore in the best way from kissing because same sex marriage was legal now and everything was beautiful.

Okay, it was only legal in a handful of US states, but that handful now included New York, and maybe she was a little bit too giddy, but Alina’s hand was warm in hers and after the week she’d had, Holly felt quite entitled to a bit of celebration.

She and Alina moved down the streets with the rest of the crowd, and Alina was brushing confetti off her hijab and just radiating joy and she’d never, never looked more beautiful.

They were in front of a jewelry store with rings on display and an idea that Holly has always toyed with in the back of her mind but dismissed because it was impossible--an idea that’s been in the back of her mind since she met Alina--jumped to the front of her mind.

And it was possible now.

Holly’s phone buzzed.

“Babe--babe, hold on,” Holly said, stopping without dropping Alina’s hand as she reached into her pocket. “It’s my work phone.”

“No--”

“I know, I’m sorry,” Holly murmured, taking a couple steps to the side of the crowd and opening the alert. A Fox news anchor’s face filled the screen and a twinge of foreboding broke through her happy haze. Alina pulled a pair of headphones out of her pockets and Holly kissed her quickly before plugging them in.

“--how Captain America is responding to the decision made in his home state of New York regarding gay marriage, but we can speculate that this founding father would deeply resent this blatant disregard for the separation of church and state--hold on, we’re getting a call--”

“Yeah, hi, this is ‘Captain America,’” said a scathing, familiar voice, and Holly jumped straight past horror to fury. “And I’d like to respond to the decision made to legalize same-sex marriage--well, actually, I’d like to respond to the way you all jumped to the conclusion that I’d be horrified by that decision. Not only am I bisexual--” the news anchor’s jaw dropped open at the same time as Holly’s-- “but there have always, always been LGBT people in the world, and I’m sure all of them, including me, would be overjoyed by the fact that we are now being treated like actual human beings by the country we fought for and helped found. Let me tell you fuckers about a man named John Laurens--”

Holly pulled out the earbuds, an apology already on her lips.

“You have to go,” Alina said with a sigh.

“Captain America just came out,” Holly said with a grimace. “During a phone interview with Fox News. I’m sorry, I love you, okay?”

“If you get me footage of the reporter’s face, you’re forgiven.”

---------------------------------------------------------------------------

Holly pounded on Alexander’s door for several moments before someone answered.

“Hi, Philip,” she said with a smile that hopefully only looked slightly homicidal. “I’m here for Alexander.”

“Um.” Philip glanced behind him into the large house Alexander had bought after adopting the teen. “Dad’s in his study--but he’s on the phone with reporters right now--”

“Oh, I bet he is.” Holly pushed past Philip and stalked into the house, following the sound of angry ranting into the study and snatching the phone out of Alexander’s hand.

“Hey--”

“The Captain will call you back,” she snapped, hanging up without listening to whoever was on the other end. “Once he is finished making my job very difficult.”

“Don’t lecture me about difficult jobs when the biggest risk you run into with yours is a paper cut,” Alexander fired back, snarling, and Holly almost faltered. “When you’ve fought, and you’ve killed, and your friends have died, and you’ve died--when you do all that for a country that turns around and talks about people like you like they’re second-class citizens, and erases all the parts of you that don’t fit in their noble founding father’s narrative and forgets a brave man--a good man, a better man than I ever was--and then demonize us and everything we ever did because of our sexuality--and then to go and shove their own morals off on me to try and justify their own disgusting beliefs--I don’t care if duels are illegal, give me that phone back, they have committed the worst possible offense against me and I will get my satisfaction, whether I have to drag their heads out of their asses to get it.”

“Are you finished?” Holly asked, not giving him time to answer. If he started talking again God knew when he’d stop. “Good, because you’re getting close to alienating one of the only people on your side. The reason you make my job so hard, Alexander, is because you never actually do anything I disagree with. I happen to also be bisexual, so please don’t presume that I know nothing. I may not have fought in a war, but I have had family and friends turn their backs on me, so there’s that. And, for your information, I was about to propose to my girlfriend when you decided to call the news anchors--what was it?--hate mongering spreaders of fear, propaganda, and lies.”

“I also called them motherfuckers,” Alexander pointed out, though he at least had the grace to look a little contrite. “And, for what it’s worth, I am sorry for interfering with your proposal plans.”

“They weren’t really plans,” Holly sighed, sinking into the chair that Alexander pulled out for her. “We’ve never even discussed it, I just kind of got swept up in the moment. I should talk to her first. And I have to deal with the fallout from this.”

“I am sorry.”

“No, you are not.” Holly looked at her phone, saw that both #bicaptainamerica and #capisgoingtohell were trending, and locked it again, running her hands through her hair. “I did watch the rest of the broadcast, you know,” she added after a moment. “I’m sorry about John.”

“So am I,” Alexander said softly, settling into his own seat and fiddling with his hands. “He was a good man. And now all anyone’s going to remember him as is Captain America’s gay best friend.”

“Who introduced you to that--never mind,” Holly said, seeing how stricken Alexander looked. “Yes, that is how he’s going to be portrayed for a while, because that is kind of how you presented him. I know you did not mean to and i know that’s not who he was, but everyone’s only going to see him in relation to you. I’m sorry, but it’s kind of all about you.”

“I’ll write--”

“Alexander, you cannot solve everything by writing about it.” He stared at her like she’d just shifted his entire worldview. “If you want to change the world, if you want to make sure he’s remembered for something good, make something good in his name. You can’t always make people read history books and essays on why he was good, but you can do something good and slap his name on it. If they don’t know what he did, at least they know he was good.”

“You must be very good at your job.”

“Well, why the hell do you think they hired me?” She thought for a long moment while her long-ago muted phone continued to light up with alerts. “I’m going to really hate you by the time we’re done dealing with this.”

“That is absolutely fair.”

---------------------------------------------------------------------------

The John Laurens Memorial Shelter for LGBTQIA+ Youth officially opened two months later.

“It’s good,” Alexander said to Holly when she came to visit, running his fingers over the wall like he had to make sure it was still there. “It’s something worthy of John’s name. Eliza would have loved this,” he added in a whisper, and Holly tactfully didn’t comment on the tears in his eyes.

Tomorrow, he’d probably punch a senator (again) or get into another twitter war with some random troll and she’d be again cursing his name, but for now Holly just looked around the office, at the faded pictures of Eliza Hamilton and John Laurens on the wall and the colorful photo of Philip on the desk.

“You did good, Alexander.”

---------------------------------------------------------------------------

He punched the Secretary of State.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------

“Alexander,” Holly said, very slowly, her teeth audibly grinding together. “Someone spray painted dicks all over Mount Rushmore.”

“I don’t know why you’d come to me with that information, SHIELD generally gives me assignments that concern supervillians and the end of the world--”

“The interesting thing,” Holly continued, “Is that the dicks are clustered around Thomas Jefferson’s face. In fact, only on Jefferson’s face. George Washington is untouched--it actually looks like it was cleaned.”

“Well, whoever did that has very good taste then.”

“I saw this and I--and the rest of the country--thought ‘gee, I know someone who really hates Thomas Jefferson.’ And while the rest of the country doesn’t know this, I thought ‘gee, I know that he not only hates Thomas Jefferson, but also that he didn’t come home until this morning, and was spotted with Tony Stark in a private helicopter headed for South Dakota.’”

“All your evidence is circumstantial, and I doubt it’s available to the wider public.”

“Yes, because the fact that a court would acquit you will definitely put an end to all the rumors and speculation.”

“It’s not that big of a deal, it’ll wash off--”

“Stop talking!” Holly reached up to rub her forehead and the headache there that had moved in the day she took this job. “Stop. Talking. Just don’t respond to any of the rumors that you did it, SHIELD will organize a rainstorm to get rid of the dicks, and this will all blow over.” A thought occurred to her and she slowly looked back up. “Is an anonymous essay praising the vandalism going to appear in the New York Post tomorrow?”

“It’s under a pseudonym, nobody can link me to it--”

“Nobody else writes fifty thousand word essays and publishes them in newspapers!” Holly thought longingly of alcohol. Lots and lots of alcohol. “You don’t even like Tony Stark.”

“Hate the sin, love the sinner.” Alexander paused. “And his willingness and ability to get paint and a helicopter to South Dakota in the middle of the night.”

---------------------------------------------------------------------------

In the aftermath of the Battle of Manhattan, Holly found herself standing in the middle of a ruined street, fire crews and ambulances wailing around her, with her phone buzzing in her hand.

The name bane of my existence flashed across the screen and she answered automatically.

“Alexander?”

“Holly. Are you okay?”

“I--” It suddenly hit her that she didn’t know where she was, or how she got there, and that Alina wasn’t there. “I can’t find Alina.”

“What?”

“I can’t find her. I--there were aliens,” she remembered suddenly. “On the news. There were aliens and Alina went out, and she didn’t answer her phone, and I think--” She frowned. There was a throbbing on the back of her head that was really annoying, and she couldn’t remember. “I think my apartment fell down.”

“Holly, where are you?”

“I don’t know, I don’t--where’s Alina? I need her.”

“I’m going to find her, Holly, I promise, but I need you to tell me where you are. Can you look around, see any landmarks?”

“You broke Manhattan, I-I can’t--” Holly started to run her hands through her hair in frustration and stopped, staring at her fingers.

They were red and sticky.

She wasn’t sure if she sat or fell, but she ended up on the ground anyway, Alexander’s voice buzzing worriedly in her ear.

“--talk to me, I need to know you can hear me--”

“Alexander,” she said, barely able to hear herself, but he stopped speaking instantly. “My head really hurts.”

“Are you bleeding?”

“Um,” She reached up and touched her head again, felt the wetness soaking into her shirt. “There’s--there’s a lot of blood, I don’t--where’s Alina?”

“I’m looking for her, I’m going to find her, but I need you to stay awake, Holly, are you going to stay awake for me?”

“Yeah,” Holly whispered, even as her eyes drooped. Alexander’s voice got fainter, then louder again, and Holly slumped against a piece of rubble. “I’m really tired.”

“Don’t do that, Holly, don’t--describe Alina to me. Help me find her.”

“She’s...brown eyes,” Holly slurred. “So pretty. I…”

“Holly? HOLLY!”

---------------------------------------------------------------------------

She opened her eyes to a blur of running doctors and nurses, a collar around her neck and a gurney underneath her, and Alexander running alongside, his phone pressed to his ear as he shouted.

“What…”

Alexander hung up immediately, leaning down and grabbing her hand.

“You’re fine, Holly. You’re gonna be fine.” He turned away, shouting at the nurses. “I want her taken up to my wife’s room--I want to keep an eye on them both--”

She opened her eyes to a dark and quiet room, and Alina’s hands clutching hers.

“Alina,” she sighed, and Alina jumped up, whispering prayers as she pressed kisses to Holly’s hands and cheeks. “Are you okay?”

“I’m fine, you’re an idiot,” Alina half-laughed, pressing another kiss to the back of Holly’s hand. “I’m sorry, my phone died of all stupid things, I tried to call you, I was so scared.”

“How did you find me?”

“Captain Hamilton--Alexander--he found me and brought me here. It was the most terrifying moment of my life when he said you were in the hospital.”

“I’m sorry--”

“No,” Alina shook her head, gently caressing Holly’s face. “No, no apologizing. Even if you did end up somehow getting a cerebral hemorrhage.”

“Oh,” Holly said, frowning, her exhausted brain taking a second to remember what that meant. “That’s not good.”

“No, it is not.” Alina sighed, her eyes never leaving Holly’s. “You needed brain surgery.”

“Did they shave my head? Am I ugly?”

“You’re beautiful,” Alina promised. “I’m just so relieved. I love you so much, you idiot.”

“I love you,” Holly sighed, pressing her forehead to Alina’s and letting her eyes fall shut again.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------

The next time Holly woke up, she recognized her surroundings, which was nice.

She also recognized the sound of inhumanly fast texting.

“Please don’t antagonize any countries until after my brain stops oozing out my ears.”

Alexander almost dropped his phone.

“Holly,” he said, grinning broadly as he half-leaped across the few feet separating him from her bedside. “How are you feeling?”

“Like an alien dropped a brick on my head,” she replied, but smiled all the same. She glanced around the room, her smile faltering just a little.

“Alina went to shower and grab some things,” Alexander said quickly, answering her question before she could ask. “I promised her I’d keep an eye on you.”

“You need someone to keep an eye on you,” Holly grumbled back, but Alexander just smiled and helped her take a drink of water. “Seriously, tell me you’re not picking fights on Twitter.”

“I’m not. I promise,” he added at Holly’s raised eyebrow. “I put together a new system for identifying any Jane or John Does in the hospitals, and organizing emergency shelters and orphanages. Stark’s helping with the legwork, I’m just making sure he stays on track.”

“Oh.” Holly blinked. “Unequivocally good PR for once.”

“Consider it my get-well present.”

Holly glanced over Alexander’s shoulder and could just make out the shape of another hospital bed, machines obscuring the figure inside. “Who’s that?”

Alexander looked over as well, a mix of emotions flooding his face in the second before he turned back to face Holly. “My wife.”

“Your--” Holly tried to put the pieces of that sentence together, wondering if her brain had gotten more damaged than she’d thought. “You married someone?”

“Yeah, Eliza Hamilton.”

Eliza Hamilton. The woman who took an experimental version of the super-soldier serum when Captain America’s plane went down, who took up his mantle and won the war, and whose posters Holly had on her wall growing up.

The woman whose version of the serum had been flawed, causing her death a year after the war’s end.

“She died,” Holly said, brain trauma making her blunt.

“So did I.” He shrugged, looking back at his wife. “Apparently, SHIELD has a lot of secrets.”

“Is she okay?”

“She...got shot,” Alexander said, the words sounding rough in his mouth. Holly’s job as a publicist meant she knew immediately that here was more to the story than that; her position as Alexander’s friend meant that she didn’t ask. “But the doctors are hopeful. She’s survived this far, so they say she should wake up soon.”

“Good,” Holly said faintly, already fighting to stay awake again. “That’s good--Alexander, that’s so good.”

“Yeah,” Alexander said with a small smile. “It is.”

“Where…” She squinted, trying to stay focused and awake. “Where’s Philip?”

“He’s recovering. He’s insisting on staying in another room.” The clipped tone was so unlike constantly-speaking Alexander that Holly actually squinted up at him in concern. He smiled again, only a little awkwardly.

“Go,” she mumbled, gesturing clumsily to the other part of the room. “I’m fading again. Go sit with your wife. Talk to your son. You have a family. Go.”

“I’ll wait until you’ve fallen asleep,” Alexander replied. Holly would’ve rolled her eyes if she’d managed to keep them open. Distantly, she felt someone tuck an extra blanket in around her chin.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------

She got back to work three weeks later, and was nearly bowled over by her replacement.

“Thank God,” the man whispered, hugging her tightly enough to hurt. “Thank God you’re back. I’m going to have nightmares about Twitter for the rest of my life.”

“You and me both, man,” she said, awkwardly patting him on the back. “You and me both.”

---------------------------------------------------------------------------

“I need you to draft a news statement,” Alexander said the moment Holly picked up the phone.

“Am I getting warning before you do something idiotic for once?” she asked, already pulling up the blanket apology outline she kept saved on her desktop. “Is my brain bleeding again?”

“Ha ha,” he said flatly. “I actually believe I’m doing something very important, not idiotic.”

“You always say that,” Holly muttered, though she was smiling a little. “What do you need?”

“You’re a better writer than me.”

“I’m sorry,” she said, blinking. “My brain must be bleeding--did you just say--”

“Eliza and I are adopting a couple children who were orphaned by the Battle of Manhattan,” he said, and it was not what she expected to hear at all. “I--When it was just Philip and I, I wasn’t thinking much about it, but now--I have my wife, and I have children, and I want the world to know it. But I want to do it right.”

Holly sighed, more fond than anything else. “You’re an idiot, Alexander.”

“I--”

“Send me what you’ve got so far. I’ll make some edits and send it back.” She started to type and then paused. “What are their names?”

“Angelica and James. Philip is such a good older brother already,” he said, and even over the phone the pride in his voice was blinding.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------

Pepper Potts appeared in Holly’s office at the end of one long and terrible week with two bottles of wine in one hand and a box tucked under her other arm.

“Um,” Holly said, because she had no idea how to respond to the fact that the CEO of Stark Industries was standing in her office with wine. “Ms. Potts, how can I--”

“I need to get very drunk,” Ms. Potts replied, “With someone who understands why I need to get very drunk.”

Ah.

“I don’t--I don’t drink,” Holly sputtered, a little awkwardly, as Ms. Potts (the CEO of Stark Industries) pulled out a pocketknife and started uncorking one of the wine bottles.

“I know. These are both for me.” Ms. Potts sat and slid the box across the desk towards Holly. “Those are for you.”

Holly opened the box and--oh. Those were very expensive chocolates.

She glanced at the chocolates, then back up at the CEO currently taking a very long drink of wine, and silence settled awkwardly around the pair for a moment.

“He just goes on international television and antagonizes diplomats,” Pepper finally said, and Holly groaned and buried her head in her arms.

“I know, it’s ridiculous--”

“God knows I love that man--”

“--but he is going to kill me,” Holly sighed, snatching up a piece of chocolate.

And in that moment, a beautiful friendship was born.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------

It was Agent Hill who appeared in Holly’s office three weeks later, however, the grim look on her face stopping Holly’s pacing in its tracks.

“What’s happened to Alexander?”

“Captain Hamilton has been kidnapped,” Hill said in that blunt, efficient way that high-ranking SHIELD agents used to hide worry. “The Avengers were contacted, and the Initiative has been called in--”

“No, wait, wait.” Holly held both her hands up, like she was trying to physically stop a blow. “Who kidnapped Captain fucking America?”

“Need to know--”

“Fuck need to know,” she snapped back, going to run her hands through her hair before stopping.

Her hair had been too short for that ever since it’d been shaved off when she got surgery to fix her cerebral hemorrhage.

The hemorrhage that would’ve killed her if Alexander hadn’t run across New York to find her.

“Ms. Cowden, we need you to draft a statement in case this news leaks--”

“Well, you know what the Hamiltons need?” Holly shot back, already packing up her things. “They need someone to sit with their children. They need someone to tell them that it’s going to be okay. They need someone there who isn’t a faceless, emotionless, SHIELD minon and they need someone who is going to think of Alexander as a person and not an icon or an asset. And you seem to have those people in short supply, so I’m going to go be that for them before I do anything else.”

She shoved her bag onto her shoulder and marched past the agent with her head held high.

She turned back half a second later.

“By the way, what sort of publicist do you think I am? I’ve had a blanket statement prepared since you hired me--I’ll make the edits and have it to you within the hour.”

---------------------------------------------------------------------------

The Hamilton house was strangely quiet for a home with three teenagers, even from outside, but Eliza Hamilton answered before Holly was even finished knocking.

“Oh,” she said, her disappointment quickly masked with a bright, polite smile. “Ms. Cowden, you’re Alexander’s publicist.”

“Yes ma’am,” Holly said, straightening her back a bit. Even though she’d long ago gotten rid of the action figures she’d collected when she was little, standing in front of Lady America was still a bit daunting.

“Please, come in,” Eliza said, stepping aside and ushering Holly in. “You must be here for a statement--”

“No ma’am,” Holly said respectfully, “I’m here--I know Alexander,” she explained weakly, her words more stuttering than usual. “And I wanted to know if I could help.”

“Oh.” Eliza blinked, surprise making her polite expression go slack for a moment. “I-I’m sorry, nobody has come--well, I didn’t expect anyone from SHIELD to…”

“I understand,” Holly said, smiling as gently as she could. “But...well, Alexander saved my life. Even if he does make my job very, very difficult, it’s hard not to like him.”

“Alexander does do that,” Eliza said, smiling softly and genuinely for the first time since Holly had seen her. It was a little jarring to see on the face of her childhood idol, but Eliza looked as exhausted as a super-soldier could look, her hair frazzled and clothes rumpled. The sound of soft footsteps broke the moment, and both women turned to see Philip standing at the end of the hallway.

“Mom,” he said softly, looking as worried and tired as a teenager could look. “It’s Angie--she’s having another panic attack, and James is--” There was a shuffling sound, and a ten year old appeared around the corner, his hand clamped around Philip’s sleeve. Eliza looked a little helplessly at her guest, her two distressed-looking sons, and at the staircase at the end of the hall that must’ve led up to Angelica’s room, and Holly made her decision.

“My girlfriend sent me over with some ingredients--if you like, James and I can make dinner while you go check on Angie,” she offered, raising the bag she’d brought with her. “I know your Dad and the rest of the Avengers like shawarma, but you’ve never had it the way my girlfriend’s recipe makes it.”

“It’s dinnertime, isn’t it,” Eliza sighed guiltily, glancing at her sons again before looking back at Holly. “If you’re sure--”

“I’d be happy to, ma’am.”

“It’s Eliza,” she corrected gently, another genuine smile making its way onto her face before she hurried down the hall.

“Hi Holly,” Philip said, wrapping an arm around James’s shoulders.

“Hi Philip,” Holly replied, keeping her smile for James’s sake. “Challenged any politicians to duel, lately?”

“No--”

“I challenged one of the boys in his class,” James piped up. “He kept complaining about Philip on his blog.”

“You are all such Hamiltons,” Holly sighed, and they both grinned.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------

Eliza appeared in the kitchen half an hour later, a six year old who was definitely not fourteen-year-old Angelica Hamilton trailing behind her.

“Angie’s resting, she says she might come down later,” Eliza said, running her hand through the curls of the little boy standing next to her like she was seeking comfort from the action.

“We’ll be sure to save her anything salvageable,” Holly said. Philip and James looked around the kitchen with sauces and flour smeared across almost every surface and grinned sheepishly in unison. “And who’s this?”

“His name is John,” Eliza murmured apologetically, running her hand through the boy’s hair again. “We were going to contact you about him--but then--”

“I understand. Hi, John,” Holly said, waving. “We’ve got enough for you, if you like shawarma. Otherwise, I think I saw a box of mac and cheese in the cupboard?” she asked, glancing up at Eliza.

“Thank you for doing all this,” Eliza began, when John piped up from behind her legs.

“Dad likes shawarma,” he said, blinking owlishly up at Eliza. “Is he coming home for dinner?”

The kitchen went silent, all the children looking at each other and their mother, and Holly looked awkwardly at the floor.

In an almost-violent movement, Eliza crouched on the floor and hugged John tightly to her. James glanced up at Philip before running across the kitchen and throwing his arms around his mom and brother.

Philip didn’t move.

“You’re going after Dad, aren’t you?”

Eliza looked up at her oldest son, guilt written across her face.

“I get it,” Philip said, looking at his feet instead of at his mom. “I do, I--I’m going to hang out with Angie.” He turned and shouldered his way out of the room, disappearing down the hall before Eliza had made it to her feet.

“I--” Eliza sighed, wrapping her arms around her sons and holding them close. “The Avengers called. They’re having more trouble than they expected.” In SHIELD terms, that could mean anything from ‘backup would be helpful’ to ‘the apocalypse is looming.’ “They want to call me in.”

Eliza’s fingers trembled faintly as she fought to hold back the urge to hold her children as tightly as she could, her eyes dark and troubled.

“I can watch them.” Eliza looked up suddenly, both children still pressed to her sides. “If you need to go to your husband, my girlfriend and I can take care of your kids for--for as long as you need us.”

Eliza’s gaze hardened after a moment, nudging her children behind her as she met Holly’s gaze head-on.

“You’re just Alexander’s publicist. Why would you do that?” Why are you trying so hard to get to my children? went unasked, but hung in the air anyway.

As a publicist, Holly understood, better than most, the number of enemies Alexander had and the amount of danger his family was in constantly--his children even more so. Eliza’s worry was completely rational.

As a person, Holly was starting to get an idea of what it must be like to be a squirrel staring into the eyes of a wolf.

“Because I want him to be okay, and I know that nothing’s more important to him than his family being okay. And I’m his friend. I mean, I think I am, he saved my life once, so he’s my friend, at least. I can’t help him--like you said, I’m just a publicist--but at least I can help his family.”

Eliza stared at her for a long moment, the children glancing anxiously between the two women. Holly couldn’t help noticing just how large Eliza Hamilton’s muscles were underneath the woman’s blazer.

“Angelica,” Eliza said after a long moment, “has panic attacks, sometimes fugue states or dissociation--Philip is so good with her, he’ll tell you if you need to call the doctor. John has the most trouble sleeping, but they all have nightmares. James--James is allergic to strawberries.”

“Okay,” Holly said, trying to sound as confident and reassuring as she could. “I”ll call my girlfriend.”

Eliza nodded, more to herself than anyone else, and crouched down in front of John and James.

“John Church, James Alexander,” Eliza murmured, taking each of the boys’ hands. “You are both my beautiful sons, and I love you both very, very much. I promise to try my very best to come back safely with your father. He loves you both very much, okay?” They both nodded, and Eliza nodded along with them, pressing small kisses to the backs of their hands. “Be good boys for me.”

“I love you,” James said softly, and John echoed his older brother. Eliza squeezed their hands and smiled.

“I love you,” Eliza promised them both, and stood up. She straightened her blazer and walked over to where Holly was standing, dabbing quickly at her eyes. “Um, I need to go talk to Philip and Angelica. I’ll be back as soon as I can.”

“Of course,” Holly said, and started to say something else when she found herself with an armful of Eliza Hamilton.

“Thank you,” she whispered harsh and fierce in Holly’s ear, the embrace almost painful. “We are...so lucky to be alive at the same time as you.”

Holly nodded once, blinking back tears, and Eliza disappeared.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------

“Angelica’s asleep,” Alina announced as she came downstairs. “Well, they’ve all piled into the same bed, but it seems to be working for them.”

“That’s good,” Holly sighed, sitting up on the pull-out couch that she and Alina had been sharing while they watched the Hamilton children.

“Is there any news?”

“No.” Holly pulled back the covers and Alina crawled in, kissing Holly before laying down with a tired sigh. “Although that my statement seems to be keeping the public calm for now. They buy that Captain America and his family are in Kuala Lampur.”

“Well, that’s good. Nobody’s coming after the kids, at least.”

“And SHIELD's not coming after us.”

“That’s also good.”

“Do you regret getting involved with me?”

“Where’s this coming from?” Alina asked, sitting up. “Do you regret getting involved with me?”

“Of course I don’t!” Holly sat bolt-upright at that, grabbing Alina’s hand. “Of course not, I love you. But if you weren’t involved with me you wouldn’t be, you know, babysitting Captain America’s kids on top of everything else.”

“Holly, I’m a Level 5 SHIELD agent. Do you really think I’d be anywhere that I didn’t want to be?” They both laughed a little, Alina catching Holly’s face and stopping her from looking away. “I love you. Your weird national-icon and frequently-kidnapped friends and all. They’re good people and they’re your people and I’m happy to do this.”

“How did I end up with a woman as good as you?” Holly marvelled softly, covering Alina’s hand with one of her own.

“The same way the man who keeps giving you aneurysms with his scandals ended up with a woman like Lady America--sheer dumb luck.”

A laugh jumped out of Holly’s mouth, then another, her free hand creeping around the back of her head and running along the scar from the Battle of Manhattan so long ago, and suddenly she was crying.

“I’m so scared for Alexander,” she gasped, and Alina cradled her close, running her hand through Holly’s short hair.

“I know. I know.”

---------------------------------------------------------------------------

The Avengers successfully rescued Captain America three days later from--surprise, surprise--a supervillain who’d taken offense at some of Alexander’s comments.

“They guy said he wished Jefferson had gotten the serum instead of me. Jefferson!”

“And you called him insane, compared him to King George III, and made some very crude implications,” Holly pointed out, standing in front of the seated Hamiltons in their front room.

“And yet my construction of those implications was very artful.”

“If you weren’t recovering from being kidnapped, I’d hurt you,” Holly said, shaking her head. “Are you going to finally take my advice?”

“Let me guess: talk less and smile more?”

“For a start.” Alexander grimaced, half in response to the advice and half out of pain. Eliza, who’d been sitting next to him and watching the exchange with amusement, shoved an extra pillow at him.

“Eliza, I’m fine--”

“Yes, my love,” Eliza said indulgently. “Take the pillow.”

He took the pillow.

“The Avengers caused a bit of chaos--you know, two levelled buildings, a couple of explosions, on every news channel because you couldn’t keep your mouth shut--so I will need to get a statement from you that I can heavily edit later. Although,” she added quickly, glancing at the entrance to the room. “I think there’s someone who wants to talk to you first.”

Alexander glanced around and his face split into a dopey grin. “John,” he called brightly, gesturing widely. “Come say hi to Holly!”

The six-year-old padded quickly into the room, mumbling a quick ‘hi’ as he jumped onto the couch and wedged himself into the small space between Alexander and Eliza, burrowing his face into Alexander’s chest.

“What’s up, big man?” Alexander asked, shifting to wrap his arm around his son.

“I wanted to make sure you weren’t gone again.”

“Oh, bud,” Alexander sighed, pressing a quick kiss to John’s curls. “I’m here now. Promise.”

“I can get the statement later,” Holly said softly, already half-turning to leave.

“Holly,” Alexander cut in, John still pressed tightly to his side. “Eliza told me everything you did while I was…” he glanced at his son “away. Thank you. You didn’t have to do that.”

“I know,” Holly said, fiddling with the file in her hands. “But, hey, what are friends for?”

Alexander blinked blankly at her for a moment, then realization filled his eyes and he broke into a dazzling grin.

“Yeah,” he said, almost-childish glee in his voice. “Friends.”

---------------------------------------------------------------------------

Three months later, both Holly and Alina’s phones went off at the same time.

“Hello?” Holly asked, hearing Alina in the background answer her own phone.

“Ms. Cowden, this is about Captain America--”

“Oh, God,” she moaned, cutting off the polite voice’s next words. “What did he do now?”

“You are no longer Captain America’s publicist, effective immediately.”

“...I’m sorry, what?”

“Furthermore, you are no longer an employee of SHIELD.”

“No--no, I’m sorry, what? You can’t just fire me like that! Do you realize just how much Alexander Hamilton needs a publicist? His public image is going to go down the drain--” Holly frowned. “You don’t care about his image anymore. Why--”

“This is not up for discussion.”

“Hold on buddy, I’ve worked for SHIELD for years--”

“Someone will contact you within the week regarding your severance package and confidentiality agreement.”

“Just tell me what Alexander did--”

“Goodbye, Ms. Cowden.”

The line went dead and Holly threw her phone onto the bed before freezing. “I just got fired,” she said hollowly. “I just--babe?”

Alina was staring at her own phone, absolutely still.

“Alina, what’s wrong?”

“I have to go to work,” she said slowly, dragging her gaze from the phone to Holly’s eyes. “Captain America’s a fugitive.”

---------------------------------------------------------------------------

Eliza called Holly a few hours later.

“Alexander left me a letter,” she said without preamble, fitting more scathing hatred, anger, and desperate worry in the last word than Holly had previously thought possible. “He left before dawn, and he only left me a letter--”

“I’ll watch the kids,” Holly said immediately, already jumping up and pulling her coat on. “Is it still Philip, Angelica, James, and John?”

“Yes, they’re all home, Stark volunteered security but I need someone we trust with them--especially Angie and John--”

“I’m already on the way,” Holly promised, slamming the door behind her. “It’ll be okay.”

Eliza laughed, a little wetly. “Angie--”

“Has panic attacks, dissociates, fugue states, James is allergic to strawberries, they all have nightmares. Eliza,” Holly added, freezing as she started getting into her car. “It’ll be okay.”

Eliza was silent for a long moment.

“I just want him to be alive at the end of this,” she said finally, like a confession. “That would be enough.”

---------------------------------------------------------------------------

That night, all four Hamilton children piled on the couch around her like puppies, Holly watched the helicarriers go down.

The television was muted, but James, laying across Holly’s lap, still flinched away from the screen as another explosion filled the screen with orange and yellow. Angie had her head on Philip’s shoulder, staring blankly ahead like she wasn’t seeing anything at all. Philip stroked her hair with one hand and wrapped his other arm around James. On Holly’s other side, John clung to Holly’s side like a koala, peeking out from underneath his messy hair like he couldn’t look away.

Holly checked her phone again. Nothing new; just one message from Alina, timestamped three hours ago, that said nothing but I love you.

She made sure the volume was all the way up, opened and closed the news app, and checked her messages again.

I love you.

“Is Dad--”

“Dad’s gonna be fine,” Philip said quickly, cutting off John’s question. “So’s Mom. They’re gonna come back and it’s gonna be fine.” A determination that was all Alexander lit up Philip’s eyes as he pulled all his siblings closer. “It’s gonna be fine.”

Holly checked her messages again.

I love you.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------

Eight hours later, Holly ushered the Hamilton children through the halls of an incredibly well-guarded hospital, doing her best to shield the youngest from the sight of machine gun-toting soldiers lining the halls.

There wasn’t much she could do to protect them from the image of Alexander, bruised and bloody in a hospital bed, though, not to mention their mother laying a few feet away.

“Wait,” she said anyway, spotting another man in the room. “Who--”

“Sam Wilson,” the other man said, rising from where he was sitting between the two beds. “I helped Cap take those helicarriers down, didn’t want either of them to wake up alone.”

“He’s okay, Holly,” Eliza said faintly from the far hospital bed, and the children surged forward.

“Mom!” John shrieked, and James echoed him, both of them rushing forward. Philip followed more slowly, his hand wrapped tightly around Angelica’s.

“Hello,” Eliza grinned, wincing a little as the two boys climbed onto the hospital bed and jostled her. “Oh, it’s so good to see you both.”

“Mom?” Angelica asked softly, her voice quavering. James immediately looked back at her and slid off the bed so she could slowly step forward and take Eliza’s hand.

“Hi, Angie baby,” Eliza said gently, squeezing her daughter’s hand. “I’m sorry I scared you.”

“Mom,” Angie gasped and pitched forward, burying her face in Eliza’s shoulder as she sobbed and shook. Eliza murmured softly to her daughter, bandages peeking out as she wrapped an arm around Angie and held her close.

Holly glanced away, walking over to the other bed in the room. “How is he?”

“In and out,” Wilson sighed in response, looking relieved to have something to look at other than the emotional reunion. “The docs are optimistic though, and he seems like himself when he’s awake, so that’s good.”

“Seems like himself?”

“He doesn’t shut the hell up,” Sam said with a fond chuckle, and Holly surprised herself by giggling.

“You have no idea how hard it was to be his publicist.”

“Was? You quit, I assume, seeing as you’re still sane.”

“I stuck it out. It’s a surprise to all of us, believe me,” Holly laughed.

“I was really surprised.” The voice was a little raspy, a little slower than his usual, but it was definitely Alexander’s. “You should’ve seen her face the first time I hijacked a press conference.”

“Well, yeah, because you’d been awake for all of a week and started ranting about the wage gap,” Holly sputtered, even as a relieved smile broke across her face. “I was expecting a racist old man, not a radical!”

“Dad!” Philip shouted, and soon the bed was swarming with children, and both Holly and Sam fell back as Alexander ruffled hair, kissed foreheads, and promised them all that yes, he was okay, and he was sorry for scaring them.

“Holly,” Eliza interrupted gently, though her eyes were half on her children and husband. “Have you heard from Alina?”

“Yes ma’am,” Holly said, letting the giddy grin grow over her face again as she was reminded of Alina. “She’s a few rooms down, getting a few cuts seen to--she got grazed but she’s okay. And she agreed to be my wife,” she added, and Eliza let out a delighted gasp.

“Oh, Holly, that’s wonderful!” Eliza said, reaching out to clutch one of Holly’s hands. “You’re such wonderful women and dear friends, I couldn’t be happier for you.”

“Thank you, ma’am,” Holly blushed.

“It’s Eliza.”

“Thank you, Eliza,” Holly corrected herself, and Eliza grinned. “Although, I don’t know how we’re going to afford a wedding--after the stunt you guys pulled, we’re both kind of unemployed.”

Eliza’s grin grew even wider. “I have a job opening.”

---------------------------------------------------------------------------

It was into Holly’s sixth month as director of the John Laurens Shelter for LGBTQIA+ Youth (after the helicarriers went down, the memorial had been removed from the name; several months later, Holly had started to notice a man who always wore long sleeves and who bore a striking resemblance to the old photograph of John Laurens they had hanging in the hallways hanging out around the Hamilton house. Both Alexander and Eliza seemed much happier, so Holly didn’t push the subject) when Holly got a phone call.

“Holly,” Alexander said, and she could already hear the smile in his voice. “The Hamilton family is getting bigger again.”

“Are you adopting again?” Holly asked, but she was already grinning. She’d once jokingly asked Eliza if her plan was to adopt every orphan in New York she couldn’t find a good home, and Eliza had looked her dead in the eye and said yes. They’d adopted one of the shelter’s long term residents just a few months ago, a teenager just a couple years younger than Philip, and Holly had never seen the troubled boy happier. “How is Alexander Jr, by the way?”

“He’s so good. The HRT is going really well, he’s really happy.”

“That’s really good to hear.” Holly had always had a soft spot for Alexander--one of the first cases to come to the shelter after Eliza put Holly in charge, he’d been angry and lost and alone.

He’d chosen the name Alexander for himself, not after reading the comics or the history books, but after Alexander Hamilton himself had visited the shelter one day. A part of Holly had expected Alexander the elder to preen and brag over the fact, but instead whenever someone else brought it up, the man only got a soft, embarrassed smile on his face and tears in his eyes.

“I’m so proud of him,” Alexander said, jolting Holly out of her thoughts. “But that’s not why I’m calling.”

“Right, of course,” Holly said, refocusing.

“Holly,” he said, both tears and a grin audible in his voice “Eliza’s pregnant.”

---------------------------------------------------------------------------

Eight months later, Holly and Alina squeezed into a very-crowded hospital room to see the new arrival.

“When the hospitals created their ‘immediate family only’ policies, I really don’t think they had the Hamiltons in mind,” Alina quipped.

John and James were both half-sitting on the bed in their eagerness to see their new sibling, and despite trying to look cool and unaffected, both Alexander Jr and Philip were craning their necks to see. Angelica stood a little bit back from the crowd, William--who they’d adopted a few months after the fall of SHIELD, when he was identified as the child of two SHIELD agents who hadn’t made it--balanced on her hip and fussing in a way only two year olds could do well.

Just behind the hospital bed, his back against the wall, stood a man who had to be John Laurens, one sleeve pulled down so the entirety of his left arm was hidden, his eyes darting to the door like he was planning an escape just in case, but he kept looking back at the scene in the bed, a fond smile on his face like he’d forgotten he’d put it there.

Both Eliza and Alexander were squeezed onto the narrow hospital bed, and at the center of it all was a small bundle of blankets in Eliza’s arms.

A small pink hand poked out.

Alexander looked up, the joy on his face radiant like the sun, and waved them both over eagerly.

“Come here, come here, come meet her!”

“Her? It’s a girl?” Holly asked stupidly as she came forward, Alexander practically bouncing with excitement over introducing his daughter.

“Unless she tells us otherwise,” he said, gently rearranging the blankets so the baby’s small face was visible. She was reddish, fat-cheeked, and looked utterly exhausted in the way that only the recently-born could look. “And she’s beautiful.”

“She is,” Alina agreed, her hand on the small of Holly’s back as they both leaned in to look closer.

“What’s her name?” Holly asked, gently nudging the baby’s hand with a fingertip. Eliza looked up at Alexander, who looked somewhere between embarrassed and proud as he made eye contact with Holly.

“We’re thinking of calling her Elizabeth Holly.”

“Elizabeth…” Holly stared at them both for a second, and then she felt tears spring into her eyes. “Oh, fuck, Alexander--”

“Auntie Holly swore,” William intoned sagely from his spot on Angie’s hip, and the room broke out into giggles. Alexander shifted, raising his arms and pulling Holly in for a hug.

“It was the only logical choice--”

“Shut up, I’m already crying,” Holly sniffled, burying her wide, embarrassed grin in the embrace.

“Okay,” Alexander chuckled, the smile still radiating from every inch of him. “But--”

“Oh my God,” Holly moaned, and Eliza laughed.

“I just need to say this one thing--”