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Quid Pro Quo

Chapter Text

Alex’s work computer takes about ten minutes to boot up in the morning. It’s not even a desktop, but a crappy HP laptop he has to bring with him from home every day, because he barely even has a desk. He’s shoved into about half a cubicle’s worth of desk room, sharing space with the water cooler. Which means that every five minutes he’s got one or two people holding conversation over his shoulder, which means that very little gets done unless he locks himself in with noise-canceling headphones and just has at it.

Literally the only thing worth coming to work for most days is the coffee. Which is pretty good. It’s a Keurig. Those things ain’t cheap.

But. Well. Otherwise?

He’s not dramatic. But there are days when Alexander Hamilton would literally rather fling himself into the sun than show up to work at PolitiFinder, this tenth-rate news blog and literally the only place that hired him when he moved to D.C., fresh out of grad school with a stack of resumes and a thirst for…

Well, it doesn’t matter, he thinks, filling up his mug with a dark roast from the Keurig. His second of the day. He likes a single first cup at home before he gets ready, a warm-up coffee to get his mind working properly. He’s not really a person before coffee.

So the point is this: it's Thursday morning, and he's slouching in his desk chair, which is not great, as far as desk chairs go. It's better than the one back in the shitty dorm he lived in when he was a 24-year-old RA at Columbia, but it's still doing a number on his back, and that's when Myles Cooper shows up, six-cup coffee mug clenched in his left fist and his iPad in the other and a look on his face as if he's got something to say that Alex won't like.

"I'm gonna stop you right there," he says preemptively. "No, I don't want to move desks, this one is fine. I hear all the gossip." Because the only other option is a storage closet, and this location might suck but he's certainly not going to go sit in a closet to do his work. Like he's Harry goddamn Potter or something.

But Cooper just frowns over his little round wire-rims, like it's not something he'd ever even consider. "Why would you move desks?" he asks, and then doesn't wait for the answer. "I've got an assignment for you."

Great, he thinks, downing what's left of his coffee and sliding the mug to the back edge of his desk. Cooper's assignments are predictably shit. "What is it?"

"The National Zoo is having trouble getting their pandas to mate," Cooper says magnanimously. "We're going to cover it."

"Wait. Seriously?" Alex blinks. "You're gonna send me — a graduate of Columbia University, mind you — to go interview some pandas who won't fuck?"

It's unprofessional, but he can say practically anything. Cooper is a brick wall, consumed with his iPad. "Finger on the pulse, Alex," he says blandly.

"Actually, I was thinking." Alex grabs for the legal pad he keeps beside his desk, each page filled to the last line with scribbles, notes, phone numbers, sources. His bible. He runs his eyes down the page until he hits the one he's after. "I got a friend who knows this guy, Lafayette. He's George Washington's chief of staff. Nice guy, from what I hear, but he's saying there's trouble in the office. Like half the staff just got fired without warning or notice and nobody knows what's up. You don't think we should look into that?"

Cooper cocks a brow. "You don't think that's a little above your pay grade?"

"All due respect, no, I don't," Alex replies testily. "I mean, I've got an in, I have the source. Don't tell me you're gonna give this to —“

"Sam'll look into it," says Cooper, eyes already back on the screen in front of him. "Go talk to the zookeeper. Good chat, Alex."

There's a very real moment in which Alex weighs the consequences of picking up his empty mug and hurling it across the room, making it shatter on the doorframe right over Cooper's shitty, noxious head. But the moment passes, and Cooper leaves, and Alex stares at his laptop, which has only been on for half an hour and is already burning hot to the touch, and all he can do is seethe inwardly.

He takes a minute. He composes himself. He looks up the number for the Asian mammals department at the National Zoo.

He puts Gilbert du Motier-Lafayette's phone number in his contacts anyway.


So he's distinctly underdressed for the Four Seasons Georgetown, in his sneakers and khakis and blue button-down, messenger bag from Target slung over his shoulder. Everything he owns is either going on a decade old, from Target, or both. In a roomful of sleek suits, he senses that he sticks out like a sore thumb: Journalist. Or, well, not even journalist. Blogger. Slob with a blog and half a byline at PolitiFinder.

He's also distinctly afraid, now that he thinks about it, that he might smell like the panda enclosure. Not one of his top five smells, personally.

But he gets a drink — gin and tonic, house liquor, because he's not here to impress anyone, and he scans the room. There's a reason he avoids places like this on purpose: everyone is just here to be seen. He's not sure what this Lafayette guy looks like. All John had said was "You'll know him when you see him." Because that explains so much.

Alex pulls his drink toward him, stabs the lime with his little red cocktail straw and pushes it all the way to the bottom before taking a sip. The drink is much more tonic than gin, and it half strikes him to complain. He's got his hand out to flag down the bartender when —

Oh. He sees what John meant, "You'll know him when you see him." Because this Lafayette guy is walking toward him with singular confidence, hair tied back in a ponytail much like Alex's own, slickly suited in navy blue. He's got on thick-rimmed glasses and he's half consumed by whatever's happening on his phone, but then he looks up, eyes meeting Alex's with searching purpose, and Alex nods. And that's that.

Lafayette slides into the seat beside him at the bar. "John's friend, I presume," he says, his voice low and thickly accented. Alex nods and holds out a hand to shake.

"Alexander Hamilton," he says, gripping the other man's hand a little too tightly, glancing at the gold cuff links that gleam in his pressed lavender shirt. "I'm with PolitiFinder."

"Right, yes," says Lafayette. "And you wanted to know why we fired John Andre."

"I - well, yeah, actually, that's why I'm here," Alex says, stumbling over his words a little. "I was curious -"

"Go fuck yourself." Lafayette signals the bartender and orders a glass of merlot, barely looking at the wine list. Alexander stirs the lime in his drink, waiting for a follow-up to that, but Lafayette seems disinclined to provide one, simply taking a sip of his wine and making a little face of acceptance in response.

Alex inhales, squaring his shoulders for a fight. "Look, John said you were willing to talk to me."

"He said you worked for Politico, not PolitiFinder," Lafayette says disdainfully. "There's a difference."

"I'm aware," Alexander says through gritted teeth.

"I've never heard of you. How many Twitter followers do you have?"

"Couple hundred," Alex says. "I'm not - journalism isn't my trade, I honestly just kind of fell into this." He says it like it's an explanation. He knows it isn't.

"Right," Lafayette says slowly. "Well. It was nice to meet you." He picks up his glass of wine, drops a twenty on the bar. "Perhaps we'll meet again."

"Perhaps," echoes Alexander, and then Lafayette is gone, winding his way across the room. Alexander has two choices, he realizes — accept the snub and stay seated, or chase him down. Those aren't choices. He has one option. He's not going to lose. Not with this kind of lead.

He pulls a ten from his own wallet and leaves it at the bar.

Lafayette has been sitting at a round table with three other men for the past hour. Two of them Alex couldn't place. Lobbyists, by the look of their clothes and the way they keep laughing a little too hard, their gestures a little too ingratiating. They're not interesting. Alexander has no love lost for lobbyists. Lafayette seems to be swinging hot and cold on them; his look of disinterest occasionally breaking open in a wide laugh.

The fourth member of their party is Senator George Washington.

He's more handsome in person than when he gave the keynote speech at the DNC two years ago, Alex will give him that; tall and broad-shouldered in a charcoal suit. He's even less open to the lobbyists than his chief of staff, face frozen in an expression that strikes Alex as polite but immovable. He gestures openly, with broad hands, on the rare occasion that he speaks.

Alex watches them for the better part of an hour, shrouded in this corner, faces half in shadows. It gets boring; he nurses his drink down to the dregs and then crunches the ice cubes one by one between his molars. All that's left in his glass are the desiccated remains of the lime slice by the time Lafayette stands up and shakes a round of hands, signaling his leave.

There's an empty seat. There's a shot.

Alex takes it.

Washington looks up at him with a carefully disguised look of bewilderment as he slides into the seat Lafayette has just vacated, cueing up a voice memo and hitting 'record' as he sits. "Alexander Hamilton," he says, offering a handshake that the senator accepts graciously. "Senator, it's a pleasure."

"Likewise," says Washington. "You're not also with ABMK, I assume -"

"Me? No." Alex settles into the chair, asserting as much space as he can and dropping his phone on the table. The lobbyists are both looking at him like he's dangerous, and it occurs to him that this is power, that he can use it. "Senator, we haven't met before. Lafayette is a friend of a friend, I thought he might introduce us. I was curious about the recent vacancies on your staff—“

Washington laughs. "I'm the last person you want to talk to about that. Give your resumé to my chief of staff if you’re interested.”

"Oh, no, I'm not interested in a job," he amends quickly. "This is strictly... another form of professional curiosity, I guess you could say."

"Ah." Washington looks to the lobbyists and then takes a sip of his drink. "What did you say your last name was?"

"Hamilton, sir." Alex crosses his legs, settles back a little deeper into his chair. "Full disclosure, I'm actually with the press."

"Well, then I think we're done here," says Washington quickly. "I'm afraid I can't tell you anything about Mr. Andre's departure other than that he has chosen to pursue other opportunities. Have a good night, Mr. Hamilton."

With this, he gestures for Alex to give them their leave. Alex doesn't move. "Fine," he says. "I probably shouldn't have led with 'I'm with the press,' but this isn't some kind of exposé. A single quote would be enough."

"I think I already gave you one." Senator Washington says with finality.

Fuck it. It was worth a try. He heaves himself up from the chair and heads for the door. Alex chances a look back over his shoulder as he leaves, and sees Washington watching him go, his heavy brows knit together as he tries to feign nonchalance.

It's unseasonably cold outside, near freezing even as the end of March cedes to the start of April. Alex buttons his threadworn peacoat (more gravitas than a parka) as he steps out into the chill, mentally recalibrating the distance to the nearest metro station. He can see his breath in the air as he hurries along the street, hands jammed into his coat pockets. He starts to reach into his back pocket for his phone, when -- oh, fuck.

He remembers specifically where he left it, on the table, recording a voice memo - shit. He just walked away, leaving it to record everything Washington and the lobbyists were saying. Jesus Christ, Alexander, you're a fucking genius, he thinks, stopping mid-stride to high-five himself there on the sidewalk. Well played. Never mind that it was a complete accident. So he pivots and starts back toward the Four Seasons.


"Nobody turned in a phone," the bartender says.

"Are you sure?" Alex asks, his stomach sinking like a stone. "Could you just double check? Please?"

The man gives the bar a sarcastic once-over, sweeping his eyes up and down. "Double checked. Nothing."

"Look, I really need it back," Alex says, his voice taking on a noticeably pleading, unattractive tone. "Please. Nobody would have stolen it, it's like, an iPhone 4S. It's not even worth the money it'd cost to get it stripped for parts."

"Did you check the last place you saw it?" asks the bartender.

Alex nods feverishly. "Yeah. It wasn't over there." Washington and his party were gone by the time he made it all the way back to the hotel, too, leaving nothing but a pile of cocktail napkins in their wake.

"Can't help you, then," says the bartender, turning back to the martini he's pouring. "Leave your name and email. If anyone turns it in, we'll call you."

"Great. Fucking great. Super helpful and efficient system," Alex mutters as he turns on his heel and heads for the door. He seethes all the way to the metro, on the train, and all the way back to his apartment. Possibly his one chance at an exclusive, and he fucking lost it.


Both roommates' doors are shut when he gets home, so he doesn't bother trying to complain to John or Hercules. Instead, he slams things around in the kitchen for a few minutes while fixing a grilled cheese sandwich, then eats it resentfully while waiting for his ancient laptop to boot up. He's rinsing crumbs off the plastic flatware when an email alert dings on his freshly-restarted computer, and heads back to the kitchen table, dreading yet another after-hours work email from Cooper.

From: G. Washington
Subject: Your phone

Provided that you are the Alexander Hamilton with whom I spoke briefly at the Four Seasons Georgetown tonight, I believe I am in current possession of your cell phone.

If so, please contact me immediately so as to arrange its return. We will, of course, discuss the removal of some sensitive information.

Of course, if you are a different Alexander Hamilton, please disregard this message altogether.


He blinks as he reads it again, and then a third time.


Chapter Text

He takes his time with the response, gives it a full eight hours. But even an ambien-hazed night's sleep later, he doesn't know how to answer, what words to use. He double checks the email address: not a government email, but still looks legit. He's going to assume, going on good faith and Occam's razor and a little bit of residual annoyance and hope, that this is not some kind of prank or joke at his expense.

He doesn't say anything about it in the morning, as he fixes himself a sandwich to take with him to work, stepping around John in the apartment's tiny kitchen as he licks the excess peanut butter off the knife before running it under the faucet. (All the better to not have to clean peanut butter sludge out of the sink, he rationalizes.) John keeps up a running patter about the latest developments at work, how he thinks his legal internship at the HRC might turn into a job offer soon, and Alex peppers the conversation with mild Awesomes and That's so great, mans, but his mind is elsewhere.

He's not deleting that recording. There must be something really fucking juicy on there if Washington is demanding that it go before the phone is returned. It's moments like these that Alex is proud of his ability to create nearly-unguessable passcodes.

When he's finally seated at his desk, second cup of coffee in hand and laptop wheezing as it boots up, he finally has the words in mind. He opens a fresh email and taps them in, hitting the sticky S key with particular gusto: Senator, I would be happy to meet with you. You name the time and the place. A. Hamilton

"Morning, Hamilton," announces Sam Seabury, popping open the top of his thermos and holding it beneath the water cooler. "How were the pandas?"

"Their libidos were as sluggish as ever," Alex says absently, scanning the short paragraph for typos and other errors. "How's your story on Jay coming along?"

"Quite well, actually," Seabury says proudly. "I got two exclusive quotes and an interesting bit of info from a friend at the Department of the Interior..."

"Ah," says Alex. Satisfied with his reply, he's prepared to hit send, but then Sam is leaning over his shoulder and it's too late.

"What senator are you meeting?" he demands.

Alex blanches. "Nobody," he says. Your message has been sent, Gmail tells him. Little good that does. Seabury spins to lean against his desk, filling most of his plane of view and staring down at him, thermos still clutched in one hand.

"You shouldn't hold out on sources," Seabury warns him, his voice sanctimonious enough to raise Alex's hackles. "If someone else could do a better job with a lead, you should be a team player and hand it off. Front page real estate is a precious thing, you don't want a real story getting buried -"

"We work at a website, Seabury, we can put whatever fucking story we want on the front page," Alex snaps. "There's no such thing as byline seniority in clickbait."

"I went to j-school, Hamilton, this isn't clickbait. This is my career." Seabury is staring down at him with that pinched, offended look that makes Alex's fuse — admittedly short on a good day — sizzle down to nothing in record time. He's been ready to blow for the past month. So he does something incredibly rational, what anyone would do.

He snatches Seabury's annoying fucking thermos that he refills twenty times a day from his hand, unscrews the lid, and sloshes the contents all over the front of the prick's pressed, starched, pleated pants, then hurls the thermos at the ground for good measure, swelling with pleasure and pride as the cheap plastic lid snaps into two.

"Fuck off, Seabury," he snaps again, slamming his laptop shut and cramming it into his messenger bag. "Tell Cooper to go fuck himself too. I'm done with this fucking job."

The oh-shit-oh-shit-oh-my-god-what-the-fuck-did-I-just-do sets in approximately five minutes after he leaves the PolitiFinder offices and starts huffing down the street. He's never quit a job like that. He's never even quit a job at all, not without having something better already lined up. This, though — no no no, fuck, Alexander, this was a horrible no good very bad idea.

He thinks he vaguely remembers a smattering of applause as he stormed out of the office, middle fingers held high. He's not entirely certain that it was real, but he thinks he remembers it. His perception doesn't lie to him.

Quickly, he struggles to justify this to himself. He grits his teeth and tries to count the reasons he just did the right thing, that letting his temper get the best of him was a blessing in disguise. They didn't pay me enough anyway. Nobody appreciated me there. I deserved better. Nobody should have to work with that prick Seabury in the first place.

He groans as he holds his smarttrip against the scanner and pushes on through the turnstile. Nope, no matter how he spins it, he just seriously fucked himself.

The one upside about his new unemployment, he decides, is that he can do whatever he wants today. He figures he deserves that much, one afternoon to himself. He takes the train to Foggy Bottom and sets up his laptop in a coffee shop across the street from the EEOB, orders a cappuccino and takes tiny sips until a new email dings into his inbox.

From: G. Washington

Subject: Re: Re: Your phone

Great. Shall we do this afternoon at two? Lunch at Green Olive, near Capitol Hill. It's on me.


Alex taps out a quick reply in agreement, then turns back to his own problems, pulling up his online bank statement. The situation is - well, to put it lightly, pretty fucking dire. He's been living paycheck to paycheck since he moved here, but he's never really not had a job. The idea of being unemployed in a city like this chills him to the bone. John's had short bouts of unemployment in their time as roommates, is still basically underemployed as it is, but he's also no stranger to receiving occasional bailouts from the Bank of Dad. His relentlessly positive attitude about getting by is a byproduct of never having been truly afraid he wouldn't be able to.

But now, freshly unemployed, having quit in a way that would have certainly gotten him fired had he not stormed out when he did (not really beating the system save for on a theoretical level), Alexander feels every cell in his body succumb to a rising panic. This is bad. This is very, very bad and he has just done a monumentally stupid thing.

He pulls the peanut butter sandwich from his bag and tears into it. Eyes the clock. 10:49am. Fuck it.

He walks to Green Olive, despite it being a substantial half hour away on foot and his brick of a computer weighing him down with every step. It's still chilly outside, but he's sweating by the time he arrives at the restaurant, which is much nicer than he expected. Maybe getting so sweaty en route was a mistake. He pulls his hair back in a knot before stepping inside.

The hostess immediately escorts him to a table in the corner, near the back of the restaurant. Alex doesn't know what he's expecting, but he's mildly surprised to see Washington there alone.

"Senator," he says nervously as Washington rises from his seat, one broad hand extended. He's smiling calmly, looks like this could be any everyday business meeting at all, and Alex forces himself to match his smile, act like he's not inwardly panicking at the entire fucking situation.

"Mr. Hamilton," says Washington, shaking his hand briskly. His grip is so much stronger than Alex was prepared for.

"Call me Alex," he says automatically, his mind elsewhere, then cringes. This isn't really a scenario in which he wishes to encourage familiarity. "Or, you know, whatever you want. It doesn't matter. Sir."

"So... Alex?" Washington's eyes glimmer with a hint of a smile as they both sit, and Alex exhales.

"Sure. I - Alex is good. That's what most people call me." He surreptitiously wipes his sweaty palm on his jeans under the table, then opens the menu. Shit. He remembers Washington emphasizing that this lunch was on him. He sure fucking hopes so. Oh my god I just lost my job oh fuck —

He glances up. Washington, weirdly, is still smiling, his face frozen in some parody of familiarity. This is what he always hates about politicians. The mask never comes off around journalists.

"So," he says, forcing the change of subject. Might as well rip the band-aid right off. "My phone."

"Of course," Washington says, reaching into his jacket pocket and sliding the phone across the table. "You really ought to be more careful with your possessions, son."

A flicker of annoyance ripples through Alex. Three minutes' face time, total, and he's already breaking out the nicknames? To hell with this broad-shouldered heap of stoic smarm. He pulls his phone toward him, hitting the power button. Freshly charged. At least Washington's a conscientious heap of stoic smarm.

"Thanks," he says. He moves to pocket it, but Washington raises a hand, shaking his head. Not yet, his expression seems to dictate, and Alex obeys, sliding it back toward the middle of the table. An objet d'cease-fire. That's got to be a thing, he thinks.

"I believe there was another matter on the table," Washington says, choosing his words carefully.

Alex sighs. He's been over these words a hundred times since last night, chosen them for maximum diplomacy and effect. "I'm not deleting anything until I've listened to it first," he says carefully. "I want to know what I'm complicit in hiding."

Washington chuckles. "No, I don't think we can do that," he says. "We're not going to let that happen."

"You're not going to let that happen, you mean," Alex says. "What's with the royal 'we', sir?"

Washington raises both eyebrows, the familiar style finally fading from his face. "You're right, then," he says. "I'm not going to let that happen."

"Okay, now we're getting somewhere," Alex says, but before he can argue further, a waitress has appeared at the table. He orders a Diet Coke and then tacks on his lunch order as well, the salmon and rice pilaf, because if this is going to go as quickly as he thinks it might, he's still making it his business to get a free lunch out of it.

"Right," Washington says slowly, as the waitress takes her leave. "As I was saying, I'm afraid that's not a possibility."

"So there's something that you don't want me to hear on there," Alex says. But Washington shakes his head.

"There may be. There also may not be. Schrodinger's classified information," Washington says casually. "But that's actually not the point. You realize you'd be breaking multiple ethical codes, right? I'm certain whatever publication you work for has stipulations about publishing stories based on conversations recorded secretly and without consent."

"The guy who voted for the PATRIOT Act is lecturing me about the ethics of wiretapping," Alex snorts. "This is too good."

He sees Washington's eyes flash in irritation, knows he's probably overstepped his boundaries, but the senator inhales sharply and only says, "I was a freshman representative at the time. You know I take privacy very seriously."

"Of course," Alex says, raising his hands in supplication. "Fine. Let's say, then, that I'm not going to write any kind of story. Let's say that my wanting to listen to it is purely private and personal now, because you've got my interest piqued."

"You can't honestly think I'm that stupid," says Washington. "You're still a member of the press. We're not friendly."

"Well, joke's on you, because I just quit that job this morning," Alex fires back a little too quickly. Fuck. He wasn't planning on disclosing that. But, well, now it's out in the ether and Washington cocks a brow, taking a sip of the sparkling water in front of him.

"I see," he says. "Should I offer my congratulations?"

Alex has no idea what he's saying, at this point. He's still a little bit bewildered by the events of the morning, and he doesn't know why he's spilling all of this to someone he doesn't even know. A goddamn United States senator, at that. But Washington's manner is just placid enough to feel like an invitation. It occurs to him, dimly, that this is probably on purpose. That this man can coax all forms of confessions and ill-advised gossip out of people who don't know him well, or at all. 

But the thing is, he has no one else to tell. He's not exactly itching to confess to his roommates and only two friends that he's just quit his job with no savings and no prospects. He doesn't have a ton of other friends. He's not really a big fan of therapy. He feels, too, as though he'll vomit if he keeps it in much longer.

"Not really," he admits to Washington, who gives him a probing look before he continues. "I kind of lost my temper with a coworker. It wasn't — well, I did the whole 'You can't fire me, I quit' thing, a little bit. Not really my finest moment."

"Ah," says Washington. "I assume I'm the first person you've told?"

"Yeah," Alex says. "How did you know?"

"Just a hunch." Washington takes another sip of his water as Alex's drink arrives. "May I ask what you studied? Since I get the sense that journalism was not, ah, your particular passion."

"I have a master's in public policy from Columbia," Alex says sheepishly. "I didn't want to be a journalist. I just kind of took the first job I was offered when I moved here last year. I'm not really in a place to take a bunch of unpaid internships, I just needed something that would keep me alive."

Washington nods. "I see. You're how old?"

"Twenty-five." Alex bites the inside of his cheek. "I know. It's... I had a long road. I spent three years in the military before I started undergrad."

At this, Washington seems to take an interest, perk up. "What branch?" he asks, leaning forward.

"The Army." Alex takes a sip of his Diet Coke, staring at the tablecloth intently. "I was never in combat or anything, I spent most of it doing paperwork on base. I had some, uh, ethical qualms about enlisting. But it paid for school. The foster care system doesn't exactly help you save for college or anything."

He glances up to see Washington looking at him with a slightly softer glint to his eye now. "I'm sorry," he says. "I'm rambling."

"Not at all," Washington says. "Where are you from originally?"

"New York. Well, the British Virgin Isles, technically, but I grew up in the Bronx," Alex explains. "I have citizenship and everything, I was just born there." 

"Foster care to the Army to Columbia," Washington muses. "That's quite a story."

"Well, now I'm about to be homeless if I can't figure this job situation out," Alex mutters. "I'm sorry. You don't care. I know that."

Their food arrives, and the waitress smiles at Alex as she places his salmon down in front of him. His appetite seems to have faded over the past few minutes' ill-advised disclosure. Washington's Cubano sandwich and fries still look excellent, though, Alex thinks as Washington overturns the glass ketchup bottle and shakes it a little. Nothing comes out.

"You've gotta hit it a little," Alex says without thinking, and Washington laughs a little.

"Believe it or not, I have handled one of these before," he says, and with that, gives the bottle one single, vigorous smack on the side. A glob of ketchup slides onto his plate, but Alex isn't paying attention. For some reason, he can't tear his eyes away from Washington's hands.

(So George Washington's an attractive man. He's also got a wedding ring on his left hand. Alex rolls his eyes. This isn't something he needs to dwell on. He's got larger concerns.)

They eat in silence, Alex shoveling forkfuls of rice down his throat almost on autopilot. He can sense Washington watching him more than he's eating himself, but doesn't catch him in the act until he looks up halfway through a bite. "Is something wrong, sir?" 

Washington shakes his head. "What did you do your master's thesis on?" he asks.

"The economic effects of gentrification on the working poor in Brooklyn," Alex answers as he swallows another mouthful of salmon. "I was working a service job and doing an internship at the same time, too."

"Impressive," Washington nods. "Where did you intern?"

"The AFL-CIO and then with the public advocate's office," he answers. "I was doing a lot of policy analysis, writing papers, that kind of thing. It wasn't super well-paid, but I got a lot out of it. Why does this sound like a job interview?"

With a shrug, Washington balls up his napkin and tosses it on his plate, covering up the last few scattered fries. "You do know I just lost my personal assistant."

"Right," Alex says slowly, not allowing himself to get his hopes up. His stomach is already churning in disbelief, though. "John Andre..."

"And since you were so curious, FYI, he actually left on his own. He chose to take another, more lucrative position elsewhere," Washington muses. "You wouldn't be... I doubt you'd be interested."

"How does it pay?" Alex can't help asking. "Because, I mean, I'm really not trying to look a gift horse in the mouth here, but my whole situation is kind of, um, dire."

Washington chuckles. He pulls a pen from his pocket and jots down a figure on another napkin, then slides it across the table. Alex's eyes widen as he looks it over. It's not exorbitant, pretty standard for a government position as far as he knows, but it's still far more money than he was making at PolitiFinder.

His eyes flick up to meet Washington's. "That's a starting salary, of course," Washington says. "I think you'll find that if we click, there will be certain performance-based bonuses. Lots of perks. Vacation time. Fantastic networking. Would you be interested?"

Alex blinks. "This is some kind of joke, right?"

"Not a joke," Washington says, holding up both hands. "I don't normally do this. I'm aware it's quite forward. But you seem like a decent kid, and I regret that we got off to the... start that we did. Are you interested?"

There's a brief pause, and Washington extends his hand to shake, eyes still locked on Alex's. After a moment of dizzying, confused hesitation, Alex takes a deep breath, nods, and shakes it.

"The voice memo," he adds. "Do you still want me to delete it?"

Washington shrugs. "It's your choice."

Brow furrowed, Alex picks up his phone from where it still sits on the table. There's no way this isn't a test. Hesitantly, he taps in his passcode, then pulls up the voice memo.

He stares at it for a brief, conflicted few seconds.

He hits delete.

"Welcome aboard," says Senator Washington.

Chapter Text

Alex is still buzzing, bewildered and a little in shock when he unlocks the door to the third-floor apartment and lets himself in. It’s kind of messy, he notices. Normally, if the mess were John or Hercules’, they would have picked it up by now, so by the power of deduction he figures it’s probably his. Not that he’s inclined to pick it up. He doesn’t mind living in clutter.

“Hey,” John greets him as he steps out of the bathroom, the scents of of toothpaste and aftershave wafting out after him. He’s dressed like he’s going somewhere. Oh, right, it’s Friday night. Alex often feels like he’d forget what day of the week it was if he weren’t beholden to a work schedule.

“Hey,” Alex says, unbuttoning his coat and tossing it over the couch to join his messenger bag. “You look nice. Hot date?”

John’s cheeks flush the slightest bit pink, dulling his freckles, and he glances down at his chinos and freshly-ironed button-down, sleeves cuffed deliberately mid-forearm. “Just a guy who works for the veep,” he shrugs. “He suggested we grab drinks, it’s not really a whole thing.”

“Whatever gets you off Grindr,” Alex shrugs. “God, have a couple shots for me. I had the weirdest fucking day.”

“Yeah?” John isn’t really paying attention, opening the coat closet and toeing into his Sperrys. “More bullshit at work? Cooper up your ass again?”

“Uh.” He’s not really sure how to phrase it. “I… Okay, I can sense that you’re going to get judgmental about this.”

“Alex,” John says, patiently but dry, leaning against the closet doorframe with his arms folded and a faint smile tugging at the edges of his lips. “When have I ever judged you?”

“You get that look, the ‘Oh God, Hamilton, what the hell did you do, you’re an idiot, why do I’ — okay, look, you’re doing it right now,” Alex says, pointing for emphasis. “It’s not that bad. Okay, it was kind of bad. I didn’t think.”

“Holy shit, Alex, what did you do?

“I quit my job,” Alex says quickly. Ripping off the bandage. “But! No, this is the crazy part. I quit like an asshole, and three hours later I got a job offer from — okay, you’re never gonna guess, I’m just gonna tell you.” He pauses for dramatic effect, then intones, “George Washington.”

John’s mouth drops open. Just a little bit, and he closes it right back up quickly enough, but the point is made. “How?!”

Alex pauses. This, too, he’s not quite sure how to explain. “It’s a long story. Don’t worry about it,” he says quickly. “But is that insane or what? Just further proof that the universe rewards total numbskull impulsive actions. Fortune favors the ballsy.”

“Guess so,” John snorts. “Man, that’s awesome. Congratulations. If I run into Lafayette tonight, I’ll — actually, that’s an idea. I was gonna meet up with a bunch of people tonight, I think he’s gonna be there. Do you want to come along?”

It’s a loaded question. Because John’s other friends are — it’s not that Alex dislikes them. Not in so many words, at least. It’s just that they have so little in common. There are certainly times when he realizes exactly how different his world is from John’s.

But what else is he going to do? Stay home all night? It’s not like he has any real work to do. He swallows, shrugs, sucks it up. He can play nice with the rich kids for a night.

“Yeah, totally,” he says. “Text me when you’re gonna meet. I’m down.”

It's a little after ten when he shows up to the bar John indicated in his text. It's one of those eminently D.C. joints, half a sports bar and half built for networking, the kind of after-hours office water cooler Alex came to know well during his internships in New York.

He senses, again, that he's underdressed. Most of the men here have shed their suit jackets and loosened their ties, but the vibe of the room is still reminiscent of the backstage at a Brooks Brothers catalog shoot. Alex never feels out of place intellectually. He knows, both in his heart and from prior experience, that he can argue and flirt and tease with the best of them. But visually, that's a different story. He's been the poor kid in enough classrooms and parties to know when he's not being taken seriously. It's not that anyone's staring at him, rather, their eyes seem to glaze over when he interrupts their field of view, their gaze moving past him like he's not even there.

That's the thing these people have. Visibility. And the confidence that comes from always knowing that they're being seen.

Alex doesn't have to square his shoulders; his posture is already impeccable. He strides up to John's cohort near the bar. John's positioned himself at the center of their cluster, another man's arm casually looped around his waist. Alex eyes the guy. Handsome. Not a bad pull for John these days.

"Hey, man," he says, tapping John lightly on the arm. "Told you I'd try to make it. This your friend?"

"Alex!" John looks drunk, and elated to see him. "Yeah. This is Thom Pinckney, from the VP's office — Thom, this is my friend Alex Hamilton. He just got hired by George Washington."

"Did he?" interjects Lafayette, who is leaning against the bar, a beautiful woman with braids perched on the seat beside him. "This is the first I've heard."

Alex shoots him a wide grin. "We're gonna be coworkers, I guess," he says, holding out a hand to shake. "Think we got off on the wrong foot. Hi. Alexander Hamilton."

Lafayette pauses, as if he's unsure whether to humor him, before suddenly breaking into genuine laughter. “Call me Lafayette," he says, accepting the handshake before gesturing to the woman beside him. "This is my fiancée, Adrienne."

"Pleasure," she says, her accent a little thinner, her tone a little warmer. "I apologize for my love. His sense of humor is an acquired taste."

"No, no, no apologies necessary," Alex assures her. He turns back to Lafayette. "So how long have you been with Washington?"

Lafayette shrugs. "A couple years. I have enjoyed them immensely. So you are the new Andre, then?"

Alex nods, accepting the beer John passes him without question. "So what's he like? You know, as a boss, as a person, whatever."

"I... well." Lafayette rolls his eyes theatrically behind his glasses. "Come outside for a smoke break?"

Alex doesn't smoke, never acquired the taste, but something in Lafayette's expression signals that he should follow. So he does, tapping John on the arm and gesturing that he'll be outside, before pounding the rest of his beer in two goes.

It's still chilly out, but Lafayette doesn't seem to feel the cold as deeply as Alexander, who shoves his hands hard into his coat pockets as Lafayette lights a Gauloise and takes a drag.

"So," Alex says, willing his teeth not to chatter. Lafayette looks like a fucking male model with his scarf under his lapels, not even wrapped around his throat, and Alex is really wishing he'd get on with this instead of standing around posing. Goddamn enigmatic Frenchmen and their decorative scarves. "What's the deal with Washington?"

Lafayette sighs and exhales, blowing smoke upward into the light of the street lamp above them. "Senator Washington is... he takes a personal interest in his staffers," he says. "He's a wonderful man. When I was having visa troubles, he called in favors, had it extended by three years without a single question asked. You are very lucky to have the position that you do."

"But?" Alex asks, skeptical. Because there's no way there isn't a second part to that statement, a caveat heavy enough to outweigh the good. But Lafayette simply shrugs and takes another drag on his cigarette.

"But you will find that he can be difficult to work for," Lafayette says. "He has high expectations. He wants you to succeed and to grow, but he will put you through the ringer doing it. He's in line for the Minority Whip job, and it's because people trust him, they respect him, but more than that, they fear us. He's a decent man who does not resort to idle threats to get things accomplished. That's our job."

"I'm not entirely certain I understand," Alex says, although he's starting to understand just fine. Lafayette cocks a brow.

"You're not an intimidating man," Lafayette observes. It doesn't sound as if it's meant as an outright insult - just more of that home-grown European blunt honesty, Alex supposes - but it hits him hard, right between the ribs. "You will have to work on that. He'll teach you."

"Okay," Alex says slowly. "This is beginning to sound kind of cult-y."

Lafayette laughs. "No, no. We aren't a cult. We're more like an army, truth be told. You know we call him 'The General?'"

"Do you now," Alex shivers, his teeth clacking together involuntarily. Lafayette seems determined to smoke that thing down to the filter, and Alex is about to tap out and head inside when Lafayette's expression changes  from thoughtful to irritated.

"Oh, fuck," he mutters, and tosses the cigarette to the ground, grinding it beneath the heel of his boot. "To whom do I owe the pleasure, Mr. Burr?”

Alex spins around. Sidling up the walk behind him is a slight man, about his height, with a brilliant smile that gleams against his dark skin in the streetlight glow. "Pleasure's all mine, Lafayette," says the man. "Don't you love a coincidence on a Friday night? Makes you feel as though the weekend's really arrived."

"Alexander, this is Aaron Burr," Lafayette says. "We are… coworkers."

"Friends first, coworkers second," says Aaron Burr, and Lafayette rolls his eyes.

"Burr, this is —”

"Alexander Hamilton," Alex cuts him off, reaching out for a handshake. Burr's grip is weak, almost delicate. It catches Alex off-guard. "I'm the new John Andre."

"Of course," Burr says. "I did hear the position had been filled. Congratulations, Mr. Hamilton."

“Mr. Burr is our policy director," Lafayette explains. "You'll discover his penchant for writing twenty-page position papers that manage to say nothing at all before long."

"All in the subtle details, my friend," Burr says, his voice buttery and warm. Alex looks him over warily. There's something about him that he doesn't quite understand. Burr straightens his own cashmere scarf at his throat and checks his watch. "Much as I'd love to stay and entertain this, I do have dinner plans, so... I'll see you both on Monday."

"Peace out," Alex says, offering a jokey little salute, and that's the end of that, but Lafayette is still looking at Burr as he continues to make his way down the sidewalk.

"Be careful about him," Lafayette says after a thoughtful moment. "Don't say I never warned you."

Alex's fingers and the tip of his nose have long gone numb by the time they make their way back inside. John has his arm tight around his date's waist, their noses practically brushing together as they talk at close range in the loud bar, and Alex figures that he probably shouldn't expect John home before Saturday afternoon. He says a polite good night to Lafayette and Adrienne, interrupting a conversation in rapid-fire French, and tightens his flannel scarf around his throat before he sets off back out into the cold.

The metro station is surprisingly quiet for a Friday night, and he puts his headphones on as he waits on the platform, staring up at the cavernous tunnels, their curving concrete ceilings shadowy and ominous even with a Kendrick soundtrack. He can't stop thinking about what Lafayette told him about Washington and his stringent expectations. He can't stop thinking about Washington, full stop. Alex prides himself on being able to read situations, to read people. He's never been able to get less of a read on anyone in his life.

A glimmer of movement strikes his peripheral attention somewhere down the platform, but as soon as he turns his head, it's gone.

So Washington is an enigma. So there's more to the position than getting coffee and fielding phone calls. That doesn't surprise him. If anything, it emboldens him, knowing that above all else, he's serving some greater cause. That at the end of the day, the work he does will mean something. If it comes with a side order of personal-assistant grunt work, he can deal with that. For the time being, he can deal with that.

The train arrives. The doors open. With a single sweeping look up and down the platform, he gets on.

He goes home alone, and doesn't wait up for John.

Chapter Text

Cliché as it is, he can’t sleep on Sunday night.

If Alex can say anything about Washington’s people, it’s that they work fast. He woke up on Saturday morning to an email of documents, papers to read, lists to memorize. He suddenly has very little idea of what he’s gotten himself into. Every other job he’s taken had a more gently-sloping onboarding process, but Washington’s office seems to be a place where zero-to-100 acceleration is just the normal rate of getting things done.

He scours Washington’s Wikipedia page tirelessly, commits it all to memory. He doesn’t want to start out already behind. He wonders, somehow, whether this has all been a fever dream of some sort. The past three days have been so surreal, so outside of what he's come to know as the norm, that when Monday morning arrives and he puts on his only suit, packs a lunch, and takes the train to work, he's half expecting not to be let into the Russell Senate Office Building at all.

But that doesn't happen. Instead, Aaron Burr meets him at security, ushers him past and shoves him in front of a camera to take a photo for his own ID laminate. The entire affair takes all of five minutes, and then the guard presents him with the glossy plastic badge bearing his name and bleary-eyed headshot.

"Don't worry," Burr says, catching Alex's wrinkled look of disgust as he examines the unflattering photo. "Nobody looks good in these. It's the fluorescent lighting." (A closer glance at the badge flapping against Burr's chest reveals a smiling headshot seemingly devoid of the same dark undereye circles and ashen complexion that plague Alex's midwinter appearance, but, he thinks, Burr seems to have a way of making the best of these things.)

"By the way," Burr says, punching the button for the elevator, "The General's already here. As a rule, you'll want to make a habit of coming in before he does. You get there when he gets there, you don't leave until he leaves. You sleep when you're dead. Got it?"

"Not sleeping isn't exactly a problem for me," Alex says, playful and game, but Burr gives him a disapproving look.

"He doesn't appreciate attempts at humor, either," Burr says as they step into the car. "I thought I'd save you the embarrassment. He's a literal man. Save the jokes for after hours."

"Okay." Alex blinks. "Is there anything I actually can say? Or do? Or is my whole life, y'know, he says jump and I say how high?"

"Now you're getting it," Burr says. "Don't get me wrong. You seem like a nice enough kid, but..."

"How old are you?" Alex can't resist asking.

"Twenty-six," Burr says, nonchalant.

Alex frowns, beset with sudden annoyance. "You're a year older than me. Maybe don't call me 'kid.'"

The elevator door opens on a ding, revealing a hallway that manages to be both blandly bureaucratic and impersonally ostentatious at once. "Fair enough," Burr says. If he's taken offense to Alex's candor, he doesn't show it. "This is us, by the way. 416."

He's not sure what he expects as he steps into the office, but it looks like every other political office he's ever visited or interned in: a central bullpen of desks ringed by three corner offices. One of the offices bears Burr's name on a polished bronze nameplate; another bears Lafayette's. The third door is left intimidatingly blank. Burr gestures to it.

"And that's you," he says, and without further elaboration, he strides back across the bullpen, disappearing into his office and shutting the door behind him.

Alex knocks. It seems like the thing to do. No answer.

He knocks again. A little harder.

"Come in," Washington says, and he swallows hard and pushes through the door.

”So this is your first federal job," Washington says as he leans back in his imposing leather desk chair. He's twirling a pen idly between two of his fingers, and Alex, again, finds himself transfixed, watching Washington's hand move back and forth through the air, his fingers long and thick but nimble. The bit of wrist he can see, the sliver not covered by wristwatch or shirt cuff, is just as broad and powerful, and Alex swallows, involuntarily, his mouth suddenly wet with saliva for reasons he can't justify or explain.

"Yes, sir," he says after an expectant pause. "If you don't count the military, I mean."

"Different kind of federal job," Washington says. "Frankly, between you and me, sometimes I really think I preferred the war abroad to the one at home."

"You were in Kuwait?" Alex says, recalling the furious Wikipedia reading he had done the day prior, and Washington inclines his head just slightly.

"And now I'm here," he says, his voice brisk and businesslike. "And now you're here too. Now, we should talk about my expectations. Normally I'd have Andre train you, but since he has decided to leave us without notice, it looks like it's just you and me. You're all right with this?"

"It's okay," Alex says. "Yeah, uh, I don't have a problem with this. It makes sense, right, to just train with you? Since I'm supposed to be your gal Friday and all?"

He cringes as soon as it leaves his mouth, recalling Burr's warning against playfulness. He waits for Washington to rebuke him with bated breath.

But Washington only chuckles, exhaling a breathy huff as he gives Alex what could almost be a warm smile. "You could say that," he says. "I prefer the title 'bodyman' to 'personal aide,' myself. It's a little less dry. But if you want to be my, ah, Gal Friday, who am I to stop you?"

Alex laughs, a little of the tension stored in his shoulders leaving his body with it. "Fair enough," he says. "Let's table it. Game-time decision on the title."

"Consider it tabled," Washington says. "I think what we really need to establish here is your role in the office. It's not a policy position, exactly, although your policy background will certainly strengthen your performance here. Rather, I need you at my side almost constantly. You're my right hand. You need to remember names, faces, policies, histories. I need you to be able to read my mind, essentially - serve as a filter between the outside deluge of information and what I, personally, need to know. You will be privy to a lot of classified information and I need you to be a steel trap about it. Are you following me?"

"Yes, sir," Alex says immediately. "I assume there'll be a blanket NDA -"

"Oh, naturally, though it goes further than that," Washington says. "Our office has a policy of discretion based on good taste. I don't imagine you'll have a problem with that - you seem like a fairly reserved young man —“

Alex swallows. He could be, probably, if he tried. "I am," he says, all false self-assurance. "Steel trap, as you said."

"Good boy." Alex blinks at the strange endearment, but Washington doesn't even seem to notice that it has slipped out. And maybe it's nothing. Maybe it's just how he talks, Alex thinks, as he wipes his dampening palm on his suit pants. "I'll be honest and say that the hours are long, and the stress isn't for everyone. But I..." Here Washington trails off, and Alex thinks he can see his gaze soften, just a hint, as he looks at Alex and leans back a little further in his desk chair. 

"Yes, sir?"

"I see something in you," Washington says, all business once more. "Now, I think we've got some contracts to sign."

By lunchtime, he feels as though he's already been here for eight hours. But as he clicks around on the computer at his desk - an entire desk of his own, at the corner of the bullpen closest to Washington's office - Alex couldn't be more content. He's already put out one small fire, reminding Washington of another senator's bias toward Alzheimer's research allocation funding during a conference (by cue card!), and he's in just a little over his head - but in a good way. In the way that kicks in his fight-or-flight, sink-or-swim instincts. He's not sure that he's ever felt this motivated.

He sees Lafayette emerge from Washington's office, followed by Washington himself. "We're headed to lunch, Alex," says Washington briskly. "If you've got questions about anything while we're gone, you can ask Burr. He tends to eat at his desk."

"Will do, sir," says Alex. He can't bite back the slightly put-out feeling that swells up inside him, especially as Lafayette gives him a casual smirk and a little wave of his fingers on his way out, but it doesn't matter, he thinks, as he unwraps his PB&J. There's a list of documents in front of him, callers never to allow access to Washington's private line. He can manage this. All in good time.

"Alexander," says Aaron Burr, as he steps out of his office, buttoning his suit jacket with one hand. A move that strikes Alex as smooth and practiced. "Did the General go to lunch already?"

"He went with Lafayette," Alex nods, clicking away from his personal email. "About an hour ago. Why?"

Burr exhales a huffy little sigh. "Just curious. Any idea when they'll be back?"

"They didn't say," Alex says. "Sorry."

"It's fine," Burr says absently. "Not your fault... have you been down to the commissary yet? I'll take you to lunch."

"I, ah—“ He's about to tell the truth, I already ate, but Burr is practically already on his way out the door, and something about his manner, his posture, his air of businesslike straightforwardness, tell Alex to follow. So he grabs his phone and wallet and follows Burr out the door, practically chasing him down the hallway at his heels. Burr doesn't slow for him. It's fine. He's not afraid of a challenge.

The RSOB cafeteria isn't much to look at, all fluorescent lighting and buffet stations, but Alex doesn't question it, just joins Burr at the salad bar, taking notice of what he eats: dark leafy greens, grape tomatoes and chickpeas, a drizzle of vinaigrette. "Do you eat meat?" Burr asks him absently.

"Totally," Alex says. "Love it. All about it."

"Ah," says Burr, sounding the slightest bit disappointed. "Well, I don't, but I've heard the short rib sliders on Wednesdays are excellent."

"Right," says Alex. "Well, I guess I'll let you know. You're not one of those vegans or anything, are you? The ones who never shut up about their veganism and how eating chicken nuggets makes you the literal devil? Because if you are, this isn’t gonna work.”

Burr cocks an eyebrow. "Not a vegan. High cholesterol runs in my family. I try to keep it light for the sake of my longevity."

"Well, you're like, twenty-six," Alex shrugs. "You've got a ways to go before you have to start worrying."

"My parents both died in their forties," says Burr shortly. "I don't have kids yet, but I'd like to stick around for them. Are you finished with that?" He gestures to the pepper grinder, which Alex hands him readily.

"Sorry, man," Alex mutters. "I didn't - I mean - my parents are, y'know. Gone. Too."

Burr regards him warily as he twists pepper onto his salad with short strokes of his wrist. "I'm sorry to hear that."

"Yeah. I'm just saying, I didn't mean to make you uncomfortable with all the stuff about vegans, sometimes I just—“

Burr shakes his head. "Not an issue. Forget it happened." He gestures to the basket of plastic-wrapped peanut butter cookies near the register. "For the record, those are also excellent."

Washington and Lafayette come back to the office nearly three hours later, talking quietly and earnestly in low voices as they walk back into the office. "If Madison won't move on it—“ he hears Lafayette say, before they approach his desk.

"I've got some good news," Washington says. "My evening meeting was canceled, which means that you don't have to sit through a budget sit-down with the majority leader."

"Ah," Alex says uncertainly. "Okay. Do you want me to do anything else during that time?"

Washington shakes his head. "I think we've covered quite a bit for today," he says. "Why don't you head home? You look a little fatigued."

"I'm fine," Alex protests, but Washington shakes his head. Behind him, Lafayette is removing his slickly tailored jacket, revealing a slim-cut purple dress shirt and tie in contrasting shades of grey and goldenrod. He has no idea how this man manages to dress like a fucking fashion plate in one of the most drab cities Alex has ever seen. It's a gift he covets, one Alex reminds himself is probably inborn, not learned, as Lafayette smooths both hands over his curly ponytail and then straightens his glasses.

"We're both working late," Washington says assuringly. "There's really no reason for you to stay late tonight. Go get a good night's sleep, Alex, we'll see you tomorrow."

There's that stab of jealousy again, as they both disappear into Washington's office, Lafayette's arms laden with folders he'd scooped off another desk in the bullpen. But Alex swallows it back, collects his things and swings his messenger bag (now lighter one commuter laptop) over his shoulder, making certain his ID badge is tucked carefully inside.

The sun has just begun to set as he leaves the building and starts off down the street, setting the late-winter sky ablaze red and purple. He shivers as the wind knocks through the branches of a bare tree on the sidewalk and turns back to stare down the street, the dome of the Capitol lit up and imposing behind him.

I see something in you, Washington had said. Alex turns the words over in his mind as he walks against the wind. His wool jacket is no match for the chill that permeates it, settling in his blood and his bones.

It’s the kind of cold that sticks with him. It’s the kind of cold that makes him feel as if he’ll never get warm.

Chapter Text

The thing is that this job is everything and nothing like he expected.

The next few days continue apace. He spends much of the day at his desk, furiously reading and memorizing as much information as he can take in. With Congress in session, Washington spends much of his time on the Senate floor, where Alex's presence is not required. So instead, he makes use of himself in the office. Lee drafts him to proofread Washington's floor remarks, though he disregards all of Alex's edits except to correct the typographical errors scattered throughout. He occasionally pops his head into Lafayette's office in search of something more to do, but after the third instance upon which he is waved away from a phone call, he stops bothering to try. His first week is spent, by and large, furiously clicking around and refreshing pages, trying his best to look busy as he catches up on more than fifteen years of Washington's public service.

Friday is a reckoning. On Friday, Alex is almost prepared to leave early, sneak out around 5:45 as soon as Lafayette and Washington disappear behind a shut door to talk strategy, but it's Lafayette, this time, who saunters out before Alex gets the chance. "Enjoy your weekend," he tells Alex haughtily. "Adrienne and I certainly will. Don't let George keep you too late."

"See you Monday," Alex says, hurriedly closing the tab displaying movie times near Capitol Hill. He twists around in his desk chair to see Washington emerging from his office. Jacket shed, down to his shirtsleeves, he looks rumpled and day-worn with his tie loosened beneath his collar. Alex's jaw clicks as he shifts it. He's probably staring. Stop it, Alex.

"Are you busy?" Washington asks him. He walks toward Alex's desk lazily, unhurried. "I hope I'm not interrupting you."

"No, no, not at all," Alex assures him. "I was just finishing up some edits on your amendment proposition for the higher-ed bill. I'm gonna give Lee a copy of Strunk and White so he doesn't have to keep relying on me to explain how apostrophes work every day."

"Riveting as that sounds…” Washington pauses. "Every day?"

Alex shrugs. "You haven't exactly had much need of me yet. I'm trying to make myself useful."

Washington gives him a funny little half-smile, leaning on his desk with arms folded under his biceps. "I can certainly think of a few ways to put you to work," he says. "Actually, I was about to say, I could use your assistance tonight. I've been drafting a bill with Von Steuben and I was hoping I could bounce a few ideas off you in the meantime. Just helps to have another set of ears, right?”

"I — sure,” Alex says. "That's totally fine. Yeah."

Washington's brows furrow as he looks Alex over. "You didn't have plans tonight, did you?" he asks. "I certainly wouldn't want to keep your significant other waiting up—“

"No, nothing like that," Alex says quickly, the words coming out in a landslide of a rush. "No — significant other. Boyfriend, girlfriend, whatever. Very much single. So no, that's not a problem, keep me as late as you like."

He cringes, again, as soon as he's said it. After years of honing his rhetorical skill, his polemic style, in friendly Socratic debates and morning-shower rants against whatever might provoke his daily outrage, he knows how to argue, how to hit where it hurts. But his personal confessions and admissions are so ungainly in comparison, no grace to be found in the way he rushes to overshare about the specifics of his personal life. He can't help it. And, he thinks, perhaps somewhat selfishly, he's an interesting guy. He'd be interested in listening to himself. He would be his own sounding board. (He already is, much of the time.)

Washington, again, doesn't seem bothered by this clumsy spill of words. He simply stands up straight and claps a hand on Alex's shoulder, resting it there, warm and heavy. "Great!" he says. "I'll try not to keep you too late anyway. I'll order us dinner, of course. On me. Do you eat meat?"

"I - yes," Alex says cautiously, recalling his exchange with Burr. Washington simply smiles again and squeezes down on his shoulder a little, before whisking his hand away.

"Fantastic," Washington says. "I figured you did, but I had to ask. Lafayette says he's only ever seen you bring peanut butter."

Alex shrugs as he follows Washington into his office, letting him shut the heavy door behind him. "I mean, that's not a lifestyle choice or anything," he says as he takes the seat opposite Washington's desk. "I just bought a bulk jar of peanut butter a month ago, so that's what I'm eating."

He expects Washington to take a seat at his desk, but instead the senator collapses lengthwise on the long couch near the window, stretching out and folding both arms behind his head as he kicks off his shoes. "Make yourself at home," he nods at Alex, who slowly unbuttons his suit jacket and drapes it over the back of the chair. He doesn't loosen his tie. It seems prudent to maintain some air of professionalism across from his boss. His very tall, broad, handsome boss, whose long legs are sprawled out along the grey couch, thighs looking particularly powerful and muscled from Alex's vantage point.

Jesus. This is not what he needs to be focusing on. Not right now. Not during the first fucking week, for Christ's sake. Get it together, he thinks furiously to himself, casually pinching the inside of his wrist with the hand opposite, in hopes that the sharp pain will wake him the fuck up.

"So," Alex says around a throat that suddenly feels very dry. "This Von Steuben bill. What's the deal?"

Washington sighs. "That's where we differ. It's pretty dry on the surface, but we both agree that the party has been splitting between the more moderate half and the progressives, and we're looking to work together to bolster party solidarity before the upcoming election. Too much infighting."

"Of course," Alex says slowly. "You read that New York Times piece, then."

"'Von Steuben Progressives Versus Washington Democrats'?!" Washington snaps, sounding more affronted than Alex has ever heard him. "I apologize for my absence this first week, I'm sure it's been tiresome for you, but that's the kind of piece that kills a career. Do they not understand the game?"

"Okay, but you can't listen to Thomas Paine," Alex tosses back. "Nobody even reads his editorials. Nobody liked him when he started out as a film critic and nobody in the base really likes him now. Most normal people think he's an ivory-tower liberal."

"He's got considerable sway when it comes to influencing the rhetoric within the party," Washington says. "I'm a black Democrat from Virginia who got elected on the strength of my war record, not my education. I can't be a radical if I want to stay in office, that's what they're not addressing. Von Steuben and I are playing the same game, but I've got double the rules to follow." He takes a deep breath. "I don't need anyone's pity for that, mind you. But I do need the party to remember what I've done for them."

"So... hence the Von Steuben bill," Alex says slowly. "I get it. It's a symbolic gesture to make the base understand that you're on the same team."

"Exactly," says Washington decisively. "On a practical level, it accomplishes very little, which is by design. It wouldn't make it through the House if we were trying to enact any sort of tangible change. It's really just a show of solidarity. Remember who the real enemy is."

Washington sighs, stretching again as he shifts in position on the couch. Alex's tie feels a little tighter around his throat. He moves his hand to adjust it, careful not to move too quickly, to disturb the air around him.

"So no, it doesn't accomplish much on the ground," he says. "But it sends a message. And at this point, the message is more important."

Alex laughs. "Isn't that most of politics, though?" he says. "The message is always more important. The medium is the message, or whatever. That whole McLuhan thing. Do you even like Von Steuben, by the way?"

"I don't dislike him," Washington shrugs. "It doesn't particularly matter what I think of him personally, though I don't dislike him at all."

There's a long, quiet pause, and Alex's glance flickers back over to Washington, who is looking at him intently. He doesn't know how long he's been staring at him. It makes him feel - strange. Like he's being seen in a way most people don't see him. He feels, for the first time in a long time, completely visible. Opaque.

They order dinner. Cheeseburgers, on Washington's recommendation, from a gastropub near the Hill. "I try not to be pretentious when I'm eating in the office," Washington explains, handing Alex a thick stack of napkins. He's moved to the floor beside the couch, sitting cross-legged on the ground. The space between them has vanished by the minute, not just physically, but verbally as well. Somehow, Alex feels more comfortable with Washington than with anyone else in the office. "I eat with a lot of lobbyists with bottomless expense accounts. It gets exhausting," Washington adds.

"Sounds kind of ideal, from where I'm standing," Alex shrugs as he unwraps his burger. "Then again, I'm speaking from three straight weeks of PB&J for lunch, so..."

Washington shakes his head. "We'll have to change that. I've got a week straight of working lunches coming up, now that Congress is out of session. Also, forgive me for asking, but is that the only suit you own?"

Alex glances down at his navy pants. "I, uh, yeah," he says. "I haven't really needed more than the one so far." This has been his job-interview suit since college. It's not a terrible one — thrifted during his last year of undergrad, but from a nice Goodwill on the Upper East Side, like most of his clothes back then. So it's a little outdated. So he has nothing on Lafayette's GQ-editorial wardrobe. So what? Burr wears the same thing every day, owns five copies of the same exact suit and dress shirt, and nobody's said a thing to him. 

"We should change that too," Washington says. "Just for the optics. The office can reimburse you for it. It would present a comm problem to have my bodyman walking behind me looking like he can't afford a dry cleaning bill when my image has been fussed over for hours."

"So we're going with 'bodyman', huh?" Alex teases, and Washington laughs.

"Did you really want to be my girl Friday that badly?" he asks, and takes a bite of his burger.

Alex cocks a brow up at Washington, seated on the couch with his burger in one hand, napkins in the other. "Get me some cat-eye glasses and a typewriter, you'll see how well I do."

"I can imagine," Washington says. "I'm sticking with bodyman for now. Maybe in a few months, put some pin curls in, convince me otherwise."

He laughs openly at this, leaning back on his hands. "Burr strongly dissuaded me from, uh, 'engaging in humor' with you. He said you were a literal man who didn't appreciate it."

Washington shakes his head dryly. "I appreciate humor. Burr just isn't funny."

They both laugh this time, and Alex feels something change in the air — a spark of static electricity, a bolt of heat lightning. He's felt this before. He knows he can't be the only one feeling it. His laugh peters out as he looks up at Washington, who has a look of dawning comprehension on his face as he sets down his burger, half-eaten.

"We should probably call it a night," Washington says. "It's Friday, I don't want to keep you from your social life."

Alex crams the rest of his burger in his mouth and stands up slowly, stretching out his lower back where it's cramped and sore from sitting so long on the ground. He can feel Washington's eyes on him as he puts his arms down self-consciously. "Not a problem," Alex says. "Again, thanks for dinner. Hopefully the metro's not gonna give me trouble getting home."

"You don't drive?" Washington asks, frowning.

Alex shrugs. "I have a license, just don't have a car. You don't really need one in the city."

"Well, it's late," Washington says. "I'd be happy to drive you home, if you'd like."

"God, I — I mean, you don't have to do that, but — thank you," Alex says, his cheeks warming. He feels clumsy, his skin tight and tingly, that off-kilter feeling returning to knock him off his equilibrium. "If you want, I mean. You really don't need to."

"Don't mention it," says Washington as he stands, toeing back into his loafers. "Really. I've kept you long enough."

Washington's car is dark and nondescript, expensive but not flashy. It's the vehicle of someone who has had money for so long that they've forgotten they have it. Alex slides into the passenger seat, shivering in the damp, cold parking garage. 

"Where do you live?" Washington asks as he slides the key into the ignition. The radio comes on as soon as the car starts, and Washington is quick to flip it off, but Alex thinks he catches a snippet of NPR as he does. 

"Um, U Street near Florida Avenue," Alex says. "Thank you, again. You really didn't have to go out of your way for me. I promise not to make this a regular thing."

Washington chuckles as he turns on the heater. "It's fine, son," he says warmly. "My pleasure. You don't need to apologize. I promise you aren't being an imposition in any way."

Traffic is suspiciously light on the way back to Alex's neighborhood, and he stares out the window as Washington's car zips down the streets. The car is strikingly empty, barren of personal effects or further hints as to the inner workings of George Washington's private life. Dark, clean, fresh-smelling, but empty, not a receipt in the cup-holder or dry cleaning bag to be found in the backseat. It frustrates Alex as much as it strikes him with further intrigue.

"This is me," he says, as Washington slows to a stop in front of the rowhome that houses Alex's apartment. The lights are all off on the third floor. John and Hercules must both be out. Alex faintly remembers a mention of a second date with the guy from the VP's office.

He slides his hand along to the door handle, but doesn't get out. "I'll see you Monday," he says, after a short pause. He doesn't know what to say. He's afraid of saying too much.

Washington nods, smiles faintly. "Don't bother packing a lunch next week," he says. "I have a Monday lunch meeting with Gouverneur Morris. I'll need you to attend it."

"Will do. Thanks again." Alex climbs out of the car and takes the front steps two at a time. When he glances back, just before closing the door, he notices that Washington is still there.

He doesn't hear him drive off.

Chapter Text

Sleep would be easier if he weren’t being chased through it every night.

He can’t stop having this dream. The same one, over and over. The dark office, lights out, the beeping of an unplugged surge protector. The low hum of an electrical generator. Outside, a storm. Always a storm. Wind and rain battering the windows and walls.

He always wishes he’ll be alone in the office, but isn’t. He holds out hope until the last possible second, when Washington walks through the door and out into the bullpen, silent and serious.

Sir, Alexander tries to say, but he’s struck dumb by the dreamstate, can’t make the words come out of his mouth, and Washington walks closer and closer until Alex is trapped between his body and the edge of the desk. The heat between them sizzles, crackling with static electricity. There’s a hand on the small of his back, pulling him forward, pressing them closer together —

Fuck. Alex’s eyes fly open for the third time, and he glances at the clock. Five-thirty on a Saturday morning seems like as reasonable a time as any to wake up, if it means escaping a fourth rendition of the same goddamn dream. On instinct, he reaches for his phone on the bedside table, opening up his email and scrolling through it. He doesn’t know what he’s hoping to find there.

Five-thirty turns into six, which is when he’d normally get up anyway, so with a groan, he drags himself out of bed and into the kitchen, dumping some coffee grounds into a filter and sitting down at the table as the coffeemaker gurgles. He’s made about twenty pages’ worth of headway through his current book, something on police violence John had left sitting around, when — speak of the devil, he thinks, as the door clicks open and John trudges over the threshold, looking a little worse for wear but not unhappy.

“Well, well, well,” Alex says, dog-earing the page as he sets the book aside and goes back to the beeping coffeemaker. “A John Laurens walk of shame. Or, should I say, ‘stride of pride’? ‘Got laid parade’?”

John rubs the bridge of his nose and squeezes his eyes tight, collapsing in a seat at the table. “Don’t… just do me a favor and say fewer words, okay?”

“Gotcha.” Alex smirks and fills up John’s favorite mug from the pot, handing it over. John’s tangled curls are a mess and Alex is pretty sure he sees the beginnings of a couple hickeys on his neck. “Herc’s not back yet, either. Y’all are making me feel like a fucking spinster.”

“That’s your own fault for staying in on a Friday,” John shrugs, before he takes a sip. “When was the last time you had a second date? Like, a year ago?”

“I haven’t really been trying,” Alex says, his hackles rising, just a little bit defensive. “I’ve done fine. I’ve gotten laid at least… six times since we moved in together.”

“I’m just saying, man,” John says, his coffee cup poised at his lips. “You should try actually dating the same person for a while. You forget how awesome it is.”

Alex shakes his head. “So I guess things are going well with the VP’s guy.”

“Is it really weird that I’m kind of seeing a Republican?” John asks as Alex recoils. “Actually — no, whatever you’re thinking, don’t you dare say it, question redacted —”

“Does he know you work for the HRC?” Alex asks incredulously. “And that you’re, y’know, a giant flaming socialist who wants to ban all guns and replace cops with therapists? How are you living with yourself right now?” He’s teasing, sort of. Kind of. It’s not that he’s never heard of relationships that transcend party lines. It’s more that he can’t ever imagine John Laurens being in one of those relationships.

John shrugs again, smiling crookedly. “Didn’t seem to matter when he was begging for my dick inside him,” he says impishly, and Alex rolls his eyes as John pushes himself up from his chair and picks up his coffee mug, wandering back out of the kitchen and in the direction of his bedroom, still talking over his shoulder. “I’m pretty sure I’m still in that sweet spot between drunk and hungover, so, like, don’t wait around for me — oh, actually, hang on.” He spins back around. “Are you busy tonight?”

“No?” Alex says. “Unless you could reading fifty pages of some bill Washington’s drafting—”

“That’s the definition of a Sunday morning chore.” John shakes his head. “Uh, so SecDef Schuyler’s daughter is moving to London for work and she’s having some sort of farewell house party, and I told her sister I’d stop by. You should come.”

Alex cocks a brow. “Which sister?”

“Does it matter?” John teases.

“Point taken.” Alex pulls his book back toward him and reopens it to the page he dog-eared. “Yeah, sure. I’ll go.” Because maybe this is a good idea. Maybe it’ll at least get his subconscious away from dreaming about his boss. He can only hope.

Nobody looks twice at him and John as they walk into the party that night. Well, actually, that’s half true. People notice John — he gets a round of hellos and one-armed hugs and handshakes as he walks from room to room — but again, it’s as if Alex’s default status is ‘wallpaper.’ So he does as he always does, naturally, and overcompensates. A more bombastic introduction, a firmer handshake, doing his damnedest to subtly outperform his best friend in the art of simply being there.

“Alexander Hamilton,” he introduces himself from person to person, adjusting the navy knit tie he’d stolen from John’s dresser and tied hastily, in the only knot he knows, before they’d headed out. “I work for George Washington.” And reliably, an impressed eyebrow would raise just a bit, a smile of acknowledgment would flit across the lips to which he was speaking, and the power of having power is further reaffirmed to him with every hand he shakes.

John gets them both a drink, and Alex leans on a counter, surveying the condo they’re in. It’s almost aggressively clean and well-kept, full of mid-century modern furniture that all looks as though it’s there on purpose, rather than the casual Ikea mish-mash that denotes most of the post-grad-school apartments he frequents. The source, he soon realizes, is the lady of the house: Angelica Schuyler, who sweeps back into the living room in a winter-white shift dress that makes her dark skin glow, a glass of red wine in one hand and a practiced smile plastered on her face. It’s the same look John gets when he’s in the middle of a crowd he knows is here to see him. It’s the look of someone who grew up being paraded around by a politician parent, someone hyperaware of the public gaze.

She spots John first, naturally, and beelines toward them, her smile becoming just a little less forced and formal. “John, sweetheart,” she says sweetly, kissing him on both cheeks, holding her wine elegantly away from their bodies. “I had no idea you were coming! I wish someone had told me, I would’ve sprung for that tequila you like—”

“Probably better that you didn’t,” John grins. “I had a rough night yesterday, I’m not shooting for two in a row here.”

“Fair enough,” Angelica says amiably, and holds out her hand to Alexander. “Who’s your friend? I don’t think we’ve met.”

“Alexander Hamilton,” he says, shaking it briskly — and her handshake is firm, her grip almost intimidating, the handshake Alex has come to recognize in eldest daughters of men who wanted sons — and he begins to add, “I—”

“Work for George Washington,” John finishes quickly, and Alex shoots him an annoyed look, but Angelica doesn’t seem to notice.

“Really,” she says conversationally. “I guess Washington sent a whole delegation tonight, huh? That man is obsessed with my father.”

“Oh, is Lafayette here?” John asks. “Sweet. I didn’t know he was coming.”

Angelica rolls her eyes theatrically. “Oh, he’s here, he’s such a sweetie,” she says. “But — you know who else rolled in about ten minutes ago —”

“Ugh. Seriously?” John shakes his head. “Burr’s such a creep.”

Alex frowns, sipping his rum and coke as he takes in their mutually disgusted expressions. “Aaron Burr?” he clarifies. “You guys don’t like him, or something?”

“Oh, God, I keep forgetting you work with him,” John says. “I mean, to be fair, everyone does, he jumps around from job to job like he’s playing hopscotch—”

“We dated for a week,” Angelica adds. “I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone so convinced that everyone should be fascinated by how boring they are.”

“I actually met him in undergrad,” John says. “We were both White House interns at the same time and he spent the entire time ignoring anyone who wasn’t above him, except to tell us what we were doing wrong. Also, he corrects your grammar, like, in real life. Not even in emails.”

“He’s so mediocre,” Angelica says, shaking her head. “So of course he’s here, shaking everyone’s hand, acting like it’s his own party. He’d network at his own funeral if it were possible.”

Alex chokes on his drink, spluttering with laughter as he tries to cough it out. “Point taken,” he says once his breathing returns to normal. “Man. I did not know he was so…”

“Universally disliked?” Angelica finishes. “Sorry, you know, I hate to speak ill of a friend, but…”

“He’s your friend?” Alex says.

“He’s everyone’s friend. That’s what makes him so tiresome.” Angelica sips her wine, pursing her ruby-painted lips together as she swallows, then shakes her head. “Sorry, I should really go circulate, but it was nice to catch up, John. And nice to meet you, Alexander—”

“Just Alex,” he says, but she’s already striding away. John turns to Alex, a know-it-all smirk spreading across his face.

“What?” Alex feels his cheeks warm over. “Why are you looking at me like I have something in my teeth or whatever?”

“You didn’t know Aaron Burr was obnoxious as fuck and universally disliked?” John says, cocking a brow. “What, did he win you over with his smile and his weirdly condescending little pieces of advice?”

“Shut up,” Alex says, shaking his head. “I don’t like him or anything, I just thought he was kind of weird.”

“Lafayette hates him,” John laughs.

“Yeah, well, Lafayette doesn’t really seem to like me that much, either,” Alex sighs. “Whatever. Go circulate. You’ve got an adoring crowd.”

“Tell your new best friend Burr I said hello,” John says. “Give him this for me.” He flips Alex off playfully, and Alex returns the gesture as John disappears into the chatting crowd.

Left to his own devices, Alex decides it’s probably in his favor to avoid both coworkers present in the crowd tonight. He downs what remains of the drink John made him, then returns to the bar in the kitchen, poring over the selection with an expert eye. He’s not in the mood for anything sweet, he thinks, which is unusual given his normal predilection for sweeter drinks — any other given day, he’d take a Cape Codder or a tequila sunrise over just about anything else.

“You should try the sangria,” a woman says to him, brushing her dark, glossy hair back over her shoulder. “I made it with peach lambic and rye. It’s kind of a fun twist.”

Alex turns to face her more fully. “You’re just hanging here all night trying to sell people on it, huh?”

“Hey, look, it’s working,” she says with a smile. “C’mon. Try a little bit. It’s kind of a fall recipe, but the peach really sets off the spiciness of the rye.”

“I can never say no to something sweet and spicy,” Alex says, letting a flirtatious teasing color the edge of his voice, his body language as he reaches out and offers her the glass he was about to fill with straight bourbon. She ladles a little into it, and watches him intently as he takes a sip.

“Damn.” It’s good, and just as she described, sweet and heavy but contrasted with a hint of spice. He hands her the glass back to fill up the rest of the way. “So do you just bring this to every party you go to, or…?”

She shakes her head. “Special recipe. Your sister only moves to London once. Or, you know, maybe a bunch of times. I guess that figure of speech doesn’t really work here.” The woman hands him back the cup and laughs lightly. “Live and learn, I guess.”

“Sister…” Alex frowns, looking her up and down, taking note of her pale skin and round face. “Pardon my, uh, candor, but you don’t really look like a Schuyler sister.”

She rolls her eyes. “I’m the adopted one, remember?” She counts them off on one hand. “There’s the smart one — that’s Angelica — the adopted one — guilty — and Peggy.”

“And does the adopted one have a name?” asks Alex.

“Elizabeth Schuyler. Eliza.” He waits for her to offer a handshake, but she doesn’t, just takes another sip of her own drink and smiles sweetly. “And yourself?”

“Alexander Hamilton,” he says. “Alex.” He’s about to follow it up with his boss’s name, but it occurs to him suddenly that he doesn’t feel as if he needs to. She’s already making eye contact with him. He doesn’t need to earn it.

Eliza Schuyler takes another sip of her drink and nods. “So how do you know my sister?”

“I don’t, really,” he admits. “My roommate does, but we hadn’t met until tonight.”

“Who’s your roommate?”

“John Laurens.” Alex swirls the ice and peach slices in his glass.

“Oh, we love John!” Her voice is genuine, and Alex looks back up to meet her excited eyes. “I didn’t know he was living with someone. He’s such a sweetheart.”

“Oh, we’re not — it’s not that kind of living together,” Alex stumbles over himself to explain. “I mean, it’s — we’re really close, we’re best friends, but like, he sees other people, we’re not a couple.” Shit. He’s really not making the situation any clearer. “We’re not together.” (Not anymore, he nearly adds, but a total stranger — a cute stranger, the cute daughter of the Secretary of Defense — doesn’t need the extended history of Alexander Hamilton and John Laurens and their several ill-fated attempts at a sexual and/or occasionally romantic relationship. So he manages to hold that back. Just barely, but he does.)

Eliza doesn’t seem fazed. “John’s a great guy,” she muses. “So what do you do?”

“I work for George Washington,” Alex says. Somehow, it doesn’t feel like as much of a boast here. “You?”

“I work for my sister's NGO. It’s super boring.” She rolls her eyes. “Not really worth getting into. So, you’re with Washington? What’s that like?”

Alex pauses, uncertain of what to say. “It’s… it’s not boring,” he says, although so far, it has been, a little bit. The sitting out in the bullpen trying to look busy, that part’s been boring, true. But —

The night prior —

“He’s a powerful guy,” Alex says, trying to choose his words carefully. “You always kind of feel like you’re right on the verge of being in trouble when he’s talking to you, but it makes you want to do better and work harder. As a boss, he’s…” He trails off. He doesn’t know what else to say that won’t detour into a description of Washington’s hands or the way his quads look in his tailored gray pants. So he punctuates the end of the sentence with a shrug. “I dunno, ask me when I’ve been there longer.”

“Will do,” Eliza shrugs, and then pulls her phone from the pocket of her blue dress. Alex can see it vibrating in her hands. She looks up at him apologetically. “I’m sorry, I really have to take this, but it was nice to meet you — Alex?”

“Eliza,” he nods in response, and she smiles warmly before lifting the phone to her ear and backing away.

Some ninety-something minutes later, Alex is on his third glass of sangria, seated on the couch with Lafayette and three people he’d never met before. Loosened by the alcohol, the socialization feels easier than normal. He feels less like he’s got to throw all his cards on the table at once to earn a place in the conversation. He feels almost normal. Which, in itself, is new and exciting.

He feels his phone buzz against his leg in his pocket, and is greeted by a message from Washington’s personal number as he takes it out.

Hello, Alex. Sorry to text so late, but my weekend plans have shifted. Are you free to come in to work tomorrow?

Alex blinks at his phone screen, thumb hovering over the keyboard as he considers his response. On the one hand — this is probably a test of some kind. He has no idea what’s liable to happen if he doesn’t say yes.

On the other — he hasn’t read the bill yet. Fuck, the bill. He knew he should have done it tonight — fuck, how does John manage to maintain a wildly active social life and a career at the same time? Alex goes out once and fucks himself over like this —

On the other hand — if he says yes, but shows up not having read it, he might as well kiss all the goodwill he built the other night goodbye.

So there’s basically one option. Alex opens his wallet, glances inside at the contents — not much, but enough for a cab home on this one, unusually desperate occasion. There’s a reason he budgets for these things. He grits his teeth, shoves his wallet back into his pocket, and looks back down at his phone.

I’ll be there, he taps out, before amending it, Not a problem.

Lafayette is looking at him curiously as he shoves his phone back in his pocket. “Sorry,” he says. “I think I actually have to call it a night. I, um — forgot about an obligation tomorrow.”

“Very well,” Lafayette says. “Monday, then.”

“Right. Monday.” Alex nods and sets his glass aside. “It was nice to meet the rest of you.”

He doesn’t bother looking around the room to say goodnight to John, who had tapped out halfway through the night, citing a ‘Come over?’ text from the Republican. Instead, he pulls on his coat at the door, his mind still on the fifty pages of dense legislation he has to get through before sunrise. He’s nearly out the door when he feels someone tap him on the arm.

He turns. It’s Eliza Schuyler.

“Hey, you’re leaving already?” She looks a little disappointed, and Alex feels a brief pang of regret strike him somewhere in his lower abdomen.

“I — yeah,” he admits. “I just forgot, I have this thing, I need to get some work done before tomorrow morning.”

“Ah,” she says. “Well. Have a good night.”

Alex puts on his best approximation of a winning smile. “Will do,” he says. “Listen, I’m sorry that I have to go, I just—”

“No, no, we’ve all been there,” she says. “Your boss is a powerful guy. Understood. Go for it.”

Alex pauses. “I’ll see you around,” he finally says.

He gets into the cab waiting out front and hollowly recites his address. He tries, really gives it all he’s got, to think about Eliza Schuyler. He tries to think about her in a second-date capacity. Because John is probably right. He probably does need to try actually dating someone, having a serious thing for once. Alex doesn’t date so much as he stumbles into one-night-stands and then stumbles away, mostly unscathed. And she’s the SecDef’s daughter, for Christ’s sake. This could be good for him. This could be another step up the ladder.

He tries thinking about Eliza Schuyler, but the peach lambic and the rye keep getting in the way, and then his phone lights up with another message from the hands he can’t stop thinking about.

Good. See you tomorrow, then.

He chews the inside of his cheek and shakes his head blearily, shoving his phone back into his pocket.

This isn’t a thing for him. This is stupid. He needs to think about something else.

He’s got a bill to read.

Chapter Text

It’s suspiciously, unseasonably mild when Alex drags himself out of bed and out of the apartment the next morning, bleary-eyed and head a little thick. He always regrets mixing sugar and alcohol. He’s running on about three hours’ sleep after getting home, pounding water, and speed-reading through the draft of the Von Steuben bill, and it takes everything he’s got not to just toss his alarm across the room and crawl back into bed.

But Washington is waiting for him, counting on him, so he doesn’t. Instead, he puts the coffeemaker on while he showers, pulls his hair into a ponytail while it dries — he needs a proper government-job haircut, that’s the other thing he keeps forgetting, maybe he’ll spring for that next weekend — and stands in front of his dresser with a cup of black coffee, frowning at his clothes before finally grabbing khakis and an old button-down, proper enough attire for working on Sunday. He really needs some new fucking clothes.

He expects to come in to a full house, or at least Lafayette and Burr and Lee, if Washington needed him so badly. So when he walks into the office to find it empty with half the lights shut off, he immediately wonders if he’s being pranked. If Lee is punishing him for daring to suggest that he look up the definition of a dangling modifier or something.

“Hello?” he calls cautiously, and Washington’s door swings open, revealing Washington in a white polo and salmon-colored shorts.

“Alex, my boy!” He’s got a cup of coffee in one hand and his phone in the other. “I was just about to give you a call — but don’t worry, you’re not late —”

“Where’s the meeting?” Alex says, frowning as he takes in Washington’s attire. “I thought we were —”

Washington chuckles, sliding his phone into his back pocket. “Oh, the meeting got moved around. My weekend agenda is always in flux, I try not to allow work to impede too much into my free time. It’s the only thing that keeps me sane.” He claps Alex on the shoulder with one broad hand as he passes him, and Alex tries not to flinch or shiver. “Let’s head out. I’ll drive, of course.”

Alex follows Washington to the parking garage, trying not to ask too many questions but harboring a certain, specific suspicion, one that is confirmed when Washington drives out of D.C. proper.

“This might be an obvious question,” Alex says quietly, “but this isn’t a traditional meeting, is it?”

Washington glances over as he merges lanes and laughs a little. “In a sense. I said yes to a round of golf with Knox and Greene weeks ago, and this is the first day the weather has agreed with those plans.”

“Oh,” Alex says, a little crestfallen. “I see. And you needed a caddy.”

“What? No,” Washington says. “I needed a fourth.”

A slash of panic strikes through Alex, and he struggles to conceal it from his face and body language, even as he shifts uncomfortably in his seat. “Oh,” he says, trying to keep his voice steady. “I see.” He’s not sure what to make of this — a week ago, hearing that he’d be playing golf with three United States senators would have blown his mind, but in the moment, he feels completely in over his head, and not in a way he can fake with agreeably empty rhetoric. You can’t bullshit a complete absence of experience, he thinks. Not when it comes to a sport. He’s never been more than serviceable at any form of athletics, even during high school. This — this is a joke.

They’re well into Arlington now, and as Washington stops at a light, he glances over at Alex, hands resting lightly on the wheel. “You’ve played before, right?” he asks. “I’ll understand if you haven’t — New York isn’t particularly known for its golf culture —”

“Of course I’ve played,” Alex says quickly. “My freshman year roommate’s main form of socialization was going to the driving range at Chelsea Piers.” This is half true. Alex was never actually invited. “I might be a bit rusty,” he adds, “but—”

Washington smiles. “But you’re game.”

“I’m always game,” Alex says, his voice fixed and fierce. It can’t be that difficult.

The mild morning has broken into an aggressively temperate day, one that feels more like spring than late winter, when Washington parks at the Arlington Golf and Country Club and hauls his own bag of clubs out of the trunk. Alex follows him into the clubhouse, feeling even more out of place than he had the night before at Angelica’s. Surrounded by men in pressed, coordinated chinos and sweaters, he feels like sinking through the floor. It occurs to him that he has felt like more of an outsider this past week than the last several years of his life combined. The guest attendant gives them both a skeptical look as Washington requests a pass for Alex, but says nothing, which somehow stings a little sharper. He’d rather just be insulted to his face.

Knox and Greene are waiting in the clubhouse when Alex and Washington arrive, looking exactly the way they normally do on C-SPAN: Greene handsome and chiseled, his hair carefully styled; Knox red-cheeked and corpulent, his clothing in slight disarray.

“George, pleasure as always,” Greene says smoothly, offering a firm, polite handshake, which Washington accepts before Knox pulls him into a hearty half-hug. “Glad the weather finally worked out in our favor — how long have we been putting this off?”

“Too long,” Washington says, withdrawing himself from Knox’s grasp. “Henry, Nat, I’d like you two to meet my new aide, Alexander Hamilton —”

“Just Alex is fine,” he says quickly, offering his hand to both men in turn. “Sorry about my — I didn’t know we were playing golf today.” (He says it with confidence. Like he has a pair of pink chinos and an Izod sitting in his closet for the frequent occasions on which he does play golf. They don’t need to know.)

Knox chuckles. “I hardly think it matters,” he says. “You’re not here to show off, are you? You’re here to caddy.”

Washington gives him a sharp look. “Alexander is our fourth today, Henry,” he says coolly. “As Philip was unable to join us.”

Knox coughs a little, but Greene steps in smoothly. “Glad to have you, Alex,” he says magnanimously. “You’ve played a fair bit, then?”

“I — enough,” Alex lies. He shifts his weight from foot to foot as Washington claps him on the shoulder heartily. God, he wishes Washington would stop that. Every touch makes it a little harder to conceal the want that buzzes in his veins. He tries, in desperation, to spit out what little golf terminology he knows. “Are we playing a full eighteen?”

“Just the back nine today, I think,” Greene says. “Everyone in D.C. seems to have had the same idea. It’s a bit busy.”

“Right, then,” says Washington, shouldering his bag. “Let’s get on it, then.”

He thought, or perhaps he hoped, that it wouldn’t be that hard. That perhaps a latent talent for golf would present itself as soon as he picked up a rented club. But as they drive out to the tenth hole on the links, he starts to panic again. Just a little bit. He swallows hard, concealing it, watching the green disappear behind him from the backseat of the cart.

Beside him, Washington leans over to mutter in his ear. “You’ll be fine, my boy,” he says reassuringly. “These men aren’t particularly serious golfers either. Knox hasn’t played a full eighteen holes since 1998.”

Alex laughs, in a manner he hopes is convincing. As they walk out onto the green, he hoists his clubs over his shoulder, following Washington’s lead. Washington tees off first, and Alex stands back and simply watches, taking in the length of his arms, his swing, his stance. He swallows. He’d be more than happy to just watch. He’d much rather caddy than play.

Washington turns to him with a smile. “Is it coming back to you yet?”

“I — we’ll see,” Alex says. Washington adjusts the brim of his plain white visor and plays the rest of the hole in what strikes Alex as a respectable four strokes. Greene goes next, and plays it in three, and then Knox, who takes six to finish, swearing under his breath as the ball finally rolls into the hole.

Alex hoists a club at random from his bag and walks nervously toward the tee, only to have Washington stop him as Knox and Greene exchange a look. “That’s your putter,” he says gently. “Here, you need a driver — this is a better choice.” He hands Alex another club from the bag, taking back the putter as Alex rolls his eyes.

“Duh,” he says, self-deprecating. “I knew that. Sorry, told you I’m a little rusty.”

“Quite all right,” Greene says. “We’re all just doing our best, kid.”

He tees up and takes a practice swing, desperately trying to recall Washington’s stance and angle. He remembers only the way his shoulders looked under his white polo and the muscled curve of his calves. Shit. Head in the game, Hamilton. He takes a deep breath, focuses on the ball, and swings.

He misses.

“Ha,” he mutters nervously, not daring to make eye contact with any of the other men. “Totally meant to do that.” His second attempt finally makes contact, and sends the ball sailing in the proper direction. Without waiting for acknowledgement, he trudges off in pursuit, only to quickly double back, having forgotten his bag.

Washington hands him another club, and Alex takes it without much care. He really just wants to get this over with, feels his cheeks burning with embarrassment as he lines up the shot. Three shots later, he’s not much nearer the hole, but now it feels almost personal, like the whole goddamn course was set up to mock him. Fuck golf. He’s suddenly flooded with a newfound determination to kick this entire course’s ass. He seizes the putter Washington helpfully holds out to him, and widens his stance, ready to hit the damn thing straight into the cup.

“Wait, wait, hold on,” Washington chuckles as Alex draws back the club. “Your position is all wrong, give it a second.”

Alex shifts as Washington jogs up behind him and places both hands on his shoulders. “Relax,” Washington says quietly. “You need to relax your body and your mind. All that tension is what’s making the ball go haywire. Now, here—” and he moves his hands down to Alex’s torso, adjusting his angle just slightly. An involuntary shiver hits Alex at the contact, one he tries desperately to keep contained as Washington’s large hands drift down to his hips. “Position yourself at a forty-five degree angle to the hole,” Washington says, his voice warm but authoritative as Alex allows him to shift his position. “And then draw back just a little — not all the way, you don’t need to hit it so hard at all—”

“Oh,” Alex murmurs as Washington lets go of his hips and moves back, just half a step.

“Just like that,” Washington says encouragingly, demonstrating with his own stance. “Carefully, now.”

Alex draws back the club, mirroring Washington’s body language. Eyes fixed on the ball, he swings.

The ball sails smoothly into the cup.

“Five strokes,” Washington says with a smile, then raises his voice. “Better watch out, Knox, my boy’s already beating you.”

Alex’s face warms as he crouches to grab the ball from the cup. That phrase again. My boy. He just wishes he knew what Washington means by it — is it paternal or possessive? He can’t tell. He thinks, perhaps, that he’d like to be a possession.

If Alex can pride himself on anything, it’s that he is, at least, a fast learner. Or maybe just stubborn. Or maybe — probably — both.

They finish the nine holes in a reasonable two and a half hours, and by the end of it, Alex is in last place, but not as egregiously as he initially feared he might. His strokes and stance have improved considerably under Washington’s critical eye and hands, and as they retire to the clubhouse for a late lunch, Alex feels Washington sidle up next to him.

“Don’t worry,” Washington mutters dryly. “I don’t think they noticed a thing.”

Alex has to bite back a peal of laughter. It comes out as an ungainly little snort, which Washington seems to notice with amusement. A waiter ushers them to a corner table in the informal dining room, and hands all four of them menus, which Alex looks over, nearly choking on the price list. He didn’t realize it was even legal to charge $20 for chicken fingers.

“So, George,” Greene says, closing his menu and setting it aside. “This business with Von Steuben. What’s the point?”

“We’re compromising to compromise,” Washington says smoothly. “It’s symbolic. The medium is the message, as Alex put it.”

Knox gives Alex a sideways look. “You’re making policy decisions now, are you?”

“Not really,” Alex says. “It’s more of a sounding-board situation.” He falls silent, fingering the edge of the menu as the waiter returns for their drink order, but as he’s about to ask for a sparkling water, Washington shakes his head.

“A round of gin martinis for the table,” he says, and Alex takes a breath and nods. Fine. He’s not going to turn down free alcohol. As the waiter retreats, Knox turns back to Alex.

“So, kid,” he says conversationally. “What’s your story? Where did George find you?”

“Well, I have a master’s in public policy from Columbia,” he recites automatically. “I’ve interned in labor rights and policy, and I was working for the press when I met Senator Washington a couple weeks ago. It just — happened…” He trails off lamely, and Washington picks up the thread.

“Alex and I have a great deal in common,” Washington says. “Both veterans, both with a tremendous interest in working people’s rights. But that’s neither here nor there, Henry, how’s the family?”

Knox chuckles. “Lucy’s on my case about the house again. Says we should downsize, that nobody needs all that space. I told her, bullshit. This house has been in my family for generations, we’re not selling it off.”

Greene cocks a brow. “If you want my advice—”

“I don’t,” Knox says as a tray of martini glasses and shakers arrive. Alex pulls his chilled glass toward him, waiting for Washington to make a toast, but instead, he simply raises his glass and inclines his head wordlessly.

“Well said, as ever,” Greene chuckles, and all four of them clink. Alex takes a sip of his martini. He’s never liked them with gin, but then again, he’s used to the house gin, which, in the bars he frequents, often tastes like lighter fluid. This one is excellent, goes down easy.

“Are you gentlemen ready to order?” the waiter asks, and Alex glances back down at the menu, prepared to order the least expensive dish. But Washington cocks a brow and takes his menu from him with a knowing smile.

“I recommend the hanger steak,” he says assuredly. “It’s up to you, of course, but —”

Alex swallows. “I guess I’ll have that,” he says, looking back up to the waiter. “Medium rare.”

“Of course.” The waiter turns back to Washington. “The same for you, Senator?”

“Indeed.” Washington hands him both menus and sips his drink, glancing at Alex over the rim. “The seasonal vegetables are excellent. We’re at the tail end of brussels sprout season, you know. Get it in while you can. Gather ye rosebuds while you may.”

“Thanks for the recommendation,” Alex says lightly. “I was about to go for the chicken fingers and fries.”

“My boy, let me make you a promise,” Washington says, a smile playing at the edges of his mouth even though his voice is grave. “As long as you work for me, you need never order chicken fingers at a place like this again.”

The conversation is light, flowing easily from topic to topic: Washington’s renovations at Mount Vernon, Greene’s eldest daughter’s admission to Smith and Mount Holyoke. They steer away from politics altogether, with the exception of the Von Steuben ordeal, and Alex can’t help wondering what has been the point of this entire exercise. The steak is tender and delicious, the martini well made (though he stops at just the one), but by the end of the meal, nothing meaningful has been accomplished. It hasn’t felt much like a meeting at all.

As he follows Washington back to the car, he can’t hold back the question that has been on his mind since halfway through the golf game. “Sir,” he asks, “forgive me for saying this, but was that it?”

Washington opens the trunk with a shrug, setting his clubs down carefully. “Was what it?”

“The whole… that was the meeting that had been postponed so many times,” Alex says. “It was just golf and lunch.”

Washington chuckles. “Did you assume we’d be talking strategy over steaks?”

“Kind of.” Alex waits for Washington to click the passenger door unlocked, then gets into the car. “I guess I just didn’t expect it to be so… I don’t know.”

“You weren’t bored, were you?” asks Washington critically, and Alex shakes his head.

“Not at all,” he says.

“Good,” nods Washington. “Because as a matter of fact, I learned quite a bit. Henry Knox is still in an excruciating amount of debt, and his wife is badgering him to liquidate what remains of their assets while the market is still amenable to it. Nathanael Greene’s daughter only applied to historic women’s colleges with a sizable lesbian population, and I don’t like to make assumptions, but I’m sure you follow. And you —” He slides the key into the ignition, but doesn’t start the car, instead looking at Alex for a lengthy beat. “You’re a much quicker study at golf than I expected.”

“Right,” Alex says, midway through a rush of dawning comprehension. “It was really obvious I’d never played.”

“Don’t worry,” Washington says. “I hope you don’t mind repeating this venture in the future. I had a hunch you would make a good fourth, and…” He turns the key and the car rumbles to life. He doesn’t finish his sentence.

“Okay,” Alex says, trying not to follow up with So I read the entire bill for nothing.

Washington chuckles as he turns back out onto the road. “Now you know. This job is often dull, but, like, I said, the networking can’t be beat.”

“I wasn’t bored,” says Alex. Truthfully. He means it. Embarrassed and slightly green around the gills for much of the golf game, perhaps, but never bored. “Thanks. I’ll try to look like less of an embarrassment in the future, too.”

“Don’t worry,” Washington says. “We’ll get you the proper outfit for that, too.”

Chapter Text

Monday morning arrives much too early, and his second week is nothing like the first. As soon as he arrives at the office, Washington’s calling him into a staff meeting, looking grave and tired with dark bags encircling his eyes as he takes a seat behind his desk.

“Good. We’re all here,” he says shortly, looking at Burr. “Put that phone away, please.”

“Sorry, sir,” Burr murmurs, shoving it hastily into his jacket pocket. “I didn’t—”

Washington holds up a hand for silence. “I need to know who’s up for hunting Virginia Republicans for sport today.”

Lafayette raises an eyebrow. “This is about Madison, yes?”

“Representative Madison and Senator Jefferson have overstepped their bounds,” Washington says, shaking his head. “They’re leading a bicameral attempt to block the budget negotiations and cause a shutdown and they think I won’t get involved—”

“Sir, I thought we agreed that our plan was to be a voice for bipartisan leadership going forward,” Burr protests. “If your plan is to barge into Jefferson’s office with threats, we have to be prepared to back them up—”

“Do you have a better plan?” Alex can’t help piping up, and is met with stunned silence from those around him. He knows it’s stupid, but he plunges forward, propelled by conversational momentum and sheer irritation. “They don’t want a shutdown more than anyone else does, and this isn’t about the budget. It’s a bluff. They’re taking advantage of this office’s commitment to bipartisanship to make us look weak. We have to shut it down. Strike back.”

Washington is giving him a curt look, tapping his fingers sharply on the desk, and it’s enough to stop him in his tracks. Alex cuts himself off before he gets in any more trouble, and chews the inside of his cheek as Washington takes a breath. “That was quite an interjection, Alexander,” he says, though his voice is not so cold as Alex expected.

Burr laughs, openly, mocking. “I don’t think we’re going to take advice from a personal assistant who’s been here for a week,” he says, his voice cool and condescending as he turns to Washington. “Sir, if you’ll allow me, I think Lafayette and I can finesse this—”

“Then finesse it,” Washington says. “I don’t want my fingerprints anywhere near this. Shut down the shutdown talk. Do whatever you have to.”

“Fine.” Burr looks to Lafayette. “You talk to Jefferson. I’ll go visit Madison.”

“No, no, we’ll visit them both together,” Lafayette says, folding his arms. “Power in numbers. A little intimidation never hurts.”

“We don’t want to look intimidating, we want to look interested,” Burr protests, but Lafayette and Washington are both shaking their heads with an air of finality.

“You’ll go together,” says Washington. He stands up from his desk and reaches for his own suit jacket, pulling it on over his crisp white shirt. “Call me when you have anything. I have a meeting across town. Alexander?”

Alex cringes at the sound of his full name. “Yes, sir.”

“You’ll accompany me. Get your things.”

His body hums with nervous energy as he collects his bag from his desk in the bullpen and follows Washington out. As the elevator door closes, he gives Washington a sidelong glance, gauging his mood, testing the water. He doesn’t want to dig himself any deeper.

“I’m sorry,” Alex says. “I didn’t mean to lose my temper in there. Burr was just — it didn’t seem like he understood the gravity of the situation.”

Washington raises both eyebrows. “Burr often plays devil’s advocate. You’ll have to learn not to let him bait you.”

“But sir, if you just let him dictate your policy by playing devil’s advocate, that makes you look worse,” Alex argues, but Washington only shakes his head sharply.

“No one dictates my policy but me,” he says with finality. “And Lafayette knows how to deal with Burr when his enjoyment of the Socratic method threatens to override our office’s positions. Don’t engage with him and he gets over it quicker. Understood?”

“Yes, sir,” Alex mutters, chastened. The elevator opens on the ground floor, and he trails Washington out to the parking garage, blinking in the bright sunlight that spills across the concrete floor in stripes. He finds it strange that the past three days have made waiting by the passenger door of Washington’s car such an intuitively natural position. From an objective standpoint, he thinks, an outsider might say they’ve moved too quickly — but didn’t Washington himself encourage this? If we click, there’ll be certain performance-based bonuses. Well, if being driven around by a senator is a performance-based bonus —

“Is this the meeting with Von Steuben?” Alex asks, and Washington nods.

“It’s not until four. We have a substantial amount of time,” he says thoughtfully. “I figured we’d start at Cravat & Square, and then perhaps lunch or a cocktail.”

“Oh,” Alex says, his face warming over. “Sir, I understand what you’re trying to do for me, but it’s really okay, you don’t have to—”

Washington slows at a light and turns to face him more fully, one hand resting casually atop the wheel. “Alex, this is important to me,” he says. “It’s not just a comm issue, it’s personal. I don’t like to see you look so uncomfortable in company.”

“I’m not uncomfortable,” Alex protests, though he senses Washington can tell it’s a bald-faced lie. Washington remains placid, unmoved, and hits the gas as the light turns green.

“You’ll be more comfortable, then,” he says. “Just trust me.”

Alex chews the inside of his cheek, uncertain of what to say. Because — he wants this, he wants to let Washington do this for him. But he’s always had a chip on his shoulder about this kind of thing. Handouts. He’s not a fucking charity case. He doesn’t need to be treated like a Make-a-Wish kid just because he doesn’t have a ton of money.

But Washington is humming a little to himself as he drives, and it’s almost endearing, Alex thinks — no, it is endearing, seeing his boss like this. Human. And again striking that same note halfway between paternal and possessive when he speaks. It makes a warm sort of chill come over Alex’s body, makes him stir a little inside. Makes him want more.

So he sits back. And Washington drives.

A small sign on the front door of Cravat and Square reads Fine gentlemen’s wear. By appointment only. Alex shifts from foot to foot, again made uncomfortably hyperaware of the shoddy state of his one work suit, as Washington buzzes the doorbell. The man who opens the shop door is neatly outfitted in a grey suit, and he seems to be expecting them.

“Good morning, Senator,” he says graciously, opening the door wide enough to allow them both ingress. “Good to see you again.”

“Always a pleasure,” Washington says. He puts a hand on Alex’s shoulder and steers him front and center. “I believe I mentioned this on the phone, but my new bodyman is in need of — well, we’ll start with a couple nice suits, shall we?”

“Of course,” says the man, giving Alex a pinched smile. “Formal or daywear?” His eyes are still on Alex’s, but he directs the question to Washington, who squeezes down affectionately on his shoulder as he answers.

"Office. Let's do two colors. One in grey, one in navy," says Washington. "In... what size are you?"

"38?" Alex says, uncertain. It's been so long since he's bought all new clothes that he has a hard time gauging what size he might actually wear.

Washington shrugs. "Pull a 37 and a 38," he instructs the shopkeeper. "As slim a cut as you have, but keep it office-appropriate, if you don't mind. And we'd like a couple of old fashioneds in the meantime."

"It's eleven in the morning," Alex says. "Not that I'm opposed, but just an observation—"

"I thought it might relax the atmosphere a bit," Washington shrugs. "But if you're not interested, that's quite all right."

Alex shakes his head quickly. Truth be told, he really could use the drink, eleven AM on a Monday be damned. "No, this is fine," he assures Washington as another shopkeeper hands them both cocktails. "I... thank you, sir."

Washington smiles and holds out his glass to clink. "Cheers, then," he says, and takes a sip.

"Cheers," Alex echoes.

The shopkeeper returns with a rack of suits, three in grey and three in navy. Alex takes a sip as Washington pulls a navy one off the rack and looks it over critically.

"Let's start with this one," he says thoughtfully. Alex takes another sip of his drink before exchanging it for the suit in Washington's hand. The hanger is made of heavy, polished wood, and up close, the suit is beautiful. He doesn't look at the price tag. He's positive that if he does, he'll pass out.

The fitting room is cloistered in the back corner of the shop, but it isn't small. There's at least room for one more inside, Alex thinks, as he strips off his old suit and places it carefully on an empty hanger. Down to his dress shirt and boxers, he looks himself over critically in the mirror: his socks don't match, strands of hair are starting to escape the confines of their ponytail, and he's perhaps a little clammy to the touch — why can't he stop sweating, for Christ's sake? — and he's never necessarily loved the shape of his body. He's got a body like a Honda Civic, he likes to joke: nothing special, but compact enough, and gets you where you need to go. Next to him, Washington is a Cadillac.

The suit fits well enough, he thinks, as he pulls on the jacket. The pants are too long, but they always are; he's used to it by now. But the jacket is comfortable, and even on first glance it's evidently much nicer than the one he's been wearing for the past four years. Buttoning the jacket, he stares at his reflection, frowning a little. He only sort of recognizes himself. He thinks that's good.

There's a knock on the fitting room door, and Washington's voice. "What do we think?" he asks, and there's that royal We again. What Washington means is What do I think?, and Alex immediately feels compelled to provide an answer.

He opens the door, and Washington looks him up and down.

"Let's try another," he says, and hands over one of the grey options. "The fit on this is all wrong."

He shuts the door, and Alex furrows his brow in confusion as he turns back to the mirror, giving himself another once-over. He thought it looked fine. But he dutifully puts on the grey suit instead, noting a slight difference in the nip of the waist, the line of the pant leg. It's a little more form-fitting than the last, and the color, a sort of fine charcoal grey, looks serious and refined against his bright black eyes. He's sporting a slight golden tan from the previous day on the golf course. He doesn't look bad at all. This feels like — him.

When Washington knocks this time, Alex doesn't hesitate, throwing open the door eagerly. He wants to show off.

He sees Washington bite down, teeth sinking into his lower lip as he nods appreciatively. He's got two more suits in his hand, and steps inside the fitting room to hang them on the wall, shutting the door behind them, almost an afterthought. Not that Alex particularly minds.

"Not bad," says Washington as he turns back to look Alex over. "This might be a contender."

The space between them narrows by the second as Washington takes a step closer, reaching out to straighten the lapels of the jacket. Alex grits his teeth as he feels his dick begin to stir in his boxers. Not now, boner, he thinks furiously, there isn't nearly enough room in this room —

"First things first," Washington says. He steps behind Alex, steers him around so that they're both facing the mirror. Alex swallows around a dry throat, uncertain of where to look — to make eye contact with Washington in the mirror or follow where his hands are leading? He compromises, focusing on his own face as much as he can, trying hard to will away the pink beginning to tinge his cheeks.

Washington's hands drift down to the buttons of his jacket. "First thing first," he repeats. "Unbutton the last button on your jacket. It's not meant to be buttoned." He doesn't wait for Alex to do it himself — pops the button right then and there. The bottom of the jacket opens up a little, flaring out just enough, and Washington nods appreciatively. "That's better," he says. "Now, on a three-button suit like this one, doing up the top button is also optional." He pops the top as well, and Alex takes a short, sharp breath as his cock responds in time. "And more than three buttons on a suit is never appropriate or necessary," Washington finishes.

Alex swallows again. "Good to know," he croaks, his mouth dryer by the second.

Washington doesn't seem to notice. He's staring down at the jacket, and runs both hands down the seams on the sides, a feather-light touch that seems to seat through the fabric. "Now, the whole thing will need to be taken in, of course," he says, ghosting his fingers across the breast pocket. "You're smaller than you give yourself credit for. This is a 37. But on the whole, it's a good start."

"The jacket's a little tight, isn't it?" asks Alex, but Washington shakes his head.

"No, no, absolutely not," he chides with a smile. "You were just drowning in your other one. Look—" and here he slides his hand beneath the right breast of the jacket, keeping it flat against Alex's chest. Alex is certain he must feel the hitch in his breath, the way he gasps at the sudden closer contact. "You should be able to slip a hand in to get to your breast pocket, but if you're able to pound your chest with your fist, that's far too much room." And he hooks one finger into the pocket there, just above Alex's heart, and Alex can't hold back another involuntary shiver.

Washington doesn't seem to notice. He's removing his hand from the pocket, spinning Alex around to face him, still lecturing away. "See, your coat should follow and flatter the lines of your upper body, not pool around them," he says with authority. "And see how the cut nips in here at your waist? It makes you look very lean. You don't need to hide your body at all."

Alex blinks. "Thank you," he says, uncertain of whether it was a compliment, or even worth a response at all. But Washington is still, seemingly, in his own world.

"These pants will need to be hemmed, of course," he says, matter-of-fact. Alex looks down at his feet. He's surprised. He didn't think they were that long. His look of bemusement must be evident, because Washington chuckles and kneels down. "See, your pants should end at your shoes without puddling," he adds, taking the hem in hand and folding it slightly up. "A modest break, like this," he demonstrates, "means that there's one slight inflection point in the front crease. If they break front and back, or on the sides, they're too long. And that will actually make you look shorter."

"Ah." Alex clenches his jaw hard, trying furiously to think about aggressively non-sexual images. Danny DeVito. The crud you find between your couch cushions. Clowns. Anything to take his mind away from the visual of Washington kneeling on the ground in front of him. Anything to stop thinking about his dick. It isn't working.

"We'll have to work on ties, too," Washington says casually, as he unbuttons the middle button of Alex's coat. "See, your tie should end right at your belt line. Too long and it makes you look like a nine-year-old, too short and you look elderly. This one —" and he opens Alex's jacket wide enough to expose —

Alex wants to melt through the floor. Washington is still kneeling before him, holding his jacket loosely in either hand, and he's exactly at mouth level with the bulge in Alex's pants, and at this point it seems as though it would be easier to just die. Walk outside, walk across the city, just keep walking all the way into the Potomac. It would certainly be easier than ever looking his boss in the eye again.

Washington is silent, and Alex feels his grip on the jacket tighten just slightly, just enough to tug it taut on his shoulders. He closes his eyes and screams silently, every cell in his body deprived of oxygen, buzzing with desperation, with lustful, animalistic want. He wants this. He wants George Washington. He wants...

He wants.

Still silent, Washington lets go of Alex's jacket and stands quietly, pulling himself up to his full six-feet-two. Alex has never felt smaller, less powerful, more on display than he does in this moment. The silence screams between them until he feels one broad hand pressing down on the small of his back, just as in the dream.

"Yes," Washington murmurs. It's practically a growl, just loud enough for Alex to hear in their confined space. "I like it on you too, my boy."

And then he opens the door and takes his leave. "Try the other navy next," he dictates from the other side of the wall, and a rush of blood floods Alex's head, and he sits down abruptly on the bench opposite the mirror, delirious and confused.

When he emerges from the fitting room, two suits later, wearing the charcoal one — the best of the bunch — Washington doesn't say anything. He touches Alex lightly on the shoulder and tells the shopkeeper to charge the card he's got on file, then begins poring over dress shirts and ties.

"This is Italian grenadine," he says, holding up a maroon knit tie against a pale blue shirt. "It's a more informal fabric than silk, but appropriate for daytime in the office. We'll do one in a few different colors."

"I like the navy," Alex observes, trying his best to be discerning, and Washington nods decisively.

"As do I," he says. "But with a white shirt, I think. Blue on blue is a bit..." He doesn't finish the sentence, instead nodding appreciatively at another shirt the shopkeeper hands him. "Good. Give me a couple of those. It's a good start." He glances back to Alex. "Take off your tie, my boy."

Alex blinks rapidly as his hands immediately move to his shirt collar, almost unconsciously, certainly without his executive permission. "Why?"

Washington holds up a silk tie in a brilliant emerald green. "I'm going to show you how to tie a half-windsor."

Alex sheds his thick navy polyester tie, looping it nervously around his hands as Washington guides him again in front of a mirror. He winds the slim green tie around Alex's neck from behind, laying it flat beneath his collar, then lays the wide end across the narrower. "Under the small end and to the right," Washington murmurs in his ear, close to his ear, his arms hugging Alex from either side, the contact between their bodies unavoidable. "Now up toward the center, towards the loop..."

Alex's breath hitches as Washington moves just a half step closer, their bodies pressed together. He can feel — or at least, he thinks he can feel — the unmistakable press of an erection through his pants. "Through the neck loop, and to the left..." Washington rasps into his ear, and Alex's eyes slide shut as he finishes, "Across the front, and then over to the right."

He opens his eyes. The brilliant, verdant green of the tie makes his skin practically glow, offset by thin silver stripes. He can tell it goes with the charcoal suit that made them both —

"Keep it," Washington says after a moment. "It's perfect on you."

Alex blinks. "Thank you, sir," he mutters, and his eyes flick up to make contact with Washington's in the mirror.

He grinds back. Just a little. Testing the waters.

Washington's eyes slide shut and his hands drop to Alex's hips. He can hear him draw a ragged breath in his ear, and the want comes flooding back with a vengeance.

"Are we set, then?" The shopkeeper has reappeared over their shoulders in the mirror, and Washington clears his throat, stepping back abruptly.

"Yes," he says hoarsely. "We'll take what I've pulled."

"Very well, Senator." And the shopkeeper is retreating at a clip, but the moment has passed, and Alex is stunned, standing stock-still as he hears Washington's phone begin to ring.

"It's Lafayette," he says to Alex as he glances up from the screen. "My guess is that we'll have to head back to the Hill if they've made a move."

Alex coughs. "I — okay."

"Tell me something," Washington says into the phone, and Alex shoves his hands deep into his pants pockets, willing his heart to return to its normal pace.

He has no idea what the fuck just happened.

Chapter Text

The ride back to the Hill is deafeningly, excruciatingly silent.

Alex shifts relentlessly in the passenger seat, not daring to speak out loud. He doesn't know what he would say if he did. Where do you go from there? How do you progress from popping a boner for your boss in an empty menswear boutique? How do you progress from his reciprocating it? He squirms in his new suit, recalling the weight, the warmth of Washington's hands on his hips, the noticeable bulge in his pants upon which Alex had ground back. It can't have been so wrong. He can't have been that off-base, from the way Washington's breath had hitched, how his fingers had dug into Alex's hips —

He gulps audibly in the silence of the car. The awkwardness between them is palpable.

As they stop at a light near the Russell Building, Washington clears his throat. "I think it would be best for me to take this meeting with Burr and Lafayette myself," he says stiffly. "For, ah, privacy's sake. I hope you understand—”

"Loud and clear," Alex says too quickly. "I'm sure Lee has something for me to proofread. Understood. Sir."

He can feel Washington's glance land on him sideways in the car and stares down at his lap. Stares at his crotch and grinds his molars, because his dick will never stop getting him into trouble, will it? He'll never quite learn how to resist temptation. He's probably about to lose this job.

Washington can take this suit from his cold corpse, at least. He's certainly not giving it back.

They remain in prolonged silence all the way to the building's garage, but as Washington parks, he pauses, and doesn't take the keys from the ignition. After another moment, he turns to Alex, his face solemn and voice low and serious.

“I hope you don’t take this the wrong way,” Washington says. “I consider myself a perceptive man. I did what I felt you wanted me to.”

Alex doesn’t look up from his lap, doesn’t take his hands away from where he’s got them clenched on his knee. “You are,” he says quietly. “Perceptive. I…” He finally looks up. “I wanted it. Want. Present tense.”

Washington takes a breath. “Oh,” he says simply, and Alex sees his jaw shift, his eyes flash. That familiar look of lust, of want, that Alex had noticed in the shop, begins to settle over his face again. “That being so,” he says after another lengthy pause, “I still need to take this meeting alone.”

“Right,” Alex says. “For — privacy.”

The office is a flurry of energy when they walk in, and Burr and Lafayette drag Washington into his office, looking solemn and horrified, respectively. Alex sits down limply at his desk, looking around for something, anything to do.

“Nice suit,” drawls Charles Lee as he leans on Alex’s desk, arms tightly folded. “We were all taking bets as to when you’d finally upgrade.”

Alex stares down at himself, his green tie almost too bright under the office lights. The rest of the clothes Washington had bought him are still in the car. He probably shouldn’t ask about that. “Thanks,” he says hollowly, and jerks his head in the direction of Washington’s office. “Do you know what’s going on in there?”

“I should be in there,” Lee laughs bitterly, “but Lafayette is under the impression that I’m not technically senior staff, or that my strategy clearance is need-to-know only, or—”

“That wasn’t what I was asking,” Alex groans. He rests his head in his hands and runs fingers through his own hair, pulling more of it loose from his ponytail. 

Lee shrugs. "Dunno what to tell you. By the way, nice edits on that last speech, but I think we'd all really prefer that you just stuck to the copy next time—"

"You know, if you actually looked at the content notes, you might find them useful," Alex snaps. "The B section was a mess, Charles, did you even look at what I gave you?"

Lee isn't intimidating; not even close. The way he folds his arms over his shirtsleeves and tie, posing deliberately to make his biceps look larger than they are — Alex can read him easily. He's almost overwhelmed by the stench of entitlement that wafts off Charles Lee, the good-ol'-boy breeding that gives him the ostensible right to walk into just about any room like it's his own. He knew it in New York as the demeanor of WASPs and Bouvier-lites, and in D.C. he knows it better as an inborn southern affectation, and somehow, here, he likes it even less.

Charles Lee doesn't intimidate him, because Alex knows he could easily have his job within the year. As long as he doesn't fuck it up.

Lee laughs and shakes his head, sidling away from the desk with a princely demeanor that looks better on Lafayette. "I'll handle the B section," he says coolly. "Don't worry about it. You're here to give the General his hand sanitizer."

The office door remains shut for the better part of the next two hours, and Alex feels the tide of anxiety begin to rise inside him as he clicks around on Politico and waits. Nobody online knows anything. Everyone has a hot take of their own, but no one seems to have any concrete information to move on. He ignores the gnawing hunger that creeps in around three o'clock. Just shuts it off. He doesn't want to go down to the commissary lest he miss some critical development up here, but then, the commissary is probably the source of any reliable rumor he could get his hands on, so…

He's finally about to give in and go get one of those saucer-sized cookies, at the very least, when Washington's door opens and Lafayette stalks out, looking incensed. Burr follows, placid as ever. They're aggressively not speaking to each other - the space between them like a ravine, apparent even to Alex, who wasn't even in the room with them before.

He glances at the clock. The 4PM Von Steuben meeting probably isn't happening, but he thinks he should ask, anyway.

"Sir?" He shifts unsteadily in the doorway of Washington's office, waiting for him to look up before plunging ahead. "Can I get you anything? Lunch? I was on my way down—"

Washington sighs. "Have you not eaten yet?"

"I wanted to be certain I wasn't needed up here. Sir."

"No, no, it's all right," Washington says heavily. "If you're going to the commissary, I'm partial to the tilapia and brown rice on Mondays. Here." He pulls a crumpled twenty from his pocket and hands it to Alex, who takes it, uncertain. "Get yourself lunch on me."

"Von Steuben rescheduled?" Alex says carefully, and Washington sighs again.

"Can you do me another favor, while you're out?"

"Probably," Alex says automatically, and then snaps back to attention. "I mean. Yes. Absolutely."

Washington eyes him warily before shaking his head. "Greene's office is down on the first floor. He's in 137. I need you to give him this." He takes a heavy manila envelope from the desk and hands it over. Alex shifts its heft in his hand, trying to gauge the contents by the weight.

"Right. Of course." He pauses, then says slowly, "I'll be back with lunch shortly."

"Good boy," Washington says absently, already back to his own business. Alex's stomach churns again. It's as if Washington doesn't even notice these things slipping out. He's halfway through the office when he hears an "Alexander?" echo from Washington's office.

He doubles back. "Yes, sir?"

Washington looks up at him, obviously exhausted. "I'll be working late tonight. The budget committee has called an emergency meeting to discuss the shutdown. We're all waiting it out."

"All right," Alex says slowly. He pauses, awaiting further elaboration.

Washington heaves another sigh. "If you'd like to leave early, you may. It's really going to be a late night."

"No," Alex says. His reaction is knee-jerk in its immediacy. "I'm here all night if I need to be. I'm at your service." He cringes immediately after he says it, the double entendre feeling glaringly inappropriate after the encounter in the shop that morning -- God, that was this morning, it feels as though it happened hours ago. He rides the small wave of embarrassment out and fixes his eyes on Washington's instead.

Washington cocks a heavy brow and shrugs. "The choice is yours," he says casually.

Greene is out of his office - in the budget committee meeting, Alex is informed by an intern who looks as though she doesn't know enough to know that information is probably classified - but Alex slides the packet under his door and then books it to the commissary, where he manages to snatch the last pastrami on rye out of the sandwich case, and a peanut butter cookie to boot. Thus bearing these as well as Washington's tilapia and brown rice, he trudges back up to his own office, settling in at his desk to pick at the sandwich as he waits. The time seems to stretch like a Salvador Dali painting, surrealist in how minutes and half hours feel about the same length.

It's close to eight when Washington sends everyone else home. "You won't know anything until I do," he says gravely, "and it isn't responsible to keep you from your families under the circumstances." Burr and Lafayette haven't been seen since the afternoon: Alex gathers they've been sent off on some fact-finding mission, but can wring no more out of those who were lucky enough to eavesdrop. With the office empty, the hollow buzz of the fluorescent lights seems to intensify, the silence even more powerful.

Washington's office door stands halfway open.

Alex approaches with caution. The overhead light has been turned off, but the incandescent, old-fashioned lamp on Washington's desk remains aglow, casting a greenish haze on everything above it and throwing the room into sharp relief. Washington looks as much like a Caravaggio painting as anything Alex has ever seen, shaded in black and goldish-green, leaning back in his desk chair, a portrait of discontent.

"Sir," Alex says again, quietly, just gently enough to get his attention. "Are you... do you think I could be of any assistance?"

Washington starts, sitting up ramrod straight as he snaps to attention. "Alex. Yes. I — you're still here."

"I told you I wasn't going to leave," Alex says. "You told me that first day, remember? I'm here as long as you're here."

Washington exhales slowly, resting his chin on two fingers. Socrates at rest. "A man of your word, I see."

Alex shrugs lightly. He takes a seat on the couch, at Washington's gesture. It's - oh, this is comfortable, he thinks, sinking back into the cushions. He can understand Washington's known penchant for sleeping in his office, now. Washington is still lost in thought, staring into the distance, eyes unfocused and fixed on some horizon.

Alex feels something in his abdomen jerk. The silence between them feels meaningful. Humid. Heavy with anticipation, like the air before a thunderstorm. It really feels like so long ago, that moment in the shop.

He doesn't say anything, just rests his head against the couch cushions. Washington is the first to break the silence.

"We haven't had a government shutdown in years," he says quietly. "Madison and Jefferson are known for their intransigence, of course, but I wouldn't expect..."

"Why can't you bargain with them?" Alex asks, unable to hold back his frustrated curiosity. "You're from Virginia, too. You know what they're doing. If it really is a bluff —"

"That's the rub," Washington says, shaking his head. "I'm not so certain of that anymore. From what Lafayette and Burr told me, they seem fairly certain. This is about the budget, not just making a point."

"So it's not personal," Alex says, but Washington laughs bitterly.

"I didn't say that," he says, and groans as he stands, finally shedding his jacket and stretching his long arms up above his head. Alex watches him hungrily from the corner of his eye, noting how Washington stalks to his cabinet, pulls a bottle of bourbon and a single glass.

"Would you?" he asks Alex, and Alex nods with immediacy. He would. He really, really would.

Washington pours them both a measure of bourbon, neat, and joins Alex on the couch, handing over his glass. They sit in silence for a few moments, Washington swirling the liquor in his heavy tumbler, both of them watching it, hypnotized.

"I hired you for a real reason, you know," Washington says suddenly. "You’re... you're a fast learner. More so than you realize."

"Thank you?" Alex takes an uncertain sip, wondering where the hell this is going. Washington shakes his head.

"Of course, there were other factors. Where were you stationed?"

"Kabul," Alex says. "But like I said, I never saw combat or anything. I did paperwork. I was a clerical aide."

"You don't emphasize your service at all, I've seen," Washington muses. "Is that by design?"

Alex frowns, looking away. "I think we had very different experiences in the service," he says slowly. "I didn't... I enlisted because I couldn't afford college. That's all."

"You didn't get scholarships?" Washington frowns. "That seems incredibly unlikely, given your education—"

Alex takes a breath. He doesn't think it pertinent to tell the whole truth here. That he enlisted because he didn't care what happened, that he wasn't so sold on coming back from Afghanistan at all. "I got aid. Just not enough," he says shortly. "And now I'm here."

Washington says nothing. He sips his bourbon slowly, the contents of the glass glittering, gemlike, in the low soft light. Alex fixes his eyes on the glass in Washington's hand, focusing on his long, thick fingers, his grip on the glass. He wants to feel those fingers, on him, spanning his wrists and chest, pinning him down, dipping inside him. He wants…

"Why do you say you hired me for 'a real reason'?" He can't resist the question, treacherous as it is. "Is there another, disingenuous reason I should be aware of?"

Washington shifts in his seat, drawing his shoulders back. "What do you think?" he asks, casual. Alex chews the inside of his cheek, considering his options.

"I'm thinking of what happened this morning," he says, and he shifts his own position as well, opening up a little more. His knee knocks against Washington's, and he expects one or both of them to tense, pull away, but it doesn't happen. Neither of them do. He bites down on his lower lip, flashes Washington his closest approximation of bedroom eyes — and he knows he's got them, he's pulled this off before — and smirks. Just slightly. Just enough.

"Besides," he says. "I never got to thank you for all the new clothes."

"Oh?" Washington's voice is thick and hoarse, and it emboldens Alex. Goads him forward.

One of those large, heavy hands lands on Alex's knee, and Alex sucks in a breath, sharp as glass.

"Thank you," he breathes, angling his face up. He can feel Washington's breath, feather light on his cheekbones. The hand on his knee gets a little bit heavier. Washington's eyelashes are strikingly long, this close.

Then their lips are too close not to touch, and Alexander can't control what his body makes him do. So he doesn't bother to try.

And then the phone is ringing. And Washington pulls away, abrupt and startled, and Alex goes cold.

Chapter Text

Washington answers the phone abruptly, his voice low and liquid, but looking visibly askew, thrown off. Alex sits, fidgeting, his entire body practically vibrating — he can’t imagine what it would be like to sit still right now. He’s certainly not capable of it. This manic, pressing need to move has always struck him at these most inconvenient times.

He hears Washington talking, but couldn’t be damned to know what he’s actually saying. He catches phrases, parts of sentences — “Republican agenda,” “block the appropriations bill,” “funding gap” — and he knows, on a shallow, definitory level, that this is not good. That it most likely means one thing. But at the same time —

Washington’s lips were so close to his, and the hand on his knee was so heavy —

Alex screams silently as Washington hangs up, tossing his phone beside them on the couch, and leans forward, resting his head in his hands. He rubs at his eyes with open palms, shaking his head in apparent distress. Alex has no idea what to do. This is an entirely new situation. A smarter man might proceed with caution, exit quietly stage left, but, Alex thinks, he’s not that smart.

“Sir,” he says. “Is everything… what’s going on?”

Washington takes a breath as he looks up. “Congress is heading for a government shutdown,” he says blankly. “The budget committee couldn’t agree on a compromise, so we’re voting on the proposed budget tomorrow, and the Senate Republicans are working in lockstep to block it from passing.”

“Shit,” Alex breathes without thinking. “I — when’s the vote?”

“Tomorrow,” Washington says. He scrubs at his eyes with the base of his palms, then shakes his head and stands up, extending a hand to help Alex up from the deep couch as well. “Alex, I’m sorry, I need to —”

“Understood,” Alex says quickly. “I don’t want to keep you from your work.”

With a heavy sigh, Washington shakes his head. “I’d much rather — well — it doesn’t matter,” he says, pacing back to his desk, pulling on his suit coat and retrieving his wallet from a drawer. “I’ll call you a cab. It’s late.”

“The metro’s still running,” Alex says, automatic, as he collects his belongings, but Washington shakes his head again.

“I’ll call you a cab,” he repeats. “It looks as though this will be an all-day vote tomorrow. If I don’t see you again before then, I want to…” There’s a lengthy silence as Washington trails off, and then he reaches out, catching a passing Alex by his shoulder. Alex freezes, his blood running hot, and looks up to meet Washington’s searching eyes.

He just wants to get this over with. He just wants the dam to break already. But he senses, somehow, that the decision is not his to make. That in this regard, as with all the others so far, Washington will decide what happens and when. And somehow, Alex thinks, that only heightens the tension, makes him feel, well, smaller. Small in a good way.

“Sir,” he says quietly, “I just want you to know. I’m here whenever you need me.” Alex swallows hard and looks down cautiously as Washington squeezes his shoulder a little.

“I know,” Washington says after a moment. “All in good time, my boy.”

He bites down on his resolve as he leaves the office. The car Washington calls him arrives minutes later.

He doesn't sleep at all that night.

Alex takes the cab home, again in unspeaking silence, doesn't. But he knows something between him and Washington has irreversibly shifted, and they both know it. Everything is different, and the opportunity has presented itself, and now it's only a matter of time until they both seize it and dive in headfirst.

I consider myself a perceptive man, Washington had said, and Alex turns this over in his mind again and again as he lies stock-still in bed, eyes staunchly shut but still wide awake. He can't stop thinking about the language at play there. Perceptive. He can't deny that Washington is perceptive, or else, perhaps, his own hunger was not as carefully disguised as he had hoped.

He doesn't sleep at all that night, and when he gets to work on Tuesday morning, it's to the news that the government shutdown is inevitable.

"This is bullshit," Lafayette seethes as he paces the office perimeter, snarling into his phone. "Yesterday I was promised - you promised me — that we would not come to this - and yet —"

Alex coughs slightly as he slides into his desk chair. Washington, he has already ascertained, is not in; C-SPAN plays on the office TV screen, displaying the Senate vote on the Appropriations Resolution Bill. And so all there is to do is pay rapt attention, take in every bit of information he can.

It's seven torturous hours of baiting and shouting and hastily-prepared remarks before Senator Jefferson takes the floor, his tweed suit offset by a butter-yellow sweater vest, his smile almost painfully forced. Something about him makes Alex's skin crawl. Many in the office, he's gathered, have noted his resemblance to Lafayette, but while Lafayette's manner is breezily self-assured, bordering on European brashness, Jefferson has a much more even keel, a slimy sort of preacceptance of whatever events might befall him.

"Gentlemen and women, I stand before you today to urge you to vote no on the Continued Appropriations Bill," he drawls, playing to the C-SPAN cameras more than to the chamber. "The provisions set forth upholding the continued Medicaid expansion constitute a complete moral failure on behalf of this Congress. The great state of Virginia will not stand for this measure, and in the interest of coming to a resolution I reserve the balance of my time. Thank you."

"They're deadlocked," Burr says in awe, arms folded as he stands behind Alex, staring at the screen. "They don't have a quorum."

"Where did this come from?" Alex asks as the vote commences. "Two days ago it was a vague possibility at most. They went from bluffing to shutting down the entire federal government in like, sixty goddamn seconds —"

Burr shrugs, arms thrown wide in frustration. "Madison's the House Whip, Jefferson's a good-old-boy to end all of them. Those two have near-absolute power in Congress."

"So they just use it to cause a budget shutdown instead of, like, for good?" Alex grouses. "That's absolute bullshit."

"If we had that kind of power..." Burr trails off, shaking his head regretfully. "It doesn't matter. What's done is done."

"So now what?" Alex frowns.

"Now we wait."

It's the end of the day by the time it becomes official: Congress has run out of time. The shutdown is happening. Washington returns to the office, looking weary and beaten, to find the place in what strikes Alex as a rather undignified state of collapse: Lafayette lying on the floor of his own office, the door open, shouting on his phone and occasionally lapsing into angry French; Burr's own office door shut and suspiciously dark. Lee is snapping at anyone in his way, his laminate flapping against his chest as he paces the office, spitting fragments of sentences out loud into his phone and watching as they appear in pieces on his laptop. The interns have gone home. The rest of the staff look like lost sheep.

Alex rises instinctually as Washington enters the office. It's the first time they've seen each other all day. He looks even more tired in person than he did under the fluorescent lights of C-SPAN's cameras, and Alex, on principle, aches for him.

"Sir," he murmurs, "I have a cubano sandwich for you in your office, if you feel up to eating. And..."

Washington stops in his tracks and glances down at him, the crow's feet around his eyes thrown into sharp relief in the office light. "And?"

"I took the liberty of drafting something for your CNN interview in an hour," Alex says in a rush. "Lee is — he's having some kind of meltdown, I wasn't sure whether he was going to be able to make anything work, but I have some talking points ready, if you need them." He produces the folded piece of paper, still printer-warm, from the inner pocket of his jacket. Washington takes it, the fruits of Alex's day of hawkish, obsessive observation, and skins it briefly.

"Excellent," he says blankly. "This is - this is excellent, my boy." He folds it back up, slides it into his own pocket. "I'll have to take that sandwich and run back to the Capitol, but —"

"Not a problem," Alex says immediately. "It's already wrapped up for you, sir."

Washington considers him with a weight to his gaze. He nods, finally, and opens his office door before doubling back.

"Lee," he says, voice carrying across the office. "You're furloughed."

Lee splutters, turning back to Washington mid-rant. "I'm sorry, sir?"

"We've entered a government shutdown," Washington responds stonily. "All non-essential personnel are hereby temporarily furloughed. I'm sorry, but I'm going to need your work phone."

Lee blinks. "This doesn't make sense," he says as he slams his phone down on the nearest desk. "I'm not -- I haven't even finished the brief for your interview, we're going to need to finesse that with the press --"

"Lafayette can handle that," Washington says. He's immovable, taking up what seems like all of his office doorway. "You can head home, Charles. We'll see you when this gets... sorted."

"Remind him he cannot check his email!" Lafayette shouts from his office floor.

"Right. Yes," Washington says as he unwraps the sandwich and takes a sizable bite. Alex watches in some mixed state of confusion and glee as Washington chews, swallows, and adds, "You're also prohibited from checking any office email or communicating with anyone from work until the shutdown is over. You will not —"

"Jesus, I know," Lee snarls as he tosses his laminate into his desk drawer. "I know how it works, I don't need the whole spiel, Christ alive."

"We'll see you soon. Hopefully." Washington takes another bite. "Alex —"

"Yes, sir?" Alex answers in trepidation. If Lee is considered non-essential, it's a no-brainer that he himself would be as well. It follows, he thinks as he shifts his weight, sliding both hands into the pockets of his grey suit.

Washington regards him stoically for a minute before adding, "You'll remain on staff for the time being, although given the parameters of the situation, it may fall upon you to take on certain assignments that would normally be given to Charles."

Alex blinks. "Such as."

"Lafayette has the better relationship with the press," Washington says, "so he and Burr will act as my temporary spokesmen. But I hope that you will be willing to take over Charles' writing duties --"

Hope and elation both crash over Alex in tandem. He's pretty certain he's seeing stars. "Oh my God," he says out loud, and then quickly adds, "Yes, I mean. Obviously. Of course, sir."

"I know this is happening quickly," Washington says as Lafayette emerges from his office, having pulled himself together significantly in the five or so minutes previous. Washington crumples the sandwich wrapper and hurls it at the nearest trash can, and Alex automatically digs the bottle of Purell from his pocket. "But the last 48 hours have been -- a game changer."

He doesn't look too long at Alex when he says this. But the meaning is evident even as the three of them walk in tandem out of the office, Capitol-bound.

"These talking points are not horrible," Lafayette observes under his breath as they watch Washington wrap up his remote interview. Alex is momentarily caught off-guard, stunned by the faint but unexpected praise.

"Thank you?" he says cautiously, and Lafayette huffs a short laugh.

"You are a writer," he says. Not a question, but a statement. "Why are you a bodyman?"

"Because it's the job I was offered," Alex says shortly.

Lafayette laughs again, and Alex isn't certain why it strikes such a chord in him, this overwhelming feeling of wanting to impress someone who has done nothing so far but condescend to him. "Yes," he says slowly. "It is the job you were offered, yes."

"Do you know something I don't?" Alex's irritation, he knows, must be evident, but Lafayette simply shrugs in response.

"Washington has taken an interest in you," he says cryptically. "He asks me about you. How we know each other. What I know about you."

"Asks as in he asked once, or asks as in it's an ongoing thing?" Alex can't resist asking.

"The latter." Lafayette preens a little, doing the same goddamn thing he always does, angling his body and the tilt of his chin for maximum effect. "I told him what I know, but I don't know much..."

Good. Let's keep it that way, Alex thinks, but does not say out loud. Instead, he shrugs, looking back to Washington, who is being helped out of his tangle of microphone wires by a production assistant. Alex feels a brief lightning strike of jealousy slash through him, followed by an immediate pang of shame over his irrationality. Washington is far from his.

"There's not much to know," he says instead to Lafayette, who smiles again, cool and a little bit knowing.

"I suppose we must agree to disagree," he says, and Alex feels his face go warm as Washington approaches them both.

"I think we're done here for the night, boys," he says, forcing joviality, ever-aware of the camera presence in the room. "Lafayette, if you want to head home, I'll need you in early tomorrow —"

Lafayette offers him a cocky little salute. "As you wish," he says, pulling his phone from his pocket as he saunters off.

They both watch him go with mild interest before Washington turns back to Alex. "Alexander, I'd like to cut you loose as well, but I'd appreciate your coming back to the office with me before you head out. We need to go over your new -- well, temporary, but Lee's ongoing duties, as well as what he's left behind —"

"Understood, sir," Alex says agreeably. His stomach churns as they head for the elevator and out through security, and as they take the short walk back to the Russell Building at a considerable clip, the air between them seems to crackle. The night is mild for late winter, feels more like an early spring, but every hair on Alex's body stands at attention as they burst through the building doors, not speaking, yet somehow entirely simpatico.

The office is dark and empty when they get there, a single computer still left alight and humming in the bullpen - Lee's, from the look of it, Alex notices, before Washington is unlocking his office door. He doesn't hesitate. He steps inside. And that's when everything changes.

The door clicks shut behind them, and suddenly Alex finds himself pressed up against it, Washington's height and broad hands pressing his shoulders to the heavy wood. He lets out a gasp before Washington dips his head, their foreheads bumping together before Washington clasps down on either side of his face. His palms are warm, he feels so powerful, so commanding like this, and Alex allows a single weak, needy whine to escape his mouth before Washington is kissing him.

For half a second he's knocked sideways. Washington kisses hard; he kisses like it's more than a prelude to fucking, like he's determined to make Alex come with nothing more than tongue and teeth and fingers on his face. Alex gasps into it, desperate, and then there's a tongue in his mouth and the full force of the want he's been repressing for what feels like centuries hits him like a wrecking ball, and he goes to pieces.

"I've wanted this so badly, my boy," Washington rasps against Alex's jaw, punctuating it with a nip that makes him keen. "From that first night - your phone - I pocketed it for a reason, I needed to see you again—"

"Oh my God," Alex says breathlessly. Washington's forearm moves down to his chest, keeping him pressed firmly against the door, and then they're kissing again like a hurricane.

This close, all he can focus on are Washington's weight and his warmth and his scent. He smells like raw skin and expensive cologne and man, and it goes straight to Alex's dick. He's fully hard in his suit as Washington knocks his legs apart with his knee and shifts against him, rubbing at his hips and pressing hard kisses against his throat, scraping teeth across his stubble and Adam's apple. Alex feels so much smaller every second, and he gasps as Washington shifts his hand downward, lips quirking up into a smile against his neck. "Oh, good boy," Washington breathes rapturously, and the fluttering sensation of his breath makes Alex shiver as Washington strokes his crotch through his pants.

The praise, the affection in his voice, are overwhelming. Alex feels drunk as he rubs against Washington's thigh, held firm against him. He can feel Washington's erection against his hip, rocks back against it, feels him pant against his neck as he does. "Oh, God," Alex mutters as he realizes the size of it, intimidating even through two layers of fabric, and Washington chuffs an improbable laugh.

"That's all you," Washington says, low in his throat and hoarse as the moment in the shop. "That's what you do to me, you can feel it, Alexander—"

He's never liked his full name as much as he does now, hearing it come out of Washington's mouth in that low, ragged tone. He's so broad, so firm, and Alex's heart is hammering in his chest as he grinds down harder on Washington's thigh. Those hands are everywhere, sliding over every inch of Alex's body, exposed skin and clothing alike, never staying long enough in one place to grant him any friction to speak of.

Washington bites down on his earlobe. Alex groans out loud.

He can hear the clink of his belt buckle, faintly over their heaving breath, and it's moving so quickly and not nearly fast enough at once —

"I need—" He doesn't finish the sentence as Washington pops the button on his pants, sucking hard on his neck. Alex shudders, bracing himself against the door, knowing fully that if he tried to stand on his own, he'd end up crumbling limp to the ground. Washington tugs down his zipper, and Alex thrusts against his hand as much as he can, with the limited leverage he has.

"What do you need?" Washington asks in a low tone. "Do you need my hands?" He grinds the palm of his wide hand back against Alex's erection, prompting a desperate gasp. "Or my mouth? Or—" And here he pulls his hand away again, but substitutes with his powerful, muscled thigh, letting Alex grind onto it with abandon. "Do you want to come on my leg? Just get yourself off like a good boy?"

"Oh my God," Alex gasps again. His pants are half undone but not all the way down, and his face is burning red hot, and he realizes with horror that he's getting close, much too close, just from the friction and Washington's words. This isn't what he expected, he knows that much, and he doesn't want to come like this, but —

"Go on, my boy," Washington urges him, rubbing harder against Alex's crotch through his pants and boxers, pressing his thigh up higher so Alex can grind down on it with more ease. The pressure is going to - fuck, the pressure, it's overwhelming, and then Washington's hand is back, and —

"Sir," he gasps, grinding down against Washington's wide, sturdy palm. "No, no, please, I don't, my suit, please, not like this --"

Washington grins, the widest Alex has ever seen him smile, and Alex can feel his entire world start to tighten as he grabs Washington around the wrist, holding him steady even despite his own protestations. "Go ahead, ruin it," Washington murmurs against his ear. "I paid for it, after all." And it's just enough, coupled with the steady, insistent pressure as Alex ruts against him with abandon. Alex comes, his head buried in Washington's solid chest, gripping him around the wrist, and it's humiliating, and it's amazing, and he wants--

"Good boy," Washington says, his voice choked.

Alex can feel sweat beading on his forehead and tears pricking at his eyes. He can hear his own pulse, or maybe it's Washington's heartbeat, pounding insistently in the empty office, and he's sticky and slick with his own come and his lips ache from being kissed so hard.

When he finally finds the strength to look up, Washington is still breathing hard, pupils blown, staring at Alex like he's about to devour him. The bulge in his pants is no less intimidating now that Alex has come, but there's no other recourse, he has to have Washington now, has to taste him, all of him —

He drops to his knees and fumbles with his buckle.

Washington gets his own pants undone soon enough, and Alex pulls his boxer briefs down far enough to expose his thick, dark cock. It's as long as he'd hoped, proportional to the rest of the man, he thinks idly, his brain buzzing yet strangely clear in his post-orgasmic haze. This will be a challenge. He fucking loves a challenge.

Glancing up through his eyelashes, he lowers his mouth to the tip of Washington's cock and teases the head with his tongue, keeping his touch light. He's feeling a strange clarity, a singular task ahead of him, one thing to concentrate on. He feels Washington shudder and hears him let out a ragged moan, but couldn't make out the words within if he tried. Alex wraps his lips around Washington's head and sucks lightly, still teasing. He can do this. He is good at this. On his knees, a cock in his mouth, this is a natural position for him. He can be so good. He grabs at Washington's thighs with both hands, digging his fingers into the material of his wool pants.

One of Washington's hands tangles in his hair, pulling his ponytail loose, and he registers a sharp pain as the elastic tugs at a few stray pieces. It doesn't matter. He loves it, hums happily around Washington's cock as he takes it deeper into his mouth and relishes the way his legs shake under his hands. Washington threads his fingers a little tighter through his hair, and his hips stutter forward in one short, experimental thrust into Alex's mouth.

He hums again, looking up through his eyelashes. He has never seen Washington look so wrecked.

"I want to fuck your mouth," Washington mumbles, half-coherent. "Please, my boy—" Alex hums again, blinks, and Washington thrusts forward again, whispering, "Tap twice if you need me to stop."

Alex blinks again and lets out a garbled groan of assent, tightening his grip on Washington's thighs, and closes his eyes as Washington starts to thrust again, in earnest this time. He starts slow, shallow, one hand on the back of Alex's head and the other clasped around his cheek, and then he pushes forward again, more sharply this time, and Alex gags.

Washington pulls out, just long enough to ask, "Are you okay?"

Alex takes a ragged breath, summoning all the energy he has and squeezing down on Washington's legs with both hands. "Keep going."

With a single look of dazed awe, Washington thrusts back into his mouth, and this time he doesn't hold back. Alex opens his throat, pulls out every trick he knows to relax and simply let it happen to him. He's being so good, so good, he repeats to himself as Washington fucks his face. He's faintly aware of the little wet noises coming from his mouth, an obscene meld of cock and throat and saliva, and it's so good, he's so good —

He squeezes down hard and opens his eyes, making searing eye contact, and then Washington is coming down his throat, hot and bitter and leaving Alex no recourse but to swallow it all.

He doesn't care. He loves it.

He lets Washington's softening cock drop from his lips, lets go of the iron grip on his legs. Washington's hand is still in his loose hair, but it's petting instead of pulling now, weaving strands reverently between his fingers.

"Alexander," he murmurs, voice velvet soft. "Look at me."

It takes everything Alex has to look up. He knows he's got to be a fucking sight to behold: eyes shining with tears, lips red and swollen, face flushed and slick with his own saliva. He drags his gaze up reluctantly to meet Washington's, and is rewarded with a soft tug to his hair before Washington tucks all of it softly behind his ears.

"You did so well for me today," he murmurs, and reaches down to lift Alex's chin up a little further. Alex flushes with the praise, his head getting a little lighter as he lets Washington pull him to his feet. Washington fixes his pants, tucks himself back in and buckles his own belt, and Alex is again made hyperaware of his own disheveled state, his boxers still sticky, his green silk tie askew. "So well," Washington repeats, and presses a soft kiss to his forehead.

"I should go," Alex says, but Washington takes hold of his shoulders and keeps him in place.

"Let me drive you home," he says. "I'll need you in bright and early tomorrow."

Chapter Text

So Alex Hamilton is sleeping with his boss.

Sleeping with. Present tense. That’s what’s weird about it, he thinks, as he arrives at work the next morning. He could describe it as a weird one-off thing, just a hitch in the routine, except for the fact that they’ve both clearly wanted this since the first night they met, and if it weren’t for the fact that Alex knows he’s smart (he is), he’d almost wonder if his getting hired here were just a ploy to get into his pants. Which. Well. It’s not, because he deserves to be here. But.


Okay, so he’s aware that this is breaking, like, every single rule about appropriate workplace behavior that could possibly exist. He’s aware of that. Somewhere in the dusty, cobwebbed, little-used corner of his mind marked “Good Judgment,” he’s more than aware that this is, in some small way, technically, a mistake. But on the other hand, he thinks, when was the last time he got what he actually wanted? When was the last time anything really, seriously worked out in his favor?

John did tell him to consider actually dating someone. He was probably talking about Eliza Schuyler, not a married senator with some sort of weird Henry Higgins thing, but… he kind of wouldn’t mind playing that out. Seeing where it goes. He’s always joked that he’d be a natural in some sort of kept-boy scenario.

He ruminates on the idea during his metro ride to work, and by the time he walks into the office, he’s almost forgotten about the more pressing matter on the table, i.e. the government shutdown. There’s almost no one in the office, and Burr meets him at the door, looking forlorn.

“He’s handing out furloughs left and right, and I think Lafayette’s going to actually kill Thomas Jefferson,” Burr says quietly. “I’d proceed with caution, if I were you.”

“Ha, imagine if Lafayette actually did kill Jefferson, and, like, assumed his identity,” Alex laughs without thinking. Burr blinks, looking annoyed. “What? Ugh, sorry. My mind is elsewhere.”

“You should work on that, then,” Burr says. “Congress is in a fucking tailspin right now.”

“Right,” Alex says. “I saw the polls. Something like 78% of Americans think it’s more important to just pass the budget and avoid a shutdown than to defund the Medicaid expansion. Can’t we use that? Go after Jefferson and Madison for pushing for the shutdown and not adequately representing the people of their state-slash-district?”

Burr shakes his head as he flips open a folder lying atop a desk. “Not yet,” he says. “There’s not enough in-fighting among the Republicans right now to make that a viable power move. They’re still moving in lockstep. I give it a week. The D.C. sanitation department and public schools are both shut down. They’ll break eventually because they can’t stand the smell or the kids being out of school all day.”

Alex laughs, despite himself. “This is bullshit. Do they really care that much about Medicaid?” He fills a mug with coffee from the machine and dumps in a packet of raw sugar, stirring furiously with a plastic knife. “Washington’s right,” he says. “It’s a power move, but it’s a stupid one. They’re gonna have to cave eventually.”

With a shrug, Burr removes a piece of paper from the folder in his hand and slowly, methodically, feeds it through the shredder. “The point isn’t to get the Medicaid expansion vetoed,” he says. “The point is to assert power. Republican-controlled Congress, they can do what they want.” The shredder whines, and Burr stares out at some unknown horizon for a minute, before adding, “It’s probably not a bad gig.”

"So we just let them hold the budget hostage to prove a point? That's some Cold War shit, Burr."

Burr shrugs. "That's what we're looking at. Like I said, it won't last longer than a couple weeks before POTUS steps in."

"You sound really certain about that," Alex remarks, and Burr shrugs.

"I did my master's thesis on the shutdowns in the 90s."

"Of course you did," Alex grumbles. Not that he doubts it. Just... of course he did.

The RSOB is eerily quiet. With everyone in session and their non-essential employees on furlough, the place looks like a ghost town, Alex thinks, as he meets the delivery boy from the burrito place at security. He and Burr spend most of the day working quietly together, but not quite together: Alex drafting a set of possible floor remarks for the following day, Burr calling in favors at just about every media outlet in the district to get Washington's name attached to the front of the list of Democrats working tirelessly to end the shutdown. It's a strangely comfortable office space, the two of them in close quarters that don't quite feel claustrophobic, Burr snacking on raw almonds and activated cashews and only once giving Alex a disapproving look when a glop of guacamole spurts obscenely out the end of his burrito. He likes Aaron Burr, Alex decides, regardless of what John and Angelica had to say about him. Sure, he sometimes comes across as a bit of a stuffed shirt, composed entirely of flattery and Crest Whitestrips. But he's perceptive, and droll, and the only person on Washington's staff who doesn't make Alex feel like he doesn't belong there at all. He thinks he could make this work, too. He could build a partnership with Aaron Burr.

Lafayette blows back into the office around three, dressed in a relatively conservative navy suit and red silk tie, American flag pin prominent on his left lapel. "I am going to kill Thomas Jefferson," he announces, and Burr and Alex both have to repress a mutual snort of laughter.

Lafayette sighs. "They have both given me the - ah, what is the phrase - the run-around. Jefferson and Madison both. Repulsive men."

"So I'm guessing your meeting with Jefferson's chief of staff was..." Burr finishes the sentence with a tentative thumbs-down gesture, and Lafayette heaves another dramatic sigh.

"I go to Jefferson's office. No one there. I call Dearborn. No one answers. I spent three hours hunting him down and you know what I get? Nothing. After an explicitly negotiated agreement to meet, mind you. Nothing." Lafayette shakes his head and scoops a handful of almonds from the box on Burr's desk. "I can no longer do this, mes amis. I cannot negotiate with terrorists."

"They're Republicans, not terrorists," Burr says absently, and Lafayette huffs.

"In France, we call this behavior terrorism."

"Well, in America, it's politics." Burr looks up from his laptop, obviously irritated. "Look, do you want me to get a meeting with Madison's chief of staff? I know her quite well, it shouldn't be hard to trade, ah, a favor for a favor."

Lafayette rolls his eyes. "The meeting is yours to take. Republican women, in particular, confound me. They vote against the interests of their sex, yet they cannot be accused of misogyny? Of being a traitor to women as a whole? No." He pops another almond into his mouth. "The meeting with Ms. Prevost is yours. I have no interest in this business."

Alex watches as Burr swallows, shifts his jaw. He's obviously holding back something, but Alex'll be damned if he knows what. "Fine," Burr says simply. "You can deal with the press tomorrow, then."

It's then that Washington steps through the door, again looking beaten and exhausted, though with a certain gravitas to his step. "Gentlemen," he says wearily, and Alex jumps to his feet, though Burr remains seated and Lafayette barely reacts at all. "Today was..."

"A shitshow," Lafayette says dryly, and Washington gives him a harsh look.

"Language," he rebukes him, and sighs. "But yes. You're free to go. We've reached a deadlock for the day. You heard that Morris took off his prosthetic leg and used it as a prop while arguing on behalf of Medicaid?"

Burr nods. "It's already become a meme, sir."

"I don't know exactly what that is," Washington says, waving one hand absently through the air. "Alexander, if you aren't busy, I'd like you to accompany me to my dinner plans. Robert Livingston requested a meeting this morning, but alas..."

Alex nods. "Of course, sir."

"For what it's worth, sir," Burr adds, "I'm negotiating a sit-down with Theodosia Provost tomorrow. I think she might be able to help us ease the chill with Madison—"

"Good. Good." Washington doesn't seem to be listening, and Alex notes the look of frustration that flits across Burr's handsome face before it's promptly replaced by the same easy smile he normally wears. Burr is so interesting in this way, he thinks; there's a certain sport to finding the cracks in the masks he wears. "Alexander?"

"Right," Alex says, double-saving his Word doc and shutting off his laptop. "I'm right behind you."

He follows Washington, as is usual now, to his car. Washington seems lost in thought, walking so quickly that Alex has to double his steps and pace to keep up; he's practically jogging when they reach Washington's assigned space in the garage. "Sir," he says quickly. "Are you all right?"

Washington sighs as they both climb into his sleek black car in time. "I've been much worse," he says. "Thank you for your concern."

Alex is silent as he fastens his seatbelt. Washington has said nothing about the events of the night previous; even on the drive home directly after, he was curiously quiet and reticent to discuss what they'd just done. Alex didn't bring it up then. He doesn't know how to bring it up now, really. All he knows is that he wants it to keep happening, that if it were just a one-off thing, he might actually die.

(Maybe that's dramatic. Maybe anyone who might pass judgment on his theatrics can blow him.)

Washington drives them to a restaurant that is both small and out of the way. It's darkly lit inside, as he references his reservation to the host, and Alex notes that he has not made it under the last name "Washington." It's strange, and the slightest bit suspicious, particularly as the host leads them to a small table in a corner, one set for only two.

"Where's Livingston?" Alex asks automatically, before the realization dawns upon him a split second later. "Oh, right. There wasn't a meeting."

Washington chuckles as he glances at the menu. "I thought this was the thing to do, considering." His eyes quirk up in a smile, meeting Alex's over their menus. "Order whatever. You've certainly earned it."

Those two words land like a promise on the table, earned it, and Alex has to keep from shivering. He smiles slightly, adjusting his new maroon knit tie. (Italian grenadine, he remembers.) "All right, then," he says casually. "Thank you, sir."

Washington smiles again, and flips the menu over as the waiter approaches. Alex watches quietly as he orders a bottle of red wine. "Don't worry," he adds as an aside to Alex, "the pasta here will more than soak up the alcohol. The pork belly carbonara is a particular favorite."

Alex's mouth waters as he rakes his eyes over the menu. The prices still make him gag a little; he still has the distinct feeling that he has no place here. He can't shake the nagging little thought that everyone knows why he's here; that to outsiders, they must look like a scene from Lady and the Tramp. Senator and the Scamp, he thinks, as the waiter pours a tasting measure into Washington's glass.

"This is perfect," Washington says, and slides his glass back over to the waiter to fill. "And... I believe we're ready to order, are we not?"

Alex nods. "Um, the pork belly carbonara," he says automatically. He assumes it must be good. Washington hasn't steered him wrong yet.

And Washington, in turn, gives him an approving nod. "We'll also start with the baby octopus and the farro salad," he says, "and I'll have the saffron tagliatelle, if you don't mind."

The waiter smiles. "Of course, Mr. Curtis," he says politely, and retreats immediately, without a single word or raised eyebrow at Alex or his clothing. (And then he remembers - right, he's wearing the navy suit Washington bought him while the grey is at the cleaners, he doesn't look out of place. Strange. Strange feeling, blending in.)

Alex slides his wine glass toward him as Washington raises his own. "Cheers, my boy," he says warmly. Alex notices that he isn't wearing his wedding ring as they clink.

The wine is excellent, tart and dry, and Alex thinks he could easily put down a bottle of this on his own. He sips his glass coolly as Washington glances around the room, casual as anything but hawkishly observant anyway. Evidently pleased with his surroundings, he leans forward and says in a low voice, "Thank you for having dinner with me tonight."

"I... thank you for bringing me here," Alex says. "You have so much on your plate right now."

Washington shrugs, adjusting his cuffs. The motion only calls more attention to his hands, Alex notices, and he's suddenly helpless again, staring at those thick fingers and broad palms, the previous night's incident flooding back to him in blinding technicolor. "There was nothing more that could be done today," Washington says. "And I wanted to talk to you. I think we have a great deal to discuss."

"So let's discuss," Alex says in trepidation as their appetizers arrive. Washington slides a piece of the octopus onto his own plate, but doesn't take a bite, simply stares at it.

"It's strange that we eat octopus," Washington says. "An adult octopus has the same approximate intelligence of a five-year-old child, did you know that? They have excellent reasoning skills, they've been known to escape their tanks. It drives the researchers insane."

Alex swallows his own mouthful, his throat suddenly a little dry. He didn't know that. He reaches for the wine to wash it down. "So why did you order it?"

Washington shrugs. "Because it's delicious. And the octopus is already dead. My moral obligations do nothing to change that." He takes a bite, chews thoughtfully and swallows. "I very much enjoyed what we did last night, Alexander."

"I did too," Alex says. His stomach churns with nerves as he pushes farro salad around his small plate. "I didn't think — I wasn't sure how you felt, but. I really enjoyed it."

Washington smiles faintly, glancing down at his plate. "Alexander, I don't want you to get the wrong idea about me," he says. "I don't make a habit of doing this."

"What do you mean by 'doing this'?" Alex can't resist the question, but he's certain he must be pushing it. Washington, though, simply shrugs in response.

"My staff and my personal life have, historically, been kept quite separate," he says carefully. "This is the first time... I was very taken with you that night at the Four Seasons, Alexander. I see myself in you — don't snicker like that, you know what I meant."

"Sorry, sir," Alex says, forcing a straight face.

Washington sighs. "It isn't... I can imagine how you must be feeling. Uncertain."

"I wouldn't say that," Alex says. "Truth be told, I haven't really parsed the whole thing yet."

Washington falls quiet there, and they finish the appetizers in what feels to Alex like a more comfortable silence than most of those that have come before it. His brain tugs at him, desperate to keep talking and filling the silence, but he senses that it isn't his place, and so he bites his tongue and tries.

Their pasta arrives, and when the waiter has retreated once again, Washington picks up his fork and winds a piece of the tagliatelle around it. "Try this," he dictates to Alex, and Alex's mouth obediently falls open as he leans forward across the table, accepting Washington's fork in his mouth, closing his lips around it. His body moves without consulting his brain, and Washington chuckles as he takes his fork back.

Alex blinks as he chews and swallows. "That's excellent, sir," he says, and Washington nods.

"You strike me as someone who has not sought out many of the finer things," Washington remarks, and as indignation flares up inside Alex, he adds, "which is not for lack of hunger, but of opportunity. I find that refreshing. Your ambition, coupled with the newness of this world..." He takes a bite and chews slowly, swallowing and sipping his wine. "I'd like to help."

"In what way?" Alex asks nervously, and Washington shrugs.

"Like this, and like what we did the other day. I've been struck by this fascination with seeing you... well, transform," Washington says. "If you'll let me, I'd like to see where this goes. Let me introduce you to this world. Trust me to take care of you. I did mention that there would be... bonuses."

"So like some kind of sugar daddy thing?" Alex can't resist asking. Washington sighs.

"That's a vulgar term for it," he says. "Think of it more as a quid pro quo, so to speak. I do find you very attractive, Alexander."

Alex swallows, unable to lie or play this coolly. "I... yeah. You are... ditto, I mean, the feeling is mutual."

He stares at his plate, chews a bit of pork belly as Washington chuckles, sounding pleased. "Glad to hear it," he says, and then, "I think you'd be suited to the kind of company I keep. You've already proven it, with Knox and Greene. They both spoke quite highly of you after the fact."

"Even though I embarrassed myself all over that golf course?" Alex asks incredulously.

Washington shrugs. "You improved quite rapidly. That was a test, which you passed with flying colors. Your ambition, and your desire to advance, are not undercut by a lack of work ethic. This could be so good for you, Alexander."

Alex inhales sharply. "So long as I'm good, too," he says unsteadily, and fuck, he's getting hard again, not here in this nice restaurant, for Christ's sake. First things first, he's got to work on that.

"So to speak," Washington says again. "Though if last night were any indication, I doubt that will be a problem."

He feels his face flush as he shifts in his seat. Last night. Yeah. They probably should address that directly, but this just feels — strange. "I liked... that. Yeah." Alex has no idea why this is so difficult to say out loud. He's spent his whole life talking about sex, quite openly, for the most part, but for some reason, Washington's gaze is so heavy that it makes him a little reticent to speak up. "I would like to do that more. For the record. It was..."

He's not sure exactly how to phrase this. Fucking around with Washington felt like a direct line to every button he knows he has — his size, his voice, the way Washington made him feel both degraded and beautiful at once. He didn't even know he could feel beautiful. He only knows he wants more of that, and wants more of Washington, who wields his power the way a soldier wields a sword. He doesn't need whips or cuffs to make Alex obey, just his voice and his gaze. Fuck. He's sitting here at this table and he's already melting a little.

"It was transcendent," he finishes, and Washington nods in understanding.

"So we're agreed," he says slowly. "We're on the same page, going forward."

"This is just so fast," Alex says, a little bit breathlessly. "We didn't really meet that long ago. Not that I'm complaining, mind you, that week felt like a century, it just. It's been quick."

Washington shrugs. "I think you'll come to find that when I desire something, I don't bide my time waiting for it," he says. "And neither do you, I've noticed."

"No," Alex admits. "Patience isn't a virtue I know very well."

Washington laughs. "I suppose, situationally, we'll have to work on that," he says. "But if you really, severely lack restraint, I'm sure I can help enforce it for you." His dark eyes sparkle with the double entendre, and Alex's heart is beating out of his chest as he nods.

"All right," he breathes, and Washington nods again.

"All right."

Chapter Text

"Hey," John says absently as Alex lets himself into the apartment that night. It's well after eleven, and he's briefly caught off-guard, unprepared to answer for his kiss-bitten lips and flushed cheeks. (Washington had not permitted his release in the car, but instead sent him inside with strict instructions not to touch himself until the following morning.) Alex starts, blinking rapidly as he scrambles for an excuse for the state of his hair as John does a double take. But John only squints at him critically and says, "Nice suit."

"Oh," Alex says, scratching a nonexistent itch at the nape of his neck. "Yeah. Thanks."

"Is that new?" John asks over his laptop, still sounding suspicious.

Alex takes a short breath. "Uh," he says. "Yeah. I got it at that consignment shop on M Street. You know. New job, thought I should treat myself."

"Oh," John says as he returns his focus to whatever's on his laptop. "It looks good on you."

Alex sighs, trying carefully to hide his relief. "Thanks," he says, starting for his bedroom. But John is still talking.

"So are you having to work, like, crazy hours because of this shutdown?" he says. Alex closes his door enough to afford himself at least the suggestion of privacy as he changes.

"Uh-huh," he calls through the door, stripping off his suit and hanging it carefully on the open closet door. He strips down to his boxers and undershirt, wincing, still half-hard and harder as he thinks about it. He forces himself to focus on John's words as he pulls on a pair of sweatpants. They do nothing to hide or help his situation.

"That's insane. Your boss seems like a lunatic," John is saying in the living room. "You've only been there, like, a week and a half, and you've worked late three nights so far? Is he just super needy or something?"

"I wouldn't say that," Alex says. That much is true. There are many words to describe Washington, but needy isn't one of them.

"Well, I hope you're getting paid overtime," John says.

"Yeah, don't worry," Alex mutters as he speedwalks from his bedroom to the kitchen, doing his best to angle his body away from John on the couch. He opens the fridge and stares, not hungry at all, but too wired to sleep. "He's making it up to me."

The thing is, work is exhausting. More so than he could have expected. With Burr and Lafayette scattered between a spate of meetings all day, Alex finds himself in charge, at least temporarily, of holding off the press. The days slip away with Washington in Congress twelve hours a day, rarely making so much as a cursory appearance in the office, Burr out making deals, and Lafayette occasionally returning to the office to shout and complain. “I’ve not seen Adrienne in nearly a week,” he grouses as he hangs up the phone in annoyance. “This job, you will find, is hell on your relationships, Alexander.”

“Ah,” Alex says blandly. He backspaces an entire line of the remarks he’s composing and sighs. “That’s too bad.”

Lafayette glances at him sideways. “You do not have anyone in your life?”

Alex frowns, shaking his head. “I mean, I’m not — no, I’m not seeing anyone,” he says. “And I like to keep my circles pretty close, I mean.” (What he doesn’t say is the truth, which is that he at least somewhat dislikes most people he meets, with John being perhaps the one largest exception over the course of his life. There’s no reason to get into all that right now.)

With a shrug, Lafayette hops up on an empty desk nearby, resting one of his long legs on the seat of the desk’s chair. Alex watches him warily. He still doesn’t know what to make of Lafayette and his knowing manner. “What a shame,” Lafayette says breezily. “You could do quite well for yourself.”

“I guess,” Alex says. He reverts his attention back to his laptop and begins to type as loudly and as quickly as he can manage, signaling the end of the conversation. Lafayette, blessedly, leaves within the hour, and now all he has to do is wait.

“Alexander,” Washington says as he steps over the office threshold. “You’re still here.”

Alex glances over his shoulder. “Yes, sir,” he says automatically, stifling a yawn. Congress had adjourned for the day nearly an hour ago, but he knew Washington would be caught up in a secret meeting in the meantime, and so he has stayed. “Any luck with Livingston and Morris?”

Washington sighs. “It wasn’t a meeting of strategy so much as an airing of grievances. You know, the more moderate Republicans are beginning to drop like flies, but the fringe contingency continues to hang on…”

“It won’t be long,” Alex says, shaking his head. “Livingston’s plan is solid, they’ll cave eventually.” Livingston proposed decoupling the Medicaid expansion from the federal budget and voting on both separately, but Jefferson and the other Republicans had balked, claiming that POTUS would just end up getting involved anyway. Washington sighs as he reaches Alex’s desk, leaning on it lazily and turning around to face him, looking very tired.

“We won’t know until Monday, anyway,” Washington says, sounding defeated. “And I intend to enjoy my weekend. What are you doing?”

Alex shrugs. “I was probably just gonna run some errands. Try to get caught up on this book I’m reading before my roommate confiscates it back. I mean, it’s his to take, but I’m only about halfway through and it’s proving very interesting, about cop-on-civilian violence in ‘80s Boston, it’s really super prescient —”

Washington sighs again. “I intend to enjoy my weekend, Alexander,” he repeats again. “What are you doing?”

Oh. The implication hits Alex with all the subtlety of a flashing neon sign, and he swallows, suddenly hyperaware of all his senses. “I’m going to enjoy it with you,” he says in his best approximation of a flirtatious tone, no easy task when his cock is already showing interest.

Washington leans back a little more on Alex’s desk, his thighs spreading wide as he does— an assertion of space, just a suggestion of dominance. Alex tries hard not to stare at them; he pushes his chair back from the desk so that he does not have to look up quite so dramatically to make eye contact with Washington above him.

"I've booked a suite at a hotel in Annapolis," Washington says casually. "Normally, on the weekend, I would go back to Mount Vernon, but Martha is away on business and I don't care much for an empty house. But I think we could use a little getaway, couldn't we? A staycation, as some people call it?"

Alex licks his dry, chapped lips. He thinks about hotel shampoo and room service and thousand-thread-count sheets, and then thinks about his own apartment and attending another rich-kids-pretending-to-slum-it party with John, who would likely only leave halfway through the night to heed yet another booty call from the Republican. He nods, suddenly very eager to leave the office. "We could," he says, acquiescing to the Royal We.

Washington grins. "Good," he says. "We can leave now, then. Don't worry about packing a bag. You won't need one."

As they sit in traffic, Alex is restless. He texts John a cursory excuse. Working all weekend. If we don't run into each other, tell the Republican I say hi. But John doesn't text back, and John is the only person likely to notice his absence — Hercules comes and goes from the apartment as he pleases, uses it more as a place to get his mail delivered than any kind of meaningful home. Alex likes this. The fewer people to whom he might have to justify or excuse his absence this weekend, the better.

The car is silent, as ever. Alex remembers Washington turning off talk radio the first time he was driven home, but since then, the car stereo hasn't made a sound. He wonders if this is by design — to keep him from knowing anything more about Washington's inner life than he needs. Shit, tonight was the first night he's so much as mentioned his wife by name in the office. Alex doesn't know what's going on there, but, he thinks, it's better not to question it yet. Play it as it lays. Let Washington reveal what he reveals, all on his own timetable. But now the nagging itch in his brain has awoken, and he has to ask something.

"This might be an intrusive question," Alex says, breaking their comfortable silence as the car jolts forward another few feet in traffic. "But most senators have drivers, don't they? Why don't you?"

Washington shrugs. "I take my privacy seriously," he says, unbothered. "I had a driver for some time, but I found him untrustworthy. And now, truth be told, I like it better this way."

Staring at the traffic in front of them, Alex wrinkles his brow. "You like driving in this?" he asks.

"I don't mind it. It gives me time to relax," Washington says. "I get to think."

"Ah." Alex doesn't press the issue, much as he'd like to probe this further. "Are you... What's this hotel we're going to?"

Washington chuckles as the traffic finally begins to thin. They pull onto 50-E, and Alex stares into the passenger-side mirror, watching as the highway lights illuminate his features in the dark car. His beard needs a trim and he still needs a haircut, but altogether, he doesn't look bad. Maybe he doesn't understand exactly what Washington sees in him, but he doesn't loathe his appearance, either.

"The hotel is very comfortable," Washington assures him. "I've taken a few weekends there by myself, to decompress."

"Ah." Alex doesn't want to follow up with the question tugging at his mind, but his curiosity is too great. "Private-private, or, like, this kind of private?"

Washington laughs again. "Primarily the former," he says. "Occasionally the latter. Not that it concerns you, Alexander."

Alex falls silent, chastened. His mind churns throughout the rest of the drive, and by the time they pull into the parking lot of The Chesapeake, he's consigned to not bring up the question of Washington's other - conquests - again.

Instead, he glances up at the hotel as they stride inside, Washington with a sizable weekend bag slung over his shoulder and a second shopping bag - unmarked, black, discreet - in hand. It's absolutely stunning, Alex thinks, as he looks up at the chandelier in the lobby. The concierge greets Washington with a burst of effusive flattery, though Alex notes she is certain to use the name "Mr. Curtis." He wonders, again, about this.

"You have the presidential suite," the concierge says, handing Washington two key cards and her own calling card. "And this is my private line, as usual. Enjoy your stay."

Washington smiles toothily, and Alex mirrors this. "Thank you, Melinda," he says, and again shoulders his bag as Alex follows him to the elevator.

Their suite is as stunning as the rest of the hotel. A single four-poster bed fills a substantial portion of the bedroom, which is decorated in soft golds and creams. It looks expensive. It smells expensive, Alex thinks, not arid or chemical like most of the hotels he's stayed in. The window treatments are pulled back far enough to offer a nighttime view of a black, sparkling expanse that he assumes must be the bay. It must be lovely during the day.

Washington sets down his bags beside the bed, and begins to slowly remove his jacket. "As I said, it's quite comfortable," he says as he carefully hangs his suit coat in the closet and toes off his wing-tips. In his shirtsleeves and trousers, he loosens his tie slightly, but does not remove it even as Alex watches.

"'Comfortable,'" Alex repeats. "Yeah. That's probably the word I'd use."

Washington smiles. He begins to roll up his left shirtsleeve, Alex licking his lips in appreciation. "You're not impressed?" His voice is playful as he moves to the right, unbuttoning the cuff even more slowly. Teasing. Each inch of forearm he reveals makes Alex's mouth and throat a little more parched. "What doesn't impress you?"

Alex swallows. "I'm very impressed, sir," he says truthfully, as he shifts in position near the window. He suddenly feels very overdressed in his day-work suit, the grey one. The one he wore — the first time. "Believe me, you don't really have to work to impress me. I'm still blown away by the whole concept of all-day McDonald's breakfast."

"Alexander," Washington chides him softly. "You don't have to deflect my questions with jokes."

Alex blinks. "Okay," he says quietly. Washington rakes his eyes over his body, and Alex shivers in response. The gesture is so obvious, almost starkly funny in its clear meaning.

"Take off your clothes, my boy," Washington says, his voice even softer. And Alex is compelled to obey, couldn't control his body if he tried. It's as if by muscle memory that he removes his jacket, tossing it over the back of the desk chair, but - he recalls dimly as his hands move up to the knot of his green tie — it can't be a memory. He's never undressed for Washington before. The most he's bared has been his cock in a darkened car — he flushes at the recollection as he undoes his painstakingly knotted half-Windsor — and even that was rushed, desperate, and ended unsatisfactorily. This is new. This is different.

Washington doesn't move, just stands there by the bed with arms folded, observing as Alex slides the tie out from under his collar. He folds it carefully and sets it on the bed, then takes a step forward. He wants Washington to do the work for him, rip his clothes from his body and take him fast and hard, but Washington does not appear amenable to this desire. He's watching Alex with an appraising air, an agreeable kind of interest.

"Go on," Washington urges him as Alex hesitates at his shirt collar. So he does, taking it button by button, a little too quick to be a proper striptease. But Washington doesn't seem to mind. Alex lets the shirt drop to the floor, then moves his hands down to his belt buckle. It makes noise as he undoes it in the quiet room, and he's suddenly struck by how obscene this feels, how Washington is just staring as he steps out of his pants, moving another step closer, now down to his t-shirt and boxers.

"What do you think?" he asks quietly, pulling his hair out of its tight ponytail and shaking it out. His hardness is easily evident, tenting his boxers, and he'd feel even more exposed if not for the obvious bulge filling out Washington's pants as well.

Washington's jaw tightens, and he sees him swallow visibly before he waves an impatient hand through the air and says, "Keep going."

Alex grins, biting down on his lower lip as he registers the hoarse arousal that tinges Washington's voice. They're not so far apart now, and he takes another step closer, shortening the gap even more as he reaches over his back and pulls his white t-shirt off in one smooth go. Washington swallows, and reaches out slowly, reverently, placing both hands on Alex's shoulders and pressing down, stopping him in his tracks, holding him in place.

Those hands slide down his upper arms, an inch at a time, the touch feather-light as Washington looks him straight in the eye. They drift from his biceps to his chest, one hand stroking down his left side, the other rubbing and pinching his nipple - Alex gasps, eyes slowly sliding shut as he registers a slight sting, followed by an immensely pleasurable rush of sensation. "More of that," he chokes, and Washington smiles, hand moving to the other, repeating the movement.

"Look at you," Washington says. "So responsive. So pretty for me."

Alex gasps and nods as Washington moves both hands to his chest, pinching and playing with his reddening nipples. He tips his head up, parting his lips expectantly, and is rewarded with a rough kiss, teeth sinking into his lower lip and tongue pushing into his mouth. Washington does not let him lead; he steers the ship, sets the pace as he moves his hands down Alex's abdomen, fingers sinking slightly into flesh, on a mission.

When Washington's fingertips sink beneath the waistband of his boxers, he whines a little into the kiss, prompting another sharp nip to his bottom lip. "Good boy," he murmurs, and Alex's head gets a little muddier with the praise as he allows Washington to slide his boxers down over his erection and his hips, stepping out of them automatically as they join the rest of the clothes puddled on the floor.

Alex sucks in a breath as the cool air of the hotel room meets the hot tip of his cock. One of Washington's hands tangles in his hair, tugging his head back and exposing the plain of his throat, now scratchy with eleven-o'-clock shadow. Washington's lips close over the pulse point beneath his ear, sucking and biting, and Alex gasps, eyes closed, allowing himself to be pushed backward onto the four-poster bed as Washington lays him down.

He melts into the bedclothes as Washington clambers atop him, crouching on all fours over his frame. Washington's hands are all over him, touching the nape of his neck, his chest, his stomach, his inner thighs, everywhere but his aching cock. "You look so pretty," Washington is murmuring into his collarbone, "so fucking pretty all laid out for me..."

Alex whimpers as Washington sucks a bruising kiss into his clavicle. "Oh, my God," he mutters. "Sir, please, I need you to — please touch me."

Washington glances up at him, eyes sparkling. "Am I not already?" He dips his head and scrapes his teeth across the expanse of Alex's chest, making him shiver. It's not — it's agony, his cock straining upward as Washington lavishes attention on every other part of his body, still fully clothed himself as he grinds down against Alex's thigh.

"Sir," he mutters. "I just — please —" He cringes at the sound of his own voice, scratchy with want and bordering on pathetic, needy. But he needs this. He needs Washington to touch him, needs some relief after the tension of the night, the drive, all of it. Washington flashes a quick, wicked smile, and kneels upright before climbing off Alex altogether.

He's briefly taken aback before Washington is grabbing his hips, flipping him onto all fours. And then — oh, God. Alex buries his face in the bright white bedclothes as Washington palms his ass with both hands, spreading him open. There's a hot ghost of a breath there before he feels the swipe of a tongue at his entrance, and he groans into the bedsheets, fingers digging into the buttery fabric. He collapses forward onto the bed, all the strength draining from his upper body as Washington grips his hips and simply holds him upright.

Washington takes his time, teases him with small swipes of his tongue as he pants into the duvet. He's a breathless wreck thirty seconds in, begging wordlessly for more. The sensation is overwhelming and nowhere near enough all at once, and after a few endless minutes he's actually shaking, his whole body vibrating with want, muscles aching from holding back as Washington opens him up with his tongue.

Washington pulls away and Alex looks back at him, twisting on, and can't hold back a moan at what he sees: Washington's lips and chin shiny with saliva, his pupils blown, his chest already heaving. They exchange a long, wordless stare, before Alex summons what energy he has and begs, "Sir. Please. I need you to fuck me."

Washington nods, stoic, Adam's apple bobbing in his throat as he swallows hungrily. Then he bends down, fishing in the black shopping bag for a moment before popping back upright with a bottle of lube and a condom. Alex watches in silent anticipation as he slicks up one of his large hands, pouring enough over his two fingers to make them gleam in the soft overhead light. There's a quiet moment as Washington tips the bottle over Alex's entrance, and then he buries his face back in the mattress as he feels one of Washington's long, thick fingers begin to press into him.

He's already open and relaxed, and one finger quickly becomes two, Alex gasping as his body acquiesces to the new intrusion. Washington's fingers are — god, his fingers, they're magic, he thinks incoherently as Washington brushes his prostate, sending sparks shooting across his field of vision. He has no idea what he's even saying anymore, just knows he must be making noise as Washington works him open. He's begging incoherently, just begging for more, to be filled, to be fucked.

"Alexander," he hears Washington growl. Alex whines as Washington removes his fingers, the sudden feeling of emptiness less than desirable. "Turn over."

He does, instantly obedient but no happier for it. He's met with the sight of Washington yanking his own tie from his collar, followed by the swift removal of his pants and shirt. He wants to tell him to slow down, let him enjoy this much as Washington enjoyed the show Alex put on for him, but at the same time, he's so desperate, just wants to be filled again, that he can't bring himself to say the words out loud. Washington's chest is everything he hoped it would be — strong, broad, well-muscled — and his mouth falls open hungrily as Washington shucks his pants and boxer briefs in one go.

Washington says nothing as he reaches for the condom, rolling it onto his long, thick cock in achingly slow movements. Alex wants to help, wants to pass him the lube or change position or anything, but he's transfixed. Washington taps him on the hip, gesturing for him to move closer to the side of the bed, and Alex does, in slight confusion. Washington climbs onto the mattress, propping himself up on his elbows, and leaning up to kiss Alex hotly.

"I want you to ride me," he growls into the kiss. "I want you to do the work. Can you do that for me, my beautiful boy?"

Alex whines. "I — yes," he says haltingly, gasping as he feels Washington's hand move to his cock. His grip is just a tease, nowhere firm enough to provide any real friction, but it makes his entire body shake even as Washington pulls it away, seconds later. "Yes. Please. Can I ride you, sir?"

"Please," Washington groans, and then he's gripping Alex by either side of his hips, and Alex lets him rearrange their position, helpless and pliable as he moves to straddle Washington. He reaches behind, gripping Washington's thick length by the base, and grinds back against it, rubbing the tip against the cleft of his ass. He's determined to make this good, to give Washington what he deserves for all his trouble and the money he's spent on him. For making him feel so pretty.

Washington groans, falling back to rest against the pillows as Alex grinds against his cock, wrapping a hand around the base of his own. "Go on, my boy," he says, his voice hoarse and raspy. "Show me how you fuck yourself. Put on a show for me."

Alex's eyes widen as he guides Washington's cock to his entrance and slowly begins to sink down upon it. He's so much thicker, so much longer than he expected, even now — the stretch of it is exquisite, filling him up, making him feel so full. "Oh my God," he murmurs as Washington is finally seated within him. "Oh, my God—"

Jesus. He feels so full now, and Washington's cock is hot and slick with the lube and his eyes slide shut. He can't think about anything else, about his body or putting on any kind of show, as he lifts himself up an inch or two on his knees and then sinks back down onto Washington with a low hiss.

"You're so fucking gorgeous," he hears Washington breathe. "Go ahead, good boy, bounce on it —"

Alex's face flushes even warmer, his head spinning dizzily as he quickens his pace steadily, working himself up to an eager pace. He's so hard, and he just takes a steadying breath, inhales as deeply as he keeps fucking himself on Washington's length as Washington's fingertips dig into his thighs. His free hand goes back to his cock, and he begins stroking himself off, quick and dirty and desperate.

They don't last very long, either of them. Granted, Alex certainly doesn't expect to, after the buildup, but only a few strokes and he's spilling into his own hand, mouth dropping open in an incoherent moan, still riding Washington's cock all the way through it. And all the while, Washington's eyes are fixed on him, his hand, his cock, his stomach, his hips. Alex feels Washington's hips snap up sharply, taking over to set the pace as Alex starts to still, and then Washington is coming as well, his thrusts slowing to a stop moments later.

Time seems to slow to a crawl as he gingerly lifts himself off Washington and collapses to the bed beside him. Alex goes limp, his entire body feeling wrung out and overworked. A hand lands on his back, calmly stroking down his spine, and it makes him shudder but also makes him go limp.

Washington rearranges their position again, wrapping his arm around Alex's shoulder, pulling him closer and letting him bury his face into the broad chest beside him. Alex takes deep breaths, inhaling sweat and salt and the day-old remnants of expensive cologne, as the world settles back into place.

"Thank you," he says, his voice muffled as he nuzzles into Washington's side. He doesn't know why he says it, only that it seems like the proper thing to do in the moment. He feels Washington's chest shake with a huff of laughter, and the hand moves to his hair, petting and massaging his scalp in small strokes. It feels — safe. Like he was meant to be here. Like he's home.

"You did so well, my boy," Washington murmurs, pressing a kiss to the top of his head. "So well."

Alex closes his eyes, the weight of the day finally settling down upon him. He can feel himself begin to drift off to sleep, and struggles briefly against the riptide, but Washington just keeps stroking his hair, and he can't hold on much longer.

He falls asleep on Washington's chest, one hand still tangled softly in his hair.

Chapter Text

He wakes up alone.

Alex is briefly caught off-guard when he opens his eyes in new, unfamiliar surroundings. Bright light floods in, illuminating a sea of crisp white linens, and it takes him a moment to place the hotel room. The second thing that occurs to him is the aching burn in his thighs; the upper parts of his quads and hips are killing him. And then he remembers everything.


For a moment, he panics. The suite is silent, without so much as the rustle of movement in any of the adjoining rooms, and he's briefly terrified that Washington has up and ditched him here, in the most elaborate one-night-stand he has ever experienced. But as he sits up in bed, rubbing the sleep out of his eyes and yawning, he spots Washington's bags arranged neatly on the floor several feet away. He can't be too far, Alex reasons, then yawns again. His back pops as he stretches. He should take up fucking yoga or something.

As if right on cue, summoned by Alex's worry, a key slides into the lock and Washington strides through the door, sweaty in basketball shorts and a black t-shirt. "Ah, Alexander," he says as he lets the heavy door slam behind him. "You're awake. Fantastic."

Alex glances at the clock on the bedside table. It's nearly ten - later than he's slept in years. "Sorry," he says, running a defensive hand through his hair. "I normally don't sleep this late, I don't know what's up."

Washington smiles as he yanks his sweaty t-shirt over his head and tosses it away. "You don't need to apologize, my boy," he says warmly. "You slept well?"

Alex nods, grateful. Washington jerks his head in the direction of the bathroom. "There's a toothbrush in there for you. I thought I'd get in a workout before you woke up — you can join me while I shower, of course —“

"Uh," Alex says blankly. "Maybe later." He doesn't know why, but such a step seems much too intimate for the current state of their — them.

Washington seems inoffended. He shrugs, instead, as he walks toward the bed, the definition in his arms and chest more pronounced after whatever he's been doing in the gym. Alex is briefly, instinctively tempted to lick him. Gross, caveman brain, he admonishes himself, but the damage is done. "Then it's all yours," Washington says. "I'll shower once you're finished." Alex slides out of bed, leaving his cocoon of blankets regretfully. He realizes as soon as his feet hit the floor how exposed he is — he'd slept nude, of course, having fallen asleep practically as soon as they'd both finished, but that was last night, and now Washington watches him hungrily as he pads toward the bathroom, on display in the bright morning light.

The bathroom itself is as beautifully outfitted as the rest of the suite. Alex looks around, attempting to conceal his awe even for an audience of none — then catches a glimpse of himself in the mirror and is stricken, off-guard. Simply put, he's a mess: his hair tangled and sticking up in places he didn't know it could stick up, his neck and chest covered in bruises. He hasn't had a hickey since high school and now he's covered in them.  Strangely, though, he doesn't mind how they look. He feels marked, and a little bit sleazy. His initial instinct, he thinks, was right. He doesn't mind being a possession at all.

He brushes his teeth with spearmint toothpaste, going twice as long for having fallen asleep without the night before, and then fumbles with the shower for a minute too long before he finally turns it on. The water pressure is heaven as he steps into the spray, and the tub is enormous — those might be whirlpool jets, too, scattered along the bottom. Jesus.

The shampoo on the wall boasts a rosemary and juniper scent. It smells faintly of a gin cocktail as he lathers it through his hair, tilting his head forward and letting the powerful spray pound out the tension in his back muscles. Fuck, that's good. He wonders if Washington could recommend a masseuse, or an acupuncturist — he's always carried so much tension in his body, but only these lay few years has it begun to catch up to him, and he occasionally wakes up in paralyzing pain from the muscle spasms running down his back. Washington, of all people, seems as though he'd have a solution.

For the time being, though, this shower is doing the job. He's lost in thought as he rinses shampoo from his hair and globs on conditioner, finger-combing it through his hair all the way down to where it brushes his shoulders. What the hell could Washington possibly have planned for their day? Who takes a vacation to Annapolis? He's only ever been here on assignment for PolitiFinder, but it's not exactly Vegas.

When Alex emerges from the bathroom, a towel wrapped around his waist and his damp hair bunned on the back of his head, it’s to the sight of Washington sprawled on his back on the bed, still shirtless, scrolling through his phone idly. He looks more relaxed than Alex has ever seen him, and it’s endearing, almost cute. Alex chews on his lower lip as he flops down on the other side of the bed.

“Hey,” he says quietly, and Washington glances over at him with a smile.

“Hey,” he responds. “Good shower?”

“Yeah,” Alex says, his voice casual. He doesn’t want his hair to get the pillow wet, so instead he rolls onto his front, propping his head up on his hand. “Are you busy?”

Washington sets his phone on the bedside table and turns his head to kiss Alex softly on the lips. “Not particularly,” he says as he rolls onto his side, running his hand down Alex’s damp, bare back and pulling him closer to kiss him again. Alex sighs and relaxes into it. Kissing Washington feels natural, normal, like he could do it for hours and never get bored. Up close, like this, Washington looks a little older, a little less camera-ready. It occurs to Alex, dimly, that he doesn’t quite know how much older Washington is, compared to him.

He pulls away. “What year were you born?” he asks abruptly, and Washington furrows his brow.

“That seems like something you should know,” he says, and Alex shrugs.

“Sorry, I don’t have Wikipedia up in front of me.” He scoots a little closer to Washington, nuzzling up against him on the bed, his towel beginning to fall askew. “I was just curious.”

Washington laughs a little, his chest rising and falling in a soft huff as Alex pushes his face into the crevice of his neck and shoulder, where he smells like body heat. “I was born in ’67.”

Alex closes his eyes as he silently does the math. Twenty-three years between them. That’s not unappealing, all things considered. He presses a hot, wet kiss to Washington’s throat, then pulls away, eyes shining. “What did you want to do today?”

Washington hums as he considers the question. “Isn’t this an option?” he asks. His hand is heavy on the small of Alex’s back, fingers tracing little patterns there, and Alex wants to say yes, but he also doesn’t want to spend the entire day in a hotel room, even as appealing as the idea, on some level, seems.

But Washington seems to read his disinterest. “I suppose we could go out for breakfast,” he offers. “There’s also a bookstore downtown you might like…”

Alex kisses him again, hard and impulsive. “I’d be down with that,” he says, and adds, “if you want. I mean. You’re the boss.”

Washington’s lips curl up in a smile as he sits up straight, stretching and stifling a yawn. “Give me ten minutes to shower,” he says as he stands up, heading for the bathroom, and Alex nods, falling back down onto the pillows, damp hair be damned.

It occurs to him, a few moments later, that he doesn’t have anything to wear. Shit. Washington had been so adamant about his not needing to pack a bag, but then, he was probably expecting to spend the day in bed anyway — Alex waffles, thinking about it, there are probably worse ways to kill a Saturday — and then he notices that Washington had put his phone on to charge sometime the night before, next to Washington’s own on the bedside table. It lights up with a text from John, and he grabs it, swipes and reads.

Are you still working? Thom and I made plans to grab brunch with Elizabeth Schuyler and she’s asking about you.

Alex sighs, working a hand over his face. He hears Washington clear his throat over the shower in the bathroom.

Still working. Shutdown stuff. Gonna be a long one.

He pauses, then taps out another.

Buy Miss Schuyler a mimosa on me.

John’s response is nearly instantaneous: The mimosas are bottomless. And so could you two be, if you can get out of the office.

Sorry, Alex types. Non-negotiable. At least I’m finally essential personnel, right? He tacks on a series of emojis, none of which necessarily relate to the words in type, and hits send, then tosses his phone away before he can be more sorely tempted. Washington emerges from the bathroom just as he does, wrapped in a towel of his own, which covers considerably less of his taller, broader body.

He frowns a little at Alex. “You’re not dressed yet.”

Alex shrugs. “I wasn’t — all I have are the clothes I wore yesterday.”

“Oh.” Washington smacks his own forehead, an exaggerated play of frustration, and rifles around in the big black bag he’d brought with him. He sets on the bed a pair of khakis and a button-down shirt, followed by a neatly folded navy cardigan, and, finally, a gift box wrapped with a silver ribbon. “I didn’t know whether you — well,” he says, gesturing to the box. “Open that.”

Alex automatically takes the box from the bed and tugs at the ribbon, the perfect bow falling to pieces. He lifts the lid. Inside, wrapped in tissue paper, are a pair of lace underwear in a bright, brilliant green. They nearly match the tie he’d left carefully folded and set aside the night before — he blinks, and looks up to Washington, tongue scraping over the dry roof of his mouth.

Washington clears his throat shortly. “If you don’t — I understand,” he begins to say, but Alex shakes his head. He’s never — he’s thought about it, very briefly, but never in depth, never even — but he can’t deny that he is… interested.

Yeah. Okay. Interested.

There’s a brief beat before Washington busies himself dressing, as if he’s trying not to pay too much interest to Alex. Which leaves him a little bit miffed, but fine, whatever. He dresses quickly, slides the green lace panties — fuck, he’s wearing panties, this day is either a dream or a nightmare already — up over his hips and then quickly covers them up with the new khakis, ripping off the price tag hastily. Washington has not marked out the prices. Almost as if he wants Alex to know how much he spent. Alex thinks that’s probably exactly what he’s doing. Then the shirt, then the cardigan, buttoning it up all the way, sliding his hands into the pockets on the front. It’s fucking nice, a rich navy knit, nearly black. Over the denim-colored button-down, he looks… it’s nice, he thinks, giving himself a once-over in the mirror.

Washington turns back to him. Nods appreciatively. “Good thing the shop kept your measurements,” he says. Which is probably strange, Alex thinks, but screw it. He looks good. Better, knowing what’s underneath. Shit.

They have breakfast at a nice, quiet restaurant downtown. Washington asks for a kale and goat cheese omelette but recommends the ham and cheese crêpe; Alex orders that. Washington has a way, he’s noticed, of predicting his tastes, knowing exactly what he’ll like. It’s a little eerie. Or perhaps he’s just easily impressed. Probably that.

“This is nice,” Alex comments as he takes a sip of coffee, still too hot to drink. “You haven’t talked about work once, sir.”

Washington cocks one dark eyebrow at that. “Coincidentally, I was about to say. You don’t need to call me sir when we’re not on the clock.”

Alex considers this. Sips his coffee again. “Let’s say I want to call you sir,” he posits, raising a brow of his own. He sees Washington’s hand tense on the table a little, the white tablecloth wrinkling as his fingers dig slightly into it. He’s glad the waitress nestled them into a corner.

“If you like,” Washington says casually after a moment. “I can respect your wishes, son.”

Oh. So that’s how it’s going to be. Well, it’s not as if he’s got a problem with my boy. Alex watches the light from the bright windows reflect in the dark surface of his coffee cup, the reflection of clouds changing outside, and then breaks the pristine, mirrorlike surface with a splash of milk. He could probably get down with the whole daddy thing, too. Probably.

“You said your wife is away on business,” he comments casually after the waitress brings their food. “Is that why you’re not wearing your ring? Just… curiosity, I guess.”

Washington hesitates as he glances down at the fork in his left hand, then shakes his head. “I’m sure you understand,” he says. “Discretion is of the essence.”

“I’m sure.” Alex forks up a bite of crêpe. Damnit, it is good. “Your wife is in finance?” He poses it as a question, though of course he knows the answer. Yes, Martha’s in finance, he’s seen her LinkedIn. Martha Dandridge Washington, CFO at Mount Vernon Capital. She’s very beautiful. He noticed that first.

Washington just nods. “I’m sure you’ve done your research.”

“Sorry,” Alex shrugs. A non-apology. “Inquisitive mind, y’know.”

“Right.” Washington’s jaw tightens a little, and Alex is about to offer a real apology, suddenly worried that he’s overstepped a boundary, but then he adds, “If you’re really curious, I’ll tell you later. Not… in public.”

Alex chews slowly, doesn’t answer. He tries not to look directly at Washington’s left hand or say anything else about the question of his marriage. Not that it’s easy. “You should wear red more often,” he offers up instead. “It looks great on you, sir.”

Washington looks flattered as he pushes up the sleeves of his red pullover, revealing the watch that gleams at his wrist. “That’s kind of you to say,” he says with a smile, one that turns a bit wicked at the edge. “You know, by now, that I like you in green.”

A slight shudder runs through Alex’s body, unstoppable as it is subtle. He thinks about the panties he’s got on under his khakis. “I’ve noticed,” he says quietly. Flirtatiously. He lifts his coffee cup to his lips, his eyes meeting Washington’s over the cup.

Washington licks his lips. Alex chokes.

They take their time in the mild spring afternoon. Not touching out in the open, but walking side by side. Washington’s sunglasses are dark and his manner is more relaxed than it is in the district. The bookstore where they end up provides ample opportunity to kill most of the rest of the day, were Alex inclined. He takes a spiral staircase down to a basement and practically has to bite down on his own fist to keep from gasping. It’s musty and dimly lit, a labyrinth of towering shelves overflowing with books, and he follows the signs to the nonfiction section, ducking into a corner between two tight shelves. Runs a single finger over peeling spines. This is the kind of place he used to frequent back in New York — the one on St. Mark’s was a particular favorite, he couldn’t go back to Strand after working there for a single holiday season — and he doesn’t think he’s felt so at home since moving to D.C.

He’s paging through an old copy of The Public and Its Problems, slouched and facing the corner, when he feels Washington’s hands graze his hips from behind. “Find anything?” Washington breathes in his ear, and he nods eagerly.

“I haven’t gone back to this since my first year of grad school,” he says, holding up the slim, dense book. “I forgot how much it shaped my thesis. Listen — ‘the same forces which have brought about the forms of democratic government, general suffrage, executives and legislators chosen by majority vote, have also brought about conditions which halt the social and humane ideals that demand the utilization of government as the genuine instrumentality of an inclusive and fraternally associate public.’” He’s out of breath as he finishes the paragraph, letting Washington pull him closer, hands still tight on his hips. “I mean, go read that out loud on the floor on Monday, call out Jefferson and Madison for shutting down the whole damn government to serve their own interests.”

Washington squeezes his hip affectionately. “I always found Dewey a little obtuse, myself.”

“I don’t,” Alex says. He flips through the book, skimming for the chapter and passage he’s after, then taps it as he finds it. “Attachment is a very different function of life from affection,” he reads aloud. “Affections will continue as long as the heart beats. But attachment requires something more than organic causes. The very things which stimulate and intensify affections may undermine attachments. For these are bred in tranquil stability; they are nourished in constant relationships. Acceleration of mobility disturbs them at their root.” He flips the book closed and slides it back on the shelf, slightly flushed from the way Washington is kneading at his hips, beneath his sweater and shirt, fingers sliding against the sliver of lace that hits above the waist of his pants. “Pretty sexy for a tract on liberalism, right?”

Washington tugs at his hips, turning Alex around to face him and then pressing him against the shelf, one hand on either side of his body. “Your perception of sexuality strikes me as a bit puzzling,” Washington teases as he dips his head. A rough kiss, enough to make his dick stir in his new lace underthings, and then Washington pulls away. “We should go.”

“I’m not finished here,” Alex protests, but Washington’s firm look makes him relent immediately. “Okay. Fine. But we’re coming back. There’s a whole shelf of Veblen that I haven’t even touched.”

The sun is setting outside the hotel window by the time they’re done fucking, the room thick with the smell of sex as Washington finishes inside him. Alex is spent, rolls himself up in the pristine white sheets to bask in the last few beams of golden light fading through the window, brushing hair from his sweaty face as Washington knots the condom and tosses it away. “We’re not going back out,” Washington says from the bathroom, over the running of water. “We’ll order room service if necessary. Would you like a drink?” He reappears in the bedroom, runs a hand over the minibar expectantly.

Alex shrugs, his eyes fixed on Washington’s taut hamstrings and the way the muscles in his back flex as he reaches for a glass. “Maybe,” he says. “Whatever you’re having.”

“Bourbon. Straight,” Washington says decisively, and Alex nods. He’ll learn to prefer whiskey over sweet cocktails if it kills him.

He takes the glass Washington hands him and moves over to accommodate him in the bed. Props himself up against the headboard as Washington gets comfortable. “Ouch,” he mutters, feeling the ever-present tension return to his back.

Washington frowns. “Are you okay?” he asks, voice brimming with concern. “I didn’t hurt you, did I?”

“No, no, it’s not you,” Alex apologizes as he winces, rubbing ineffectually at his own left shoulder and pinching at the nape of his neck. “I just — my back is killing me. Don’t worry, it’s always been a thing for me.”

Washington shakes his head and sits back up, taking the glass from Alex’s hand and setting it aside. “Is it a tension thing?”

“I — yeah,” he admits. “I’ve always had it. Honestly, you don’t have to do anything, normally it passes pretty fast. I don’t even need painkillers or anything—”

“Your tolerance for discomfort aside, wait right there,” Washington says as he gets back out of bed. Alex sighs, watching him disappear into the bathroom, mourning the loss of the intimacy he was temporarily offered — he was just working up the nerve to bring up the question of his marriage again, hasn’t been able to push the thought out of his mind since breakfast — when he hears the tub faucet running in the bathroom.

“You really don’t have to do this,” he says as he hovers in the bathroom doorway. Washington shakes his head.

“Alexander,” he says, plainly. “Please. Humor me.”

It occurs to Alex that this, like Dewey to himself, might be some sort of thing of Washington’s. So he doesn’t argue. He lets Washington draw him a bath and gingerly climbs into the tub, feeling a little silly but hissing as he slides into the hot water. He looks expectantly up at Washington. The tub is large enough for two.

Washington doesn’t seem to notice. He disappears into the bedroom and returns with their two glasses of bourbon. “Is that helping?” he asks, as he sets Alex’s on the side of the tub.

“Somewhat,” he admits sheepishly. There’s a jet positioned right at the small of his back, and it really does feel fucking excellent, right there on the tensest bit. “Sir. You were going to tell me about your wife earlier…”

Washington sighs. He reaches out and fiddles with a piece of Alex’s lank hair, brushing it behind his ear. “So this is a sticking point for you.”

“You remember what I was reading earlier,” Alex shrugs. “Affection and attachment are different things. I’m curious…”

“Of course you are.” Washington’s voice isn’t dry; it’s resigned, but understanding. He’s staring down at his own glass as he bides his time. When he speaks again, it’s with an air of practice, as though he’s thought these words through before. “You know, I don’t often do this.”

“Do what?” Alex sinks a little lower into the bathwater. It smells like lavender. It’s not unpleasant.

“My attractions are not… I consider myself a man with a great deal of restraint,” Washington says slowly. “I can compartmentalize. It’s not often that I encounter someone like you.”

“In what way?” Alex asks, and Washington pauses again, seemingly uncertain of how to say what he means.

“It doesn’t matter,” he finally says. “Point being, Martha and I are on the same page. We met in school and became very close friends. She married young, I joined the military, we kept in touch. Long story short, she found herself widowed with four young children in her mid-twenties, and we decided that it would be mutually beneficial to get married. I was considering running for the House, and I was already a tough sell as a southern Democrat, let alone a gay southern Democrat…” He trails off again, and sips his bourbon, before adding, “I have always practiced discretion. As I said, this is an unusual situation. I was nearly overwhelmed by my inability to curb my attraction to you that first night.”

Alex chews his lip, trails his hands over the bottom of the tub. The heat of the water is making even the dry parts of his hair stick to the back of his neck. “Yeah, I noticed,” he quips. He doesn’t know how to ask the questions that still bubble under the surface of his mind. This alone is more than Washington has disclosed to him altogether. “I’m glad I’m not breaking up a marriage, then.”

Washington chuckles, shaking his head. “Martha attends to her own business. We do love each other deeply, and she, like me, understands discretion. I took a page from her book, in fact — she has an assistant…”

A sigh, as he sinks a little deeper into the water, just breaking the surface with his chin. Then Alex dips his head all the way back, soaking his hair to the hairline. He stares up at the ceiling. Martha’s not an issue. She’s not an issue, unless he counts the optics; Washington’s keen understanding of public perception — which he seems to take pleasure in flirting with, pushing the boundaries, this close to disaster. Dinners in public places. Feeling him up in the bookstore basement. Feeding him off his own fork, Christ’s sake. That’s danger. That’s flouting all common sense. That’s the sweet spot where Alex’s own impulses live on a good day, when he’s almost normal, just manic enough to be sharp. Washington’s edge is clearly a path less frequently trodden.

It occurs to Alex that the restraint Washington boasts about has mostly only reared its head between them to be soundly beaten down by desire. There’s power in that. Regardless of what he lets Washington do to him — and, he muses, there’s quite a bit he’d like to let him do — so long as Washington is helpless to exercise his own famous restraint, there’s a balance. A system.

He sits back up a little straighter, hair dripping, catching Washington’s eye. “Here,” Washington says, and stands. “I’m going to order room service. You… stay.”

Alex quirks a brow. “Is that an order?”

“It can be,” says Washington casually, and leaves the room.

Hot. He’s not going to argue with that. He sinks back down into the water, toying with the option of washing his hair while Washington retrieves the room service menu. Maybe he can get him to do it for him.

Chapter Text

It’s late Sunday when Alex slips through the apartment door, trying to tread lightly. He’s reminded uncomfortably of all the times he’d sneak out as a kid and try to come home without disturbing his foster parents or arousing suspicion. Except this time he’s in a three-day-old suit with a heavy shopping bag slung over one arm. Washington had insisted on taking the long way home, driving into downtown Annapolis and stepping into every shop that halfway caught his eye; he drops Alex off at Florida and U that night laden with sweaters and dress shirts and a few pairs of lace panties that make his cock twitch with interest just thinking about them. (Washington had talked at length, in the lingerie shop, about the various pros and cons of buying each pair for his wife, to which Alex had quickly caught on and countered with observations on whether his girlfriend would like a pair for herself. He’d nearly collapsed into laughter on the sidewalk outside afterward, but, he thinks, it was worth it for the look on Washington's face as they returned to the car.)

He makes it all the way to his room before he hears another door slam in the apartment, and then, “Alex?”

“Yeah, John?” he calls through over his shoulder, and turns around to be greeted by John standing in his bedroom doorway, yawning in pajama pants, arms folded across his chest.

“I was getting worried,” John says. “You didn’t come home last night —”

“I slept at the office,” Alex says, trying his best to sound distracted as he pushes the shopping bag a little further under the bed with one foot. “We had a ton of shit to get done.”

“That’s not healthy,” John frowns. “You know how you get when you’re not sleeping enough.”

“I’m fine, John,” snaps Alex. He begins to undress, then hesitates and takes his hands away from the buttons on his shirt. Letting John see the fading marks and bruises scattered across his chest — much as he treasures them himself — is a textbook bad move. Instead, he kicks off his shoes, throwing them into his closet, and sits down on the bed with a heavy sigh. “I’ve slept enough.”

John shakes his head as he shifts in the doorway. “You can say that, but I know how you are, Alex. Have you been taking anything?”

“Taking anything?” He pulls his phone from his pocket and shoves the charger into it. He doesn’t glance at the notifications that pop up immediately when the screen flickers to life. He drops it on the bedside table and gives John a sharp look. “No. You know I don’t do that anymore. Can you please just drop it?”

“Look,” John says, plaintive but just a little bit more testily now. “Forgive me for wanting to make sure you’re okay, when your psycho boss just made you work something like a hundred-twenty hour work week —”

“You can stop acting like my fucking boyfriend now.” Alex knows he’ll regret it as soon as it comes out, but it doesn’t matter. His mouth is off on a roll without consulting him, as per usual. “Okay, John? We tried it, it didn’t work, move on. Stop fucking hovering over the top of me. Can I live a life without checking in with you every five minutes?”

There’s a beat of painful silence as John stares at him, the hurt and disbelief evident on his face. “Fine,” he says quietly, and opens his mouth to say something else, but shuts it just as quickly.

John turns on his heel and leaves the doorway, and Alex can hear the slam of his own bedroom door from across the apartment, and yep, there’s the regret he was waiting for, along with the impulse control cautioning him not to say it, thirty seconds behind schedule as per usual.

He pops an Ambien, the last of his stockpile. He goes to sleep. He slept a lot fucking better with Washington next to him.

Work is a shitshow as soon as he walks in, early the next morning. “The Republicans just lost twenty votes over the weekend,” Burr informs him as he drags Alex bodily into the bullpen, still sweating from the ten-minute walk from the metro he turned into a five-minute jog upon receiving Burr’s curt text: Hurry. Major things are happening.

“Shit, really?” Alex lets Burr pull him further into the room. Anything to be closer to the action.

Burr nods eagerly. “They’re gonna vote yes on Livingston’s measure, separating the budget from the Medicaid expansion and just getting it done.”

“So we have a majority on the budget,” Alex says in awe. “And POTUS is never gonna let the expansion pass without a public option. So they’re SOL.”

“Precisely.” He’s never seen Burr’s face laid so bare with glee. He’s not hemming around like there might be a better option hidden in a forgotten email or a pile of folders somewhere; he’s grounded, committed, coolly confident. “So now we just wait. Start writing. The General’s going to want to make an address.”

Alex is only halfway through a first draft of Washington’s press release when Washington himself stalks into the office. His internal organs do a strange little shuffle as he starts to scramble to his feet, looking Washington straight in the eye and smiling, maybe a little eager but who gives a damn, they just spent an entire weekend together — but he gets nothing in response, just a blank wall, as Washington growls, “Burr. My office.”

Burr frowns slightly and scrambles after him. Alex watches warily, eavesdropping as they disappear into Washington’s private office. He can hear an indistinct murmur — that’s Burr — and Washington’s sharp, upset, yet unintelligible voice rising above it. He’s practically falling out of his chair, leaning over as close to the office door as he can without arousing the suspicion of the two other people in the office.

And then the door opens again, and Burr is walking back out, completely unreadable as ever. Opaque. And Alex wants to ask what happened, but then Burr is grabbing his bag and walking out of the office, and Washington is gesturing for Alex to join him inside, and he has no idea what the fuck is happening.

It’s seven in the morning.

“Did you just fire Burr?” he asks, point-blank and confused, as he steps inside Washington’s office.

Washington looks up, clearly still irritated. “What? No.”

“Oh.” Alex frowns. He hasn’t had enough coffee yet for this. “Okay. Is there something I can do for you, sir?”

Washington exhales. Swipes a palm over his face and nods. “We’re voting again on the Livingston measure today. Lafayette has chosen a fine day to come down with a violent stomach flu—”

“Oh, no.” Alex’s own stomach plummets to the floor.

“He said he’ll get here even if he has to bring a bucket to keep by his side,” Washington says, “but I told him to go to the hospital and get pumped full of fluids. He kept rambling about oysters… I don’t know.” He sighs.

“Okay,” Alex says steadily. “I’ll do whatever.”

“You’ve been here for three weeks,” Washington says, but Alex shakes his head.

“It’s literally down to me and Burr, at least until Lafayette stops puking up oysters,” he says, his voice steadier even as he talks. “I’ll be your spokesperson today. I hear things, I know things. Burr has other shit to handle, clearly—”

“Language, Alexander.”

Stuff to handle. I’ll do the press briefing.” Alex shakes his head resolutely. “Please. Sir. Trust me with this. I’ve been in the press, I know what it’s like from the other side.” He wonders, briefly, if he should beg. He decides against it, but wonders what harm it would do.

Washington sighs. Folds his arms, leans on his desk a little heavier. “Burr’s got his own duties to attend,” he says cryptically, and then decides to elaborate. “Burr made a promise to a House Republican that our office can’t keep.”

“Oh, Madison’s chief of staff?” Alex says, and smirks off Washington’s look of surprise. “I told you. I hear things.”

“I know you do.” There’s a folder to Washington’s left side, and he picks it up, scans the contents briefly before tossing it aside. His shoulders look appealingly broad in his navy suit. “There will be consequences, you know, if you screw this up.”

Alex shrugs. “Good thing I don’t intend to screw it up,” he says.

This is so unbelievably weird.

He strides in front of a small group of reporters, in front of a podium — a podium, God, he’s kind of dreamed about this — and smirks at the whole gang of them. “Afternoon, everybody,” he says. “Burr’s busy and Charles Lee’s still on furlough, I’m Alexander Hamilton, I’ll be doing your briefing.” He glances down at the press release in front of him, takes a breath. Somehow, he’s not nervous at all.

He loves to perform. He loves an audience. The thing is, this is exactly where he feels as though he belongs.

“As of five o’clock this afternoon, the Senate finalized a deal between Thomas Jefferson and Robert Livingston that will sever the Medicaid expansion from the proposed budget and reopen the government,” he says. “It’s important to point out that the process being undertaken in the senate is bipartisan, the deal between Jefferson and Livingston is bipartisan, and that Senator Washington has been a leader in furthering the engagement between Democrats and Republicans over this issue. We’re building on a fundamental premise that we should not have allowed partisan tensions to shut down the government. Senator Washington has been a proponent of bipartisanship since his first term in the House, and we’re hoping that, following this vote, the rest of Congress will be open to a frank discussion about the catastrophic effects of partisan fighting.”

“So does the Senator take credit for the Livingston-Jefferson deal?” asks a man skeptically from the front row, and Alex sighs.

“Senator Washington was involved in the process of engagement that allowed this bipartisan deal to be agreed upon,” he repeats more slowly. These people are looking at him like he’s an idiot or something. He’ll slow it down for them. “That doesn’t necessarily mean he’s taking credit, but the process has been arduous, and—”

“So you’re saying he had nothing to do with the Livingston-Jefferson deal,” the same reporter repeats.

Alex rolls his eyes, checks his temper. “No. Just with his ten-plus years of warning against partisan bickering and backbiting that preceded this shutdown,” he snaps. “He’s not taking credit, he’s saying ‘I told you so.’”

The hubbub of voices rises to a dull roar, and it occurs to him that what he’s said was, perhaps, a mistake, but who cares? He’s making the point. “You,” he says, pointing to another reporter. “Next question.”

She consults her phone before asking, “What does the Senator feel in regard to Senator Von Steuben’s accusation that a more robust response from the left in regard to the initial threat of a shutdown might have prevented it altogether?”

With a sigh, Alex shakes his head. “Senator Washington is a firm believer in bipartisan cooperation,” he says. “Senator Von Steuben is — well, let’s say he seems to believe that Senator Washington and himself are playing two very different games. He wants Washington to follow the rules set forth in his deck and unfortunately, that isn’t how the game works.”

“So Von Steuben’s claim that a more organized left would have stopped a shutdown from happening in the first place —”

“Totally unverifiable,” Alex says. “And in the future, I’d like the Senator to know that he can communicate these things directly to our office. He doesn’t have to go through the press. He knows Senator Washington is always available to talk—”

There’s a hand on his arm, pushing him off to the side, and then Burr’s in front of the mic, smiling broadly. “That’s going to be all for today, friends,” he says, his voice smooth but fingers clenching the edge of the podium, practically vibrating. “Again, we’re all thrilled to see this shutdown finally coming to a close, and by midweek we hope the government will be back up and running as normal. No further questions, I’m sorry, we have to go—”

Burr grabs his arm and drags him away, soft fingers digging into the material of Alex’s nicest suit, and they’re out in the hall before he turns to Alex with barely-concealed rage in his eyes. “What the fuck,” he spits, “did you do that for?”

“They were asking bullshit, accusatory questions,” Alex says, his pulse still pounding with adrenaline. “I called them out.”

“Your job wasn’t to call anything out, it was to deliver the contents of the press release and stick to the talking points—” Burr’s voice is anguished as he drags Alex down the hall of the Capitol, his phone in one hand. He pockets it and turns, shaking his head. “Washington wants you.”

“Back in the office?” Alex frowns. “The elevator’s that way.”

“In his hideaway,” Burr snaps, and then, off Alex’s look of confusion, groans again. “Oh my God, you’re so new at this — he has another office in the building itself. I’ll show you where it is, but this is the one time.”

Burr leads him to an unmarked door on the third floor of the Capitol, walking at a quick pace in icy silence. Their legs are about the same length, but Alex practically has to jog to keep up; Burr’s a machine. “Here,” he says shortly. “Memorize it. Nobody’s supposed to know where this is.”

“Right,” Alex says, glancing around. 307 on one side, a stairwell on the other, another unmarked door right across the hall. He’d mistake it for a generator closet if he weren’t being told otherwise. Burr gives him another icy, disappointed look and shrugs.

“Good luck,” he says, with a tone that says You fucked up, and rounds the corner into the stairwell, neatly polished shoes clattering on the marble floor. Alex steels himself, lifts a hand, and knocks.

When Washington opens the door, Alex wants to be nervous, but he isn’t. If he’s in trouble, he doesn’t feel in. Washington looks him up and down, fiddles briefly with his lapel, and says simply, “You could have fixed your collar before you embarrassed our office on television.”

Alex folds his arms, tilts his chin up. “I’m sorry, sir,” he mutters, but his voice isn’t subservient. He’s still too buzzed from the whole — the fight of it, the back-and-forth. He’s not sorry, and he’s certain it’s obvious, but Washington just sighs and steps aside, gesturing for him to come in.

The hideaway, as Burr called it, is larger than it looks from the outside, though the quarters are still cramped. The walls and carpet are both a peacock blue, the ceiling, moldings and furniture are all a contrasting white, and the bookshelf that stands beside the white brick fireplace is crammed to bursting. There’s one small window, near the desk. The lights are off. It’s rich and dark and Alex swallows nervously.

“So,” Washington says casually, unbuttoning his suit coat as he takes a seat on the antique couch. “That went poorly.”

“I disagree, sir,” Alex says as he stands in front of Washington, sliding his hands into his pockets. “If anything, it was a learning experience.”

“Oh?” Washington cocks an interested brow as his legs spread slightly. Alex swallows, trying not to stare. “What, pray tell, did you learn?”

“That perhaps I shouldn’t do the briefing again,” Alex says sheepishly, and Washington can’t help it; he explodes in a single hoot of laughter before composing himself, resting both hands on his knees. “Look, I’m sorry,” he adds. “I didn’t think—”

“You didn’t think,” Washington agrees. His voice is still stern, not quite friendly. “Look, this isn’t — I can’t blame you. Or, rather, I can, but I don’t want to.” He sighs, and his shoulders seem to fall about three inches with the exhale, and suddenly Alex feels the weight of what he just did come crashing down upon him.

He feels sick.

“God,” he mutters, “I’m really sorry. I didn’t…” He trails off. The peacock-blue carpet stretches out before him, an oceanic expanse, and — blame or credit his theatrical impulses, whatever — he crosses close to Washington and falls to his knees. He hears Washington chuckle again, despite the gravity of the situation, and it occurs to him that this seems like one of those situations where you’re laughing to keep from either snapping or crying.

Washington reaches out, and with one finger beneath his chin, directs his eyes back upward.

“I don’t need to lecture you,” he says quietly. “You won’t do that again.”

Alex swallows and nods. He doesn’t want to make eye contact, but he does. He hates this moment, where the adrenaline rush of a mistake turns into the whiplash of regret. It’s the second in twenty-four hours. Jesus. He has to apologize to John. “I won’t,” he mutters.

Washington sighs. “That’s all,” he says. “Lee’s coming back from furlough tomorrow. We’ll see what happens. I’d like you to continue working on my press releases, but…” He waves a broad hand lazily through the air. “No more of that,” he says, unnecessary but blunt.

Another curt nod. Alex is waiting for something else, anything. This feels strange, off-kilter — he’s not used to having his mistakes accepted or excused like this; he’s just done something that would, in any other world, have his ass fired and hung out to dry. “Sir,” he says. “Is that all?”

Washington shrugs. “I believe we’re done for the day,” he says. “Lafayette is on two IVs at GBU. He should be back in tomorrow.”

“Did you — want me to stay?” Alex asks. Pushing his luck, but he feels as though he should. Like Washington is waiting for him to offer, doesn’t want to force his hand, but between his overwhelming feeling of guilt and the tension between them, he needs to do something. He’d sit here between Washington’s legs all night if he asked, and if he thought it would make the situation any better. “I could be of some use, sir,” he adds, licking his lips, and Washington heaves a heavy sigh.

“This isn’t one of those arrangements,” Washington says, even as his hand moves up to his own thigh, just a couple inches, barely perceptible. “You aren’t obligated to do this. I wouldn’t —”

“Please,” Alex says, a little quieter. Scooches forward on his knees just a couple inches, and looks up through his eyelashes. “You could punish me, if that’s what you want.”

A long, kinetic pause, air crackling with energy. “Is that what you want?” Washington breathes, and Alex nods, eager — because shit, he does, the more he thinks about it — would love for Washington to just bend him over the desk or the back of the couch, smack him until he’s bright red and — oh, for Christ’s sake, the underwear he has on, he’d almost forgotten he put it on this morning but laundry day had come and gone over the weekend —

Washington doesn’t say anything. He looks at his own watch, looks down at his suit cuffs, glances up at the ceiling like he’s got better plans, and Alex licks at parched lips. “Please,” he adds, his voice cracking a little with a sudden rush of desire he didn’t know he had. “You said there would be consequences, if I f—screwed up.”

There’s a moment, a pause, as something clicks into place between them, and Washington’s eyes flash over with a darker understanding. “I did warn you,” he agrees, fingers curling into the wool of his pants, left leg falling open a little wider. Alex lowers his eyes, can see the outline of his dick there, licks his lips unconsciously. He hears Washington exhale sharply, and then there’s a hand on the back of his neck and his eyes snap back up to attention. “Stand up and take off your jacket,” Washington says, “and make sure the door is locked.”

He doesn’t need to be told twice. He sheds his jacket, hustles to the door and double-checks the lock, then turns back to where Washington has moved to the center of the couch. Alex bites down on his lower lip as he awaits further instruction, but it doesn’t come in the form of an order; instead, Washington simply beckons him closer, grabs him by the wrist as soon as he gets close enough. He needs this he needs this he needs this, his brain is doing a war chant and his heart is keeping time as he allows Washington to guide him down over his lap.

“Is this what you wanted?” Washington asks, reaching beneath Alex to undo his belt. Alex freezes as Washington yanks it out, but then he tosses it away, apparently unconscious of the effect it would have had. Jesus, with his own belt. He almost wants that more, a sharper pain, more visible bruises to take home. But he’s not particularly in a place to argue as Washington fumbles with the closure on his pants and yanks at his hair. “Answer me, son.”

“I — yeah, kind of,” Alex mumbles, directing it more to the couch cushion than to Washington. As Washington yanks his pants down to mid-thigh, he hears a gasp, and grins into the cushion. He knew this would get a reaction.

Washington runs one big hand over his ass, thumb skimming over the delicate burgundy lace. “I did warn you,” he repeats, “that there would be consequences.” And without warning, he lands one rough smack to the center of Alex’s ass, the sound slightly muffled but still reverberating through the room.

Alex’s eyes fly open a little wider as he feels the impact. The spread of Washington’s hand is easily wide enough to leave a single bruise across the whole of his ass, and he wants it to; he wants to feel this moment for the rest of the week. He’s already getting hard, shifting against Washington’s lap to accommodate. “Fuck,” he breathes, and Washington smacks him again.

Language, Alexander,” Washington snaps again, and there’s another, and another. “Did you blow that briefing on purpose? Were you hoping for this outcome?”

“No, sir,” Alex mumbles, pressing the side of his face into the couch. Washington smacks him twice more, hitting his upper thighs, and he winces as the sting on fresh skin turns into a burn. He can tell, even now, that Washington is using a fraction of his strength, and he wants more of it, wants to prove how much he can take —

Washington smacks him again, further up his ass, and it’s with so much force that Alex nearly jolts out of place. “Thank you,” he gasps, and Washington places a hand on the small of his back as he rubs his ass through the seat of his lace panties. His cock is already breaching the waistband, the front clearly not meant to contain so much. Washington dips a finger under the waistband, starts to pull them down, and then pulls his hand away altogether.

“Keep your voice down, son,” Washington orders him, and then he’s smacking him over and over, a steady rain of blows on his ass and upper thighs, right hand pressing down on his lower back to hold him in place. Alex tries. He crams his fist into his mouth, bites down hard on his index finger, fearing he might break the skin if Washington keeps going like this.

He counts. Inside his head, he’s counting in French, and there's no good reason other than that a woman he used to fuck would make him count in French sometimes when she did this and he got used to the ritual. He counts to keep track, since Washington doesn’t pause to make him thank him, and it keeps him steady, grounded, even as he starts to sink into the other place —

Dix-huit, dix-neuf, vingt

“Good. That’s my good boy.” Washington reaches up and grabs him by the ponytail, forcing him to straighten out on his lap, take his face off the couch cushion. His eyes are beginning to prick with tears. Fuck. This always happens and he wants to explain it, but Washington just laughs. “Five more. Can you take five more for me?”

Alex nods. Washington releases his hair, and he gasps. “Good,” Washington says. “Count them.”

“In English?” he says without thinking, and Washington pauses, clearly taken aback.

“Whatever you want,” Washington says after a moment, and fuck it.

Un. “One,” he forces out quietly, and it hurts, Washington isn’t holding back so much anymore, he’s got to be giving at least seventy-five percent. His erection jerks against the soft lace of his underwear and Washington’s got him by the nape of the neck and everything about this is exactly right in its wrongness, exactly where he wants to be.

Deux. “Two,” he says, and swallows hard as he grinds down. Washington’s cock is thick and evident against his hip and he wants to rub off against him, but he’s afraid of what might happen if he does. Washington’s hand tightens in his hair and he gasps as he braces himself for the third impact.

Trois. “Three.” His voice is choked, nose starting to get a little snotty, and it feels so good, every bit of pain heightening his arousal, and he wouldn’t be above begging if he thought he could form the words —

The last two strokes, quatre, cinq, come in two swift, instantaneous beats. He’s got his mouth open to count them but all that comes out is a strangled groan as he feels his balls start to tighten, and then — no, no, God — he’s coming, untouched, all over his stomach and Washington’s lap and he didn’t want this. Not like this, not right here, he wanted —

Washington guides him back upright, staring at the mess on his own pants. His own erection is still no less evident, Alex notes as he takes heaving breaths, waiting for his own pulse to even out, letting Washington do what he does as he falls back onto the couch.

He waits. Washington’s chest is heaving and his eyes are dark and glittering with arousal. Slowly, dead slowly, he drags one fingertip through Alex’s come where it pools on his pants, and lifts his hand to his mouth.

Alex is pretty sure he blacks out.

He comes to, a few moments — seconds? minutes? — later, to Washington taking some sort of wet wipe to the wool of his trousers. He holds it up. “Disinfectant. Non-toxic. Useful to have around.”

“Right.” Alex’s eyes flick down to Washington’s crotch. He’s still hard. “Do you want me to —”

“No.” Washington brushes it off. “I’ll take care of it.” He tosses the wipe into a wastebasket Alex hadn’t noticed, and looks back up. “You’re not in trouble. For the record.”

“For the briefing?” Alex fumbles as he tucks himself away, pulling his rumpled pants back up in haste. He’ll need to steam these wrinkles out in the shower tonight. “Or —”

Washington shakes his head, waving a hand dismissively. “You were right about Von Steuben, anyway, someone had to say it.”

“I was just paraphrasing you, sir.” He stands on shaky legs and retrieves his jacket from where he’d left it over the arm of the couch, shrugging into it quickly. Washington shrugs.

“I know.”

The silence is less electric now, more resigned. Washington sighs and takes a couple steps closer, closing the gap to kiss Alex once on the forehead. A hand slips beneath his jacket, grasping his waist, the heel of his palm heavy on his stomach as fingers trace his side through his rumpled white shirt. Alex starts to tilt his head up to offer his lips, but Washington pulls back, steps away.

“Lee’s back tomorrow,” he says shortly. “We’ll talk about your role then. Go home, son.”

He exhales through his nose, trying to hold back his disappointment. “Sir, I —”

“I’ll see you tomorrow.” Washington turns back to the desk, and Alex chews the inside of his cheek, shifts his jaw before stepping away.

The hall outside is empty. Nobody’s around. Good.

Chapter Text

So it’s fine. Everything’s fine. Alex is aggressively fine.

He walks into work the next day and Burr does an obvious double-take, clearly taken aback by his presence. “Oh,” he says, as Alex gingerly sits down at his desk, trying not to wince even though Washington had made it his business to mark up his sit spots (the fuckin’ asshole). “You’re… I see you…” He shrugs, evidently at a loss for how to comment on Alex’s not being fired.

“Yeah,” Alex says brightly. “Things are going great.”

“Mm.” Burr doesn’t stand around to chat, even as Alex turns and waits for him to continue. With a single sidelong glance, he moves on, welcoming back furloughed employees and shaking hands. Alex can’t shake the uneasy feeling that fills his stomach as he watches Burr watch him from the corner of his eye. He doesn’t know what he knows. He’s not sure he wants to.

Within the hour, Washington arrives, and immediately calls Alex and Charles Lee into his office. “Here’s the thing,” he says, tapping his fingers on his desk as he checks his messages. “I’m not firing you, Charles. You’re an invaluable asset, and our relationship with the press was never better until Alexander — attempted what he did.”

Lee gives Alex a nasty look. “By the way, that clip’s all over the internet. Politico is calling you a ‘loudmouthed personal assistant’ and you’re also Gawker’s ‘blowhard of the week.’”

Alex opens his mouth to retort, but Washington swiftly cuts him off. “That very well may be, and I can’t say I disagree,” he says smoothly, “which is why I’m not promoting you, Alexander. Your role will be somewhat expanded, but only insofar as you’ll be working on press releases and newsletters. Charles, you’re still my one and only comm director. Understood?”

Lee gapes a little, looking blinkered. “I — I mean, sure,” he stammers. “I guess I don’t have a… a real problem with that.”

Alex certainly does, though. “Sir, I thought we agreed that when Lee came back we would ‘talk about my role’—”

Washington swiftly cuts him off before he can finish his air quotes. “We are. I never claimed that yours would be anything more than a temporary promotion. Lee, we're finished here, I have other business to discuss with — with Alexander.”

Lee gives them both a strange look, but leaves the office, looking dazed and a bit as though he's been smacked upside the head. When the door shuts behind them, Alex looks to Washington, upset. “I thought I was getting promoted.”

“Earn it,” is Washington’s short answer, and then, “by the way, there’s a gala for an NGO on Friday that I’ve been roped into attending. I’d like you to come along.”

Alex hesitates. He’s not certain whether this is flattery, Washington attempting to soothe the blow to his ego with the promise of his company and undivided attention, or just another work obligation. “On the clock?” he says cautiously.

Washington chuckles. “I’m sure you’ll be handsomely compensated in one way or anything.”

“Oh,” Alex says. He relaxes a little, thinking about it. “Yeah, of course. I’d like to go. You don't have to — compensate me, or anything.”

“It’s black tie,” Washington says as he starts to pore over the contents of his desk. “We’ll get you fitted for a tux today. I’ll be in Mount Vernon tonight and most of Thursday and Friday, so it’s today or not at all. Unless, by some chance, you have one —”

Alex laughs out loud at the notion. “For all the black tie events I go to? Yeah. Totally.”

“Worth asking. I wouldn’t want to presume.” Washington presumes quite a lot, but whatever, Alex thinks. “We’ll take a long lunch after my meeting with Greene.”


Alex slides into the pack between Lafayette and Burr mid-morning, the only press release on his desk finished and copy-edited. The two are conferring in low tones, and turn to look askance at Alex as he joins them.

“What,” Burr asks flatly, “did you do to Washington to make him keep you on after that performance yesterday?”

Alex hesitates. The honest answer would appall Burr, and yet that makes him almost want to tell the truth, just to see the look on his face. But reason stops him early this time, thank God, and he simply shrugs instead. “We talked it over. I’m not doing the briefing again. It seems fair.”

Lafayette sighs. “I chose the worst possible day to fall ill, it seems.”

“Yeah, how are you? You look… better.” He doesn’t, really, his skin is still clammy-looking and his eyes are red-rimmed, but considering that he’s not actively vomiting all over the office, Alex assumes that’s something.

With a shrug, Lafayette turns back to Burr. “Anyway, this matter of this business with Madison. Tell Ms. Prevost that it cannot happen.”

“You know I can’t do that.” Burr’s voice is steady, but the way he shifts his jaw, slides one hand neatly into a pocket, is a tell, Alex realizes. He marks that down, files it away in his head for possible future reference. “I promised Madison an amendment on the new healthcare proposal that Washington isn’t going to like. It’s the only reason he and Jefferson made the vote happen in the first place.”

“Shit,” Alex comments, and both of them look at him, irritated. Burr opens his mouth to say more, but Alex holds up a hand, suddenly struck with inspiration. “Wait, hold on. What, exactly, is this amendment he wants in the first place?”

Burr pinches the bridge of his nose in frustration, clearly waffling over whether or not to say it. “The Medicaid expansion would no longer cover hospitals or medical facilities that perform abortions,” he says quietly, and Lafayette groans out loud as Alex grinds his molars.

“Jesus fucking—” In the short time they’ve worked together, Alex has never seen Lafayette look so horrified. “Burr, you’ve — you realize what you’ve done, no?”

“Washington knows,” Burr hisses. “He’s given me time to fix it. I just — I can’t go back on the deal, the budget isn’t one hundred percent passed yet, and if I do, anyway, it’s my neck on the line, Madison’s never going to let me work in this city again—”

“You unprincipled ass,” Lafayette hisses back. “You would allow this for the good of your own career?”

“I ended the shutdown!” Burr snaps. “More or less single-handedly, mind you! It was for the greater good, you know as well as anyone what havoc it was wreaking on small businesses—”

“To say nothing of what you’ve done to personal freedoms!”

Alex has said nothing; he’s dumbstruck, watching the two fight, head bobbing back and forth like a tennis match. It occurs to him that there is a possibility that neither have brought up. A third option. “What dirt do you have on the chief of staff?” he blurts out, and both Burr and Lafayette turn to him, puzzled.

“What… dirt?” Burr asks carefully, and Alex shrugs.

“Well, you made the deal through her. What do you have that could discredit her as an employee and make it look like it was factored in by her own personal motivations?” he says, speeding up the more he thinks and talks about it. “I mean, the way I see it, one of you is gonna end up getting scapegoated, and it’s better her than you, right? Turn it into a national embarrassment. Use the press. Leak the rumor to a credible source and it’ll only be a matter of time…”

Burr looks sick, for some reason, but Lafayette, improbably, begins to laugh. He claps Alex on the shoulder, nodding eagerly. “This is good thinking,” he smirks. “Don’t wait until the amendment’s in writing; stop it from even being written.”

“I can’t do that,” Burr mutters, but Alex shrugs.

“I can,” he says. “I mean, fuck it, right? I owe this staff. I’ll get my hands dirty. Give me until Friday and I’ll fix this.”

“Don’t, Alexander,” Burr says. His voice is firmer, colder. “I’ll handle it. This isn’t within your purview.”

But Alex simply shrugs. “It is now,” he says, and sidles out of the office. (He’s not sure where he’s going, but it’s a good exit line, he thinks.)

Washington's meeting with Greene runs long, but this time, Alex is in the room. Greene greets him with a hearty handshake and a question about the improvement of his golf game, and Alex notices that Washington smiles approvingly when he answers with careful, genial aplomb. Getting there, his eyes seem to say, and Alex smirks to himself triumphantly and takes a seat at the table.

"So," Greene says casually. "This business with you and Madison —"

Washington waves a hand through the air. "It's nothing. One of my aides thought he had more power than he does."

"Don't they always?" grins Greene, and they both laugh as Alex considers the question. He doesn't like Greene's tone, but he understands what he means. "But really —" Greene continues. "What were Madison's conditions?"

Washington sighs. "Nothing that can't be worked around. I assure you, it's being taken care of."

Alex shifts, uncomfortable, in his seat. "How so?" asks Greene. His voice is casual, but his manner betrays an undercurrent of rampant curiosity. Same, Alex thinks, though he doesn't dare say it out loud.

But Washington gives away nothing. "Don't worry," he says. "Now, I believe we were here to discuss the Budget Committee..."

As they leave Greene's office around one, Alex glances furtively up at Washington. "How are you, ah, 'handling' the Madison matter?" he asks, trying to keep his voice light and innocuous. Washington sighs, shakes his head.

"It doesn't matter," he says. "We're not giving him what he wants. I assume you've heard by now."

"Yeah," Alex mutters. "I hear things."

"I know you do." Washington sighs as they take the stairs, slipping out through security and toward the parking garage. He looks tired. His footfalls are a little heavier, the crows feet at his eyes a little more pronounced. Alex is suddenly struck with the aching want to be good for him, to somehow improve the slouch of his shoulders and make him stand up a little straighter.

He winces again as he sits down heavily in the passenger seat. Damnit. He keeps forgetting about his bruised ass until he does this to himself. Washington gives him a concerned look. "You're okay?"

"Never better," Alex shrugs. "I like being able to — feel you. Sir."

Washington swallows at that, and for a moment Alex worries he'll forget himself and do something here, in the presence of enemies and security cameras and god knows what else, but the moment passes and Washington starts the car abruptly.

Alex half expected to return to the same shop, but instead Washington parks outside a smaller boutique, the window of which again indicates its patronage is by appointment only. It looks familiar, somehow, and the name rings a bell, but he can't quite place why. He rings the doorbell with one hand at the small of Alex's back, and comments, perhaps unnecessarily, "I prefer these private establishments, you might have noticed. There's far less a chance of running into someone you know."

"Yeah," Alex says in response. He looks around as they step inside, at the mannequins outfitted in stunning tuxes and formal suits. He hasn't been at this long, but he can already tell they're nice, especially compared to the one tux he's worn before, a rental for a wedding he attended back in grad school.

"There's no time to have you fitted for anything custom," Washington says, voice so full of regret it's nearly comical. "But this shop employs my tailor of choice, and he'll make something off-the-rack look bespoke. You'll see — oh, here he is!" Washington beams as a man rounds the corner of the shop and goes in for a hearty, back-slapping handshake, and Alex's heart plummets six stories as the two extricate themselves, Washington turning back with a shit-eating grin. "Alex, this is Hercules Mulligan. He's going to make you look — well, you'll have a formal suit worthy of your body when he's done with you." He chuckles, and Alex swallows.

"Uh," he says quietly. "Hey, man."

Hercules is looking at him with gleeful disbelief, like he truly can't believe what he's seeing. "Hey," he says, stretching out the vowel like putty, and Alex can feel his face starting to burn as Washington looks at him curiously.

"You've met?" he asks. Not quite an accusation, but demanding an explanation, certainly.

"From time to time," Alex says shortly, just as Hercules supplies, "We're actually roommates."

"Allegedly," Alex adds quickly. "I never see you anymore, man, you haven't been by to pick up your mail in a while —"

Hercules grins, shrugs, sheepish. "Yeah, I kind of moved in with this girl. It's going okay, but you never know, never hurts to keep a separate place to crash just in case..." He removes a measuring tape from his own jacket pocket. He's dressed incongruously respective to the rest of the store, a white t-shirt under a leather jacket, but it looks good, Alex thinks, even in the throes of his panic. "So John told me you're working for some senator, but he never said it was my man GW."

Alex forces a laugh. "Yeah, uh, it's still early days," he says, taking off his own jacket and holding out his arms to be measured. Hercules, at least, doesn't waste time. He's all business as he jots down number after number. "There's some gala on Friday that the whole staff is supposed to go to, but I don't really have the clothes for it, so we're expensing this. It's a communications thing, right? Oh, John wouldn't have told you this, but I kind of got promoted! Well, not really promoted as in a new title, but I'm writing all the press releases and newsletters in the office now, it's awesome. I mean, it's a big step up from where I was a couple months ago." He's rambling now, relying on the forward momentum of his mouth to fill what would otherwise be an excruciating silence, and Washington looks at him sharply enough that he abruptly stops short.

"That's awesome, man. Already." Hercules gestures for him to spread his legs a little, and as he stoops to measure his inseam, Alex steels himself, praying no errant hand will brush his sore upper thighs. "We gotta get drinks this weekend and catch up. I hear the best gossip in here, ever since GW started sending all his buddies in the Senate here to get their stuff altered —"

"Speaking of which," Washington interjects smoothly. "Have you heard anything about Jefferson lately? Anything useful, that is?"

Hercules shrugs. "Nothing, really. Except..." He wraps the tape around Alex's right quad, and Washington is the only one who sees the slight grimace that crosses his face. "I did hear something about a love child."

"From whom?" Washington's eyebrows practically jump off his face. "And with whom?"

"Some guy who used to clerk for John Jay. Not anyone in his office. But he knows Madison pretty well, and apparently Madison told him that Jefferson was paying off his old housekeeper to keep the kid a secret." Hercules shrugs as he stands up. "It's not really reliable, and I know how you are about rumors —"

Washington nods tautly. "Interesting, though," he says. "Can we see some options? I like a blue silk on you, Alex, but a more formal black suit might be the way to go for now."

"Yeah, okay," Hercules says. "Actually, Alex, if you wanna come check some stuff out in back —"

"Sure," Alex says too quickly, desperate for the privacy. Washington's phone rings as they leave, and he can hear muffled conversation in the background as he takes the call. Perfect.

Hercules turns to him, amused and knowing, as he leads Alex behind a rack toward the back of the shop. "So you're Washington's new boy toy," he grins. "I'd heard rumors..."

"From who?" Alex's voice is too sharp, too demanding, and he immediately modulates himself to sound less... scared. "Whatever it is, it doesn't matter. This is strictly professional."

"Yeah, because all bosses drop a couple grand on a tux for their personal assistants," Hercules laughs. "No judgment, man. I see this all the time."

Alex grinds his molars. "It's not what you think," he says. "Who's been saying these things about me? I need to know so I can kick their ass."

Hercules fingers the sleeve of a maroon dinner jacket. "Doesn't matter," he says. "If you're that certain nothing weird is going on —"

"Certain?" Alex hisses. "Yeah, dude, I'm pretty fucking certain. I'm the one —"

"Okay." Hercules holds up both hands in supplication. "Dude. Whatever. I'll tell Gwinnett to shove it up his ass."

"Okay, but speaking of other unfounded rumors," Alex mutters, a little lower now. "Do you know anything about James Madison's chief of staff? Woman named Theodosia Prevost?"

Hercules shrugs. "I've heard the name, yeah. There's not a lot to tell... oh, actually, you know who mentioned her?"

"Hm?" Alex is poring over the rack of jackets now, doing his best to look busy. He slides a rather nice blue one off the hanger, shrugs it on and glances in the nearby mirror.

"That's meant to be worn with a vest," Hercules says absently. "Here, let me grab it for you... That guy John's seeing, Thom Pinckney, he brought her up when I asked how many people he knows are dating across the aisle. Except he kind of laughed, said she's married to a Republican but having an affair with a Democrat. Nobody knows who it is, either."

Alex blinks rapidly. "Shit," he mutters. "Do you think you could find out?"

Hercules grins. "Maybe. Here. Try it with the vest."

When Washington rejoins them, he raises both eyebrows at the combination of the blue jacket and waistcoat. "I like that on you," he says appreciatively, and nods at Hercules. "We'll take it. Make the appropriate alterations and have it delivered to the office Friday morning."

"Of course." Hercules nods knowingly, with only half a glance at Alex that makes him burn anyway. "Charge it to the card on file?"

"Good man." Washington watches Alex remove the jacket as Hercules retreats, and stops him before he can start on the vest. "I really like that on you," he murmurs, low and deep in his throat, and Alex feels his cheeks warm as Washington rests one big hand on his waist and sqeezes.

"You're being pretty bold," Alex mutters back, and he sees Washington lift a brow. "For someone with as many rivals as you have right now..."

Washington hums, squeezing his waist a little tighter, angling his body just so to block them from view. "You wouldn't want your roommate to know about us," he murmurs, and then laughs a little off Alex's look. "Relax. He's in my pocket, first and foremost. Granted, I had no idea that you two — knew each other —"

"I thought you did your research," Alex tosses back, and Washington shrugs.

"Perhaps there was a lapse. Who knows." He takes his hand away. "Shall we go? We have time for a quick bite. Or..."

Alex closes his eyes slowly and sucks in a breath. "Or whatever. Yeah."

Washington laughs. It's not unfriendly, though, or mocking. It's hot and familiar and it makes Alex flush a little warmer.


"I don't want you to come while I'm gone these next two days," Washington says casually, as he buttons up his shirt in the hideaway. Alex looks up from where he's pulling his own pants back on, the sore spots on his ass now even more tender. "Not until I get back."

Alex cocks a brow. "Is that an order?" he asks, in the same teasing tone he always takes, and Washington smiles.

"Yes," he says. "It is. And if you can manage to behave for once —"

"I'm very well-behaved," Alex says, and Washington stifles a laugh.

"Depends on whose definition, I suppose," he says. Steps a little closer to Alex and loops the tie back around his neck, tying it carefully in a quick half-Windsor. "That said," he breathes as Alex glances up at him, "if you promise to follow my direction, I'll bring you a little something for your trouble."

Alex swallows. "Sure," he says, and Washington smiles, kissing him once on the lips before stepping away.

"If you hurry, you might be able to get to the Dirksen Building before their lunchroom closes," he says as he returns to his desk. "I know you have a fondness for their turkey club. I may stay here to get work done for the rest of the afternoon, before I leave."

He waffles in the doorway before asking, "Sir?"

"Mm." Washington doesn't look up from the bill he's reading, and Alex shifts uncomfortably before deciding to continue.

"I was just wondering — you said you had a plan for handling the Madison thing," he says. "If I had -- certain information that might help, or hinder. Would you want to know?"

Washington finally looks up, puzzled. "What do you know?"

"Something about his chief of staff," Alex says. "Apparently she's having an affair."

A pause. Washington fiddles with the lemon-yellow highlighter in his hand before sighing. "Not helpful. Personal lives are off-limits."

"But sir — what you told me about Greene's daughter, and Knox's debt —" He frowns, confused. "Wasn't that...?"

"Good information to know, not to act on. I draw the line at intimidating staffers for their legal behavior," Washington says, shaking his head. "What his chief of staff does on her own time is her own business. I'm not going to be a hypocrite, son."

Alex takes a deep breath. It seems so tawdry, so obvious, to be saying this with his shirt buttoned up tight to hide the blooming red marks Washington bit and sucked into his chest and stomach not ten minutes before. He has a point. Technically. "Fine," he says quietly. "I just thought it would help."

Washington's lips quirk back up into a slight smile. "If you find out she's having an affair with Madison herself, then we'll talk," he says. "Not that he'd likely be interested... And remember, don't touch yourself until I'm back."

"Yes, sir." He answers automatically, and fixes his mussed hair, redoes his ponytail before slipping back outside into the hall.

The door shuts softly behind him. The halls of Congress are silent. Imposing. A single pair of heels clicks somewhere in an adjacent corridor.

He can't not pursue this, though. The lead is right in front of him. He won't let it slip away.

Alex steels himself, and starts back for the Russell Building. The turkey club in Dirksen's cafeteria will wait another day.

Chapter Text

Friday arrives after what feels like an excruciating two days. He does not see John once, assumes he must be staying over at the Republican's after the second night of radio silence. John doesn't return his texts, but remains active on Twitter, which slights him more than being ignored outright in the first place. In the meantime, he stays busy at work.

He doesn't pursue the question of Theodosia Prevost's affair. Not exactly. He doesn't throw himself into it with all the effort he can summon, at least, which is the same difference. He applies himself to the work in front of him, the press releases and newsletters and the remote work Washington phones in from his home office between constituent meetings at home in Mount Vernon. Less than an hour away in optimal traffic, but it feels like an ocean.

The two days fly by, except when they seem to stretch like taffy. It's Friday morning when Alex's new suit is delivered to the office, the pants freshly hemmed and the jacket and waistcoat taken in to match his measurements. It's accompanied by a new shirt and tie, neither of which he looks too closely at. On the hanger, a note: Let's get a drink soon. Herc

He laughs, and spirits the garment bag into Washington's office as soon as he gets a chance, hanging it behind the door. It's only when he's on his way out that he's startled by a passing Aaron Burr.

"Jesus," he mutters, his pulse speeding up, and Burr frowns.

"What were you doing in Washington's office?" he asks, suspicious.

"He had some dry cleaning delivered and wanted it hung up ASAP," Alex lies swiftly. The closer to the truth, the better, or so he's learned. "Sorry, didn't know I had to clear my menial errands with you."

"Okay," Burr says, and he sounds slightly taken aback by Alex's brusque manner.

"Sorry," Alex says, relaxing slightly. "I just — I don't want us to be weird, okay? I'm not pursuing the thing with The—with Madison's chief of staff. It's not really any of my business."

"What thing?" Now Burr sounds more curious, and he's shifting a little from foot to foot, hands back in his pockets like he's got something to hide. Alex doesn't know what it is, but, he thinks, this is another tell, this is Burr communicating, no matter how unwillingly, that there's something here. So he pauses and chooses his words carefully.

"Oh, nothing," he says. "I mean, I did a little digging, but it doesn't seem like there's anything there to find. Nice lady, good family, happily married." Burr's Adam's apple bobs in his throat at this but the rest of him remains perfectly still, not a twitch or flinch in sight. Damn. Maybe that's not a tell. Maybe he just had to swallow. Maybe he doesn't know shit. "Anyway, there's gotta be a better way to deal with this. You know, ideologically, that compromise was horrible."

Burr says nothing, just adjusts his cufflinks and the strap of his wristwatch. Alex takes this opportunity to press a little further. "I mean, seriously. Denying coverage to hospitals and clinics that perform abortion, that drastically cuts down the resources that are already available to people without any other options. You might as well just tell the entire working class to go fuck themselves."

"This isn't about me," Burr says quietly. "This was a compromise to end the shutdown that was wreaking havoc on small business."

"By destroying the only medical options a lot of people have? Or by forcing those places to stop performing abortions in order to keep their coverage?" Alex feels bile rising inside him the more he thinks about it. "That wasn't a compromise. That was cutting off a leg to keep from losing a toe."

He watches Burr shift in place and then shrug. "That's your read on it, then," he says, and turns away. Alex can't control what comes out of his mouth next.

"Do you even have any principles of your own? Or are you just happy to roll over like a good boy for whatever new master catches your eye?"

Burr turns on him, and Alex can tell he's made a mistake, regrets it almost immediately. He watches Burr's chest heave with a deep inhale, and braces himself for whatever nasty retort is to follow, but then Burr clenches his jaw and blinks and shakes his head.

"Someday, you'll understand why I did what I did," he says, condescending as fuck despite the one single year he has on Alex, and disappears back into his office, the door thudding shut so violently that the brass nameplate in the middle of it nearly rattles off its tacks.


Washington returns in the middle of the afternoon, strides into the office dressed casual in khakis and the red sweater he'd worn to Annapolis. "Afternoon, all," he says with a wave. "Where's Burr?"

Lafayette gestures vaguely to Burr's office. "He is either in there or not," he says with an air of disinterest, and Alex snorts.

"Last I saw, he was in," he pipes up, "but not in any mood to be spoken to."

"Fair enough," Washington says. "Lafayette, you and Adrienne are attending the ALEA benefit tonight, yes?"

"Of course," Lafayette nods. "If she can leave work on time. The State Department has no respect for the personal engagements of its employees..."

Alex spins from side to side, slowly, in his desk chair. He looks uncomfortably at Washington, who does not seem to notice. The last thing he wants to do is spend the evening dodging Lafayette's knowing glances while being paraded around on Washington's arm. Not that it's the parading-around that he objects to. Or Washington's arms, in any capacity. But he still doesn't know what Lafayette knows. He doesn't want to know.

"Well, by all means, if you want to leave early, you're entitled to do so," Washington says magnanimously. "In fact, it's a Friday. Everyone, feel free to clear out. There's nothing you're doing that can't wait until Monday morning." And off the flurry of blank stares exchanged around the room, he follows it up, "No, really. Go."

Lafayette sighs heavily as he gathers his things, packing up his handsome leather bag slowly, as if with disdain for the task. "I only hope it is not so rainy all night," he says. "This humidity is, how you say, not my cup of tea."

"Ugh, I know," Alex says automatically. "It's been horrible all week. My hair looked like garbage after walking ten minutes from the metro yesterday —“

Lafayette snorts with laughter. "Okay, princess," he says, amused, and Alex flushes. Then he sees the way Washington is staring at him. The double take, the hungry look on his face as he takes hold of an empty desk chair and bites down on his own lip — and he feels a flush of embarrassment tinged with heat. He knows what that reaction means, can sense that this will be a new thing for Washington. He swallows and forces himself to laugh along.

The rest of the office clears out within twenty minutes, leaving Alex alone at his desk as Washington wanders in and out. He sees Burr slip out, nearly unnoticed, but casting furtive looks around as if he's doing something he ought not. When he's certain that they're the only two left in the office, he feels a wave of arousal — and of bravery — wash over him. He wants to do something stupid.

Washington's office is occupied, but the door is open. Alex knocks twice on the doorframe, and, as Washington glances up, he smiles.

“Hey,” he says quietly. Washington shifts and smiles, setting down a pen, a slight rearrangement of effects on the desk. Window dressing, really. Taking up space to prove that it’s his to take. Alex can’t conceal the heat that curls up his spine at that.

Washington beckons him forward. “Close the door,” he instructs, and Alex does, then hurries forward to stand in front of his desk, awaiting further… instruction? Command? He still doesn’t know exactly what this is. He wouldn’t mind a more formal ritual, just for the sake of having one; knowing when to kneel, when to stand, what to say would be easier on his mind. But Washington seems to enjoy his uncertainty, or, at least, that’s the sense he gets when he shifts in place and fixes his eyes on Washington’s. Waiting. Patient. Restrained.

It’s quiet in the office while Washington takes his time, looking him over. His lips quirk up in a hint of a smile as he stands up abruptly and walks over to him. “Have you been following my directions?” he breathes in Alex’s ear, very close to his space, and Alex nods.

“Yes, sir,” he mumbles. He slides his hands into his pockets, and Washington chuckles, moving behind him. Alex thinks he hears, feels, Washington taking a deep sniff of his hair. Another shiver, at that. It shouldn’t be as endearing a gesture as it is.

“You haven’t touched yourself at all?” he asks. One hand strokes down his chest and comes to rest on his stomach, while the other sits heavy on his shoulder, and Alex arches back into the touch, suddenly very much wanting for more, with fewer layers of fabric between.

“Well,” he murmurs teasingly, and the hand on his shoulder gets a little heavier at that. “You didn’t say anything about touching myself. All you said was that I couldn’t come.”

He hears Washington suck in a breath. “That’s a liberal interpretation,” he says, his voice low and hoarse, and Alex laughs a little as he feels the press of Washington’s desire against his lower back, grinds back against it just enough. The hand on his shoulder is now in his hair, tipping his head to the side, baring his throat, and he feels, in some small way, like a prey animal. Like Washington might eat him alive.

Alex thinks he might let him.

“I thought about you a lot, d— sir,” he says, and his cheeks flush pink with the realization of what he’d almost let slip. It’s one he’d rather not go. Not that he hadn’t whispered it to himself, one hand tangled in the sheets of his bed as he fucked his own grip to near-completion the night before, bringing himself to the edge over and over with Washington’s hands and mouth and firm body in his eyes. Not like it hasn’t almost slipped out twice already, at the hotel in Annapolis. But —

It’s a whole thing.

Nothing weirder than being the kid who busts out the “daddy” shit while fucking a guy twenty-three years their senior.

He’d slept with a few people who wanted to call him that, back in New York. It never worked for him. “I’m not your daddy,” he’d said firmly every time, and one time it was “papí” and he didn’t mind that so much but altogether, no, not his thing. Nothing like being reminded of your own deadbeat dad during the middle of sex. He’d rather not let the memory of James Hamilton play a supporting role in his fucking.

But if Washington wanted — if he noticed, and if he asked for it…

Well, Alex could probably say it. It’s not as if he’s not plenty paternal with him as it is. The forehead kisses. The “son” shit. The way he’d washed his hair in the hotel bath, big hands slippery with gin-cocktail shampoo, so dreadfully intimate it almost hurt. If he invited it, if he coaxed it out of him…

If Washington noticed his slip, he doesn’t make it known. His breath is hot on Alex’s pulse point, just where his neck gives way to his jaw, and he’s not kissing but he’s doing everything else, tongue and heat and the occasional scrape of teeth, working Alex apart with just his mouth and the hand in his hair and the other hand rubbing wide circles on his stomach, moving steadily lower but not low enough. “I thought about you, too,” he says, more casually than their position might logically dictate. “Martha saw a picture of you — she approves, my boy, she suggested I bring you home for a visit —”

Alex gasps a little as Washington takes his earlobe between his teeth and bites down. “I’d like that, sir,” he manages to force out. He’s caught between the desire to grind back against the cock pressing against him and thrust upward, trying to catch a hint of friction at Washington’s hands. If Washington plans to bring him off in the office before the gala — it would be welcome relief, at least, the last two days have been torturous.

But Washington lets him go and pulls away altogether, and Alex sighs, takes deep breaths as he watches him go back to the desk. He fumbles around in his bag and then in a drawer, and when he emerges, he’s got a bottle of lube in one hand and — oh.

“I promised I’d bring you something for your efforts,” Washington says, holding it out for inspection. The plug is made of polished stainless steel, not very large — Alex has taken larger — but heavy and curved. Washington takes a step closer, his frame and intoxicating, spicy scent all the more imposing when it’s all Alex can concentrate on. “I’d like you to wear this for me, during the gala tonight. Do you think you can do that for me, princess?”

He can’t help it; he tips his face forward and starts to laugh into Washington’s chest, shoulders shaking a little with the catharsis of it. When he looks up, it’s into Washington’s amused eyes. “So ‘princess’ is, like, definitely a thing now?” he confirms.

Washington chuckles. “It was ‘a thing’ as soon as it came out of Lafayette’s mouth, son.”

God.” There’s a hand at the small of his back again, and he considers what Washington is asking of him; his cock stiffens at the idea of it. Yes, his cock decides without consulting him, the answer is affirmative; his body is screaming the last few lines of Ulysses, yes I said yes I will yes. He takes a breath and nods.

The ride to the gala is just on the right side of unbearable.

Washington does not drive, but instead hires a car. Even with the partition raised, though, he does not touch Alex in the backseat; sits a solid foot away from him and talks only of work in a casual tone that betrays the solid pressure inside Alex. It's not so noticeable when he sits perfectly still, but then the car jolts forward in traffic and he clenches around it and suddenly it's all he can focus on, again. "There's a poker game some nights that I often attend," Washington says, and Alex tries, tries, to follow his story about Knox betting his wedding ring on a losing hand, but he can't do it. He'd be lucky to recall a single plot point.

"By the way," Washington breathes in his ear as they exit the car at the venue, "that suit does look tremendous on you."

Alex swallows and nods. "Thank you, sir," he says automatically, forcing himself not to think about the distinct sensation of fullness that makes itself known every time he takes a step. He forces himself not to feel it. The plug is heavy inside him and jostles with every step, and he positions himself behind Washington, praying his half-hard cock doesn't decide to betray him any further.

As they step into the hotel ballroom, Washington is immediately greeted by a swell of nobodies, all handshakes and pasted-on smiles and identical haircuts, one standard for men and the other for women. "This is my aide, Alexander Hamilton," he says to the group, and Alex reaches out to return the round of handshakes while thinking, again, of desperately unsexy things. Maggots. Bunions. Rotten potatoes. Anything but.

A passing waiter offers a tray of champagne, and Alex takes one eagerly as Washington declines. The delicate glass flute at least gives him something to hold onto. He clutches the stem as another jostled misstep sends another wave of pleasure through him. It's not hitting his prostate, thank god, isn't quite long enough for that -- he assumes he must be grateful for small fortunes, or Washington's mercy. One or the other.

"So," Washington says to him as the initial crowd disperses. "Notice anything?"

"Van Rensselaer's hairpiece is coming apart," Alex mutters, "and none of those people had anything to offer you."

"Nice catch," Washington says dryly. "The way they descend — all wanting to be the first person you speak to — that's power, understand?" He leans a hand on the open bar, catching the bartender's eye. He's a cute kid. Probably a GBU student, or maybe American University. Not Georgetown, Alex decides, flying on a strong but unfounded hunch. "Maker's, neat," Washington says, "unless you've got anything better."

"Maker's it is," says the kid agreeably, and he pours a double, unbidden. Alex sips his champagne. That's another sort of power.

"Come," Washington says shortly. "We should circulate."

After some time, the pressure of the plug inside Alex has become almost normal, forgettable. Lafayette finds them an hour in, Adrienne at his right in a stunning garden-floral gown. In the sea of navy blue dresses populating the room, she stands out, a vision. Alex eyes her only when he's certain Lafayette's attention is elsewhere.

"Burr is not here?" Lafayette says, gesturing with his vodka cranberry. Washington shakes his head shortly, and Lafayette laughs. "Good. I doubted he would come. He often pretends to have somewhere else to be, to cover that he's not invited anywhere."

Alex glances up from where he's studying his second drink, at this. "That's clever," he says. "Like when your friends would all tell their parents they were staying at each other's houses, so that by the time everyone found out they'd been had, you'd all been able to sneak back home again."

Lafayette shrugs. "If you say so." He sips his drink. "Have you seen Von Steuben?"

"Is he here?" Washington asks dryly. "I was under the impression he avoided any association with the private sector, for the sake of his own ideological purity."

"Ideological purity is a luxury good," Lafayette says loftily, and he looks as though he's about to expand at some length on this thesis statement before Adrienne rolls her eyes and shakes her head. He sighs. "In any case, yes, the Baron has arrived, and so have Burr's dear friends —"

"Senator Washington," comes a familiar, slimy drawl, and in a flurry of movement, they're all turning around at attention, and Alex bites back a disgusted groan.

Thomas Jefferson stands before them, tall and proud, wearing the same maroon dinner jacket Hercules had pointed out at the shop, its silk lapels gleaming in the candlelit ballroom. At his left is James Madison, solid and stolid, in bottle-green velvet. The look of self-satisfaction on Jefferson's face alone is enough to make Alex roll his eyes.

"Senator," Washington says warmly, and inclines his head at Madison as well. "Congressman. It's a pleasure."

"Oh, the pleasure's all mine," Jefferson says. Alex studies his face intently. There's something uncanny and fascinating about it — the way his eyes turn down at the corners, the edges of his smile droop with forced certainty. Everything about his presence feels like an unflattering lie. "And Mister Lafayette — my doppelgänger, so they say —"

"They say?" Lafayette cocks a brow. "Who says so, pray tell?"

Jefferson chuckles. "Yeah," he says, as if he didn't even register the question.

"Jefferson, Madison, I should introduce my new personal aide," Washington interjects smoothly. Alex edges a little more into the conversation.

"Alexander Hamilton," he says, his voice practiced but a little forced as he offers a handshake. Jefferson's is limper than he expects, like being handed a freshly-caught trout. Madison's, conversely, is nasty strong. He's practically certain he can feel his knuckles cracking from the grip.

"So where did George unearth you from?" Jefferson asks, with unnecessary interest. Alex swallows. Shifts. Feels the plug shift inside him. Fuck.

"Columbia grad school," he says with a little more bombast than he'd normally employ. "Public policy. I was with the press for a few months before Senator Washington hired me."

"A master's from Columbia," Jefferson says with a smile that feels like it's a hair's breadth from being a sneer. "Quite a CV for a bodyman, isn't it?"

Alex swallows. "It's a tough job market," he says, a non-answer. Madison and Jefferson exchange a glance, but don't respond; instead, Madison gives Washington a taut smile.

"I look forward to our upcoming compromise," he says. It's a statement that begs a follow-up, but he doesn't offer one. Instead, he lets Washington return his smile, saying nothing.

"We're not here to talk legislation," Washington says through his teeth. "But it has been a pleasure, gentlemen."

"Of course," Jefferson says. He takes a sip of his own drink — whiskey rocks, by the look of it — and smacks his lips. "Enjoy your night, friend."

"And you," Washington says. The forced geniality in his voice wasn't there at the start of the conversation. The Republicans excuse themselves, and Washington and Lafayette turn to each other, both silently seething.

"If you'll excuse us," Washington says to Alex and Adrienne. "We'll just be a minute."

Fair enough, Alex thinks, and downs the rest of his drink. He could use a third. He declines two trays of canapés on his way back across to the room to the open bar, and he's awaiting his own Maker's straight when he turns and finds himself face to face with Eliza Schuyler.

"Miss Schuyler," he says, summoning the straightest face he can as he shifts his weight, clenching around the plug inside him, which has just made its presence known again in an uncomfortably arousing way. "Is there a reason we keep meeting over bars?"

Eliza accepts the glass the bartender gives her, slides a ten-dollar tip across the white linen absentmindedly. "I should hope not," she says sensibly. "Nothing good ever comes of a story that starts 'So I met this guy at a bar...'"

Alex laughs. "Are you kidding?" he says. "All the best stories start that way! 'So we were in a bar,' 'I met a friend at a bar,' 'A rabbi and a prostitute walk into a bar...'"

"I suppose if we're bringing Catskills stand-up comedians into the mix, then yes, consider my previous statement redacted." She speaks with an assurance as though her lines have been learned, though the smile teasing around her lips would suggest otherwise. Alex raises both eyebrows, finding himself suddenly enjoying this encounter very much. "I didn't know you'd be here tonight."

"I'm technically on work time," he says. The bartender slides his glass over; it occurs that he carries no cash with which to tip, so he thanks him with an effusive, apologetic smile instead.

"You're being paid overtime, I hope," she smiles as they clink their glasses, and Alex shrugs.

"In a manner of speaking," he says, cagily but truthfully. Takes a sip.

Eliza glances over at him with an equally cagey smile. Her navy blue dress, he notices, has a very low neckline. He notices these things.

He takes a cursory glance around the room. Washington is still nowhere to be found.

"That's good," she says.

"What are you drinking?" He can't tell from the color. He remembers an affinity for sweet drinks.

She stirs the cocktail straw in her glass. "I asked for a sidecar. I don't think it's what I got. It seems to be half brandy and half maraschino cherries."

"Too bad," Alex says, inclining his head. "In fairness, you asked for a pretty time-consuming cocktail at an open bar. I've worked a few of these. Anyone who asks for something with more than one mixer is really just asking for trouble." He sips his own.

Eliza tilts her chin up, a little imperious, lips curling into a knowing smile. "I didn't know you had a bartending background. Now I understand your affinity for these encounters."

"We all do what it takes to survive," Alex shrugs. "You don't know the least of it."

He's enjoying the flirtation immensely, leans against a nearby table and rests on his elbow, when Washington flashes into view. Eliza's studying her disappointing cocktail, shoulders high and tense in a way that makes her collarbone particularly prominent in the deep neckline of the dress, and as Washington catches his eye, Alex is struck by that same desire from earlier, to do something stupid. He grins and leans in to whisper in Eliza's ear.

"My boss is trying to get my attention," he murmurs, catching her elbow in one of his hands and half-fighting his arousal as the weight of the plug shifts inside him again. "Maybe we'll see each other later."

Eliza turns her head pointedly, offering him the corner of a jaw and cheekbone. "Maybe I'll look forward to it," she says, and Alex grins as he drops his hand from her arm and takes his leave.

Washington is giving him an inscrutable look as Alex rejoins him near the exit. Alex licks his lips in response to the thick fingers that curl into the sleeve of his suit, bites down on his lower lip as he glances up through his lashes and clenches around the plug inside him.

"You seem very friendly with SecDef Schuyler's daughter," Washington observes, his voice dry but not uninterested. "Or else that was a hell of a performance."

Alex shrugs. "We've met before. She's a friend of a friend."

"Who's the friend?" Washington asks.

"No one you'd know." Alex's voice is playful, but he senses he's pressing his luck, and amends the statement. "Henry Laurens' son."

It's Washington's turn to shrug now. "Wouldn't know him."

He realizes that Washington is guiding him through the crowd toward the exit, not that he objects. He's suddenly very aware, again, of the plug inside of him. They pause near the entrance to the ballroom as Washington shakes another hand, saying his goodbyes. He can't stop watching Washington's hands, the way they nearly wrap around others' wrists, thick fingers and broad palms still hypnotic even now. Alex suddenly sucks in a breath, clenches again, overcome by his own desire. He needs those fingers inside of him, taking him apart, making him fall to pieces...

He tugs, slightly, on Washington's sleeve. "Sir. Your phone call — we should go."

"Right. Yes." Washington smiles broadly, knowingly. "I'm sorry, Molly, I've got an important call to take — we'll catch up later, of course —" He's still smiling, but more knowingly, as they hurry out to the curb and into the waiting car.

"That was awfully bold of you," Washington murmurs into Alex's ear as the car pulls into traffic. The partition is up. Alex doesn't bother to ask where they're headed.

Alex looks over at him, licking his lips. His entire body is itching. His skin feels two sizes too small for his body. Washington slowly extends a hand, cupping his cheek, sliding the pad of his thumb over Alex's cheekbone. His hair is probably a mess, where it hangs loose around his face. He doesn't bother to worry about it.

The hand on his cheek moves down to his lips, thumbing over the bottom, pressing down. Obediently, Alex parts them, letting Washington slip his thumb into his mouth, swirling his tongue around it and sucking, letting the warmth bloom in his cheeks and the pit of his stomach as he makes searing eye contact. Washington watches with dark eyes as Alex keeps it up, pulls away and lays a single kiss on the broad palm. He wants — he loves these hands, would be happy to spend all night doing this if it were Washington's wish —

"Look at you," Washington breathes, barely more than an exhale with a few consonants attached. He offers his index and middle fingers, and Alex teases them both with his tongue, shifting and grinding down against the plug inside him before letting Washington push both fingers into his mouth. He's beginning to stiffen quite rapidly in his suit. The ride back to wherever they're going is going to be agony. "Look at you, princess, sucking my fingers like you can't get enough —"

"Mmm." I can't, he wants to say, but it's not as if he can speak with Washington's fingers occupying his lips and tongue. Hungry, hypnotized, Washington pushes them deeper into his mouth, forcing his jaw open even wider, and he gags a little as they brush the back of his throat, but swallows the cough and breathes through his nose until Washington takes pity on him, pulls his hand away.

Washington huffs, a silent sigh of amusement as Alex wipes a trace of spit away from the corner of his mouth. Alex swallows the saliva flooding his mouth and takes a heaving breath. Glances out the window. This is unfamiliar territory, somewhere in Cleveland Park, he thinks, by the street signs. "Are you taking me home?"

"Do you want to go home?"


Washington laughs. "We're going to my apartment. I have a place... I find it necessary to keep a private domicile. In case."

"Right." Alex agrees just for the want of something to say. Washington's hand is back on his leg as the driver slows to a stop outside a beautiful building. "That makes sense."

"You don't have to talk, princess," Washington murmurs low in his ear, and Alex gulps.

"Yes, sir."

The apartment is more or less exactly what he expects. Not small, though not extravagantly furnished, with clean white walls and warm lighting. Most of it is a blur, he thinks, as Washington leads him toward the bedroom, one hand insistent at the small of his back.

They undress efficiently. He supposes he'd underestimated the toll the night had taken on Washington's desire, because he can't seem to get his suit off quickly enough, his famous restraint nowhere to be seen. He manages to keep both eyes on Alex, though, swallowing hard as he takes off his jacket and stopping him as he moves to unbutton the waistcoat.

"Look at you, princess," he murmurs, down to his trousers and undershirt, reaching out to grab Alex by the tie and pulling him into a bruising kiss. Alex moans into it, responsive, all of him on edge. "So beautiful, all dressed up."

Alex opens his mouth as Washington bites down on his lower lip, and is rewarded with a tongue pressing into his mouth as those large hands grip him tight around the waist, unbuttoning the vest without bothering to look at their work. There's no trace of whiskey on his breath. Washington chased that first drink with seltzer all night, he'd noticed.

Washington's movements are quick and hungry, not bothering to ask for a show this time. Alex lets him, doesn't try to help — his hands are swatted away when he reaches down to help with the zipper on his pants. He lets Washington press him down onto the bed, get him on all fours, arches his back and thrusts his ass higher into the air, the end of the plug proudly on display as the cool air of the room hits the head of his desperate cock. He closes his eyes for a moment, exhales as Washington slides the plug out of him, and then he's sliding into Alex, lubed and ready, thicker and longer than the plug and hitting places that have gone untouched all evening.

"Jesus," Alex chokes out, clutching onto the bedsheet with both fists.

Washington is breathing hard as he bottoms out inside him, and takes a handful of Alex's loose hair for leverage. "That's right, princess," he murmurs, tugging his head back a little further, and Alex's cock jumps at the name, because, fuck, that's definitely a thing now. And then Washington starts to move, and all he can do is brace himself and let it go.

There are fingers in his mouth. One hand is still tangled in his hair and the other has slid two fingers into the side of his mouth, pulling it open, gagging him efficiently, and Alex moans a mess of open syllables as Washington thrusts into him harder. He can't concentrate on anything but the insistent fullness inside him, the size and drag and how Washington's cock seems to be angled to just brush against his prostate with every rolling thrust, and his own cock, desperately neglected, standing proud against his stomach as Washington fucks into him. He starts to lower himself down with each new thrust, hoping to at least be able to rub himself off against the bedsheets, but then Washington stops, hauls him back up, and keeps fucking him.

It's too much and not enough at the same time. Washington's pace is beginning to resemble pounding, and he's moaning incoherently, begging but not, against the fingers in his mouth. And then they're gone, and his words return to him, just in time for that same hand — slick with his own saliva, to wrap around his cock.

Three strokes, quick and dirty with his own spit and fluid, and he's coming nearly as soon as Washington touches him. It's all it takes, after the two nights of edging himself and the insistent fullness of the plug all night. He's almost shocked it didn't happen sooner, he thinks, as his limp body collapses to the sheets, Washington still fucking him through it. Washington isn't far behind, though, and after a few deep thrusts, the hand in his hair tightens a little bit more, and he comes with a grunt and a stutter of his hips.

Mind and body alike spent, he collapses, boneless and fucked-out against the bed. He feels, rather than watches, Washington discard the condom and then curl back up around him, pulling Alex onto his side and into the crevice of his body, covering them both with the blanket. He hums happily as it happens. He hasn't been the little spoon in God knows how long.

"You should come to Mount Vernon next month," Washington says lazily into his ear, his fingers tracing patterns on Alex's arm.

Alex closes his eyes again, settling into the bed. "'Kay."

"Yeah?" Washington squeezes his arm. "You'd like that?"

"Anything," Alex mumbles sleepily. He's certain he would say yes to anything Washington offered right now.

There's a long silence, and he's almost asleep when he hears Washington murmur, "You did well tonight." He opens his mouth to answer, but then hears, "Don't let Madison and Jefferson get ahold of you."

He files this away in the corner of his mind. He's too gone to question it.

Chapter Text

“So,” Alex says as he slides onto a barstool beside Hercules, undoing the single button he’s done up on his jacket and rapping his knuckles sharply on the dark, heavy wood of the bar top. “What are we drinking to?”

Hercules turns back to him as the girl he’s chatting up walks away. “Gonna buy a guy a drink first?”

“Maybe. Gonna make it worth my while?” Alex smirks as he says it, but he gives nothing away. He’s had a hell of a day. Washington’s in Richmond until Wednesday, and Lafayette’s been running them ragged while he’s out. He doesn’t get paid enough for this. Washington keeps saying he’s going to start bringing him when he’s out of town, but it hasn’t materialized yet. Doesn’t matter. He’s not pressing his luck.

Hercules laughs a little and pounds the rest of his beer. “What’re you drinking?”

“Whatever you’re having,” Alex says. He could use a break from the hard liquor-and-sandwiches diet he’s been on since starting this job.

Hercules catches the bartender’s eye. “Two more of the milk stouts,” he says, “and… two shots of White Horse.”

Alex sighs. One shot won’t hurt. He throws his card down. He’s probably going to buy a couple more rounds tonight. The bartender slides the shots across the bar and Alex glances around. It’s the kind of quiet, divey place that makes him feel comfortable. Invisible in a good way. Everyone else here is their age and evidently of their socioeconomic strata. If anything, they’re the stand-outs, Alex in his tailored suit and Hercules in his flashy leather jacket and tight jeans.

Hercules takes one shot, he takes the other. As they throw them back, Alex grimaces. The alcohol burns its way down his throat rougher than the stuff he’s gotten used to drinking lately. Hercules laughs a little as he coughs a little. “Need some help there, princess?” he teases.

“Don’t call me that,” Alex snaps, a little too quickly, and then, off his look of confusion, relents. “Sorry. Stupid office nickname. It doesn’t matter.”

“Whatever. It’s all good.” Hercules laughs a little. He laughs easy, face breaking open wide into a beaming smile. Always has. It hits Alex how little they’ve seen each other lately, and he sighs.

“Honestly, man, where’ve you been these days?” He takes a sip of his beer to chase the burning in his throat.

Hercules shrugs. “Honestly, this filly I’ve been seeing — sorry, that’s a joke between us — she’s taking up most of my time. I keep meaning to get back to the apartment, but…” He sips his own beer. “You seeing anyone? Didn’t John say something about you and that Schuyler sister?”

He shakes his head. “We’ve met twice. It’s not really… don’t worry about it.”

Hercules gives him a knowing grin, and Alex returns it sheepishly. Good, he thinks, better to let him think there is something going on with Eliza Schuyler. Anything to deflect from the truth he already half-knows. “Well,” says Hercules, “hope that works out for you.”

“Yeah.” He sighs. “So what was it that you needed to tell me?”

Hercules pauses, bides his time. Takes a couple peanuts from the dish in front of them and pops them, one by one, into his mouth. Alex wrinkles his nose. The smell of the peanuts hits him like an anvil, a sense memory from… before. He doesn’t enjoy it. Hercules doesn’t seem to notice, just swallows and says, “You gonna tell Washington I told you?”

“What does it matter? I thought you were in his pocket,” Alex says impatiently. “We’re like the same person. What I know, he knows.”

“Okay,” says Hercules. “You know William Duer?”

“The name sounds familiar,” Alex says absently. Duer, Duer. It sounds much too familiar, actually. “New York guy?”

“Media guy. He works for CNBC,” says Hercules, and Alex nods, the memory dawning.

“Right. That asshole.” That asshole who never called me back, his mind helpfully supplies, but he holds the second part back. “Yeah, I know him. Why?”

Hercules glances cagily up and down the bar, and Alex follows his gaze, but it lands on nobody he’d know. Then again, Hercules knows people he doesn’t, these days. Pretty auspicious ending for a guy he met as an FIT student in New York. “So he just got engaged to Senator Livingston’s daughter Catherine—”

“Kitty. Yeah, I know Kitty,” Alex laughs, more to himself than anyone. Fuck, he’s got to slow down. He imagines crashing that wedding, horrifying both bride and groom. The bride more so than the groom, he thinks; they were very young, he’d sent her some pretty embarrassing emails — “Sorry, go on.”

Hercules smirks. “You’re such a whore, Hamilton.”

“Reformed whore. Haven’t whored around in a while.” Alex waves a hand vacantly through the air. “That shit was getting me in trouble. What about Duer and Livingston?”

“So Duer’s engaged to Livingston’s daughter, and they’ve been in the shop a lot lately for wedding shit. Tuxes, so on.” Hercules sips his beer, adjusts his beanie and idly scratches an itch on his forehead. “I’ve been keeping my ears open for anything on Theodosia Prevost, since you were so interested in her private shit the other week, and, uh. If you trust an unreliable rumor…” He trails off, waiting expectantly, and Alex groans.

“I’m not gonna buy you another shot to hear the rest of the story, dude,” he mutters. “If it’s worth my time, I’ll more than make it up to you after I hear it.”

“You drive a hard bargain,” Hercules says. “So the reliable rumor is that she’s getting divorced. They’re keeping it quiet and not fighting the prenup.” Bad move, Alex thinks, remembering what he knows about James Prevost; ex-lobbyist turned GOP fundraiser means there’s gold there to be dug. “The unreliable rumor is that it’s because she’s pregnant and the kid ain’t his.”

“Oh, shit.” Alex flags down the bartender. “Two shots of Jameson. You can throw that on my tab.” He turns back to Hercules, mind already abuzz. “How do you know? Are there medical records? Any kind of paper trail?”

“Who do you think I am, the motherfucking NSA?” Hercules laughs and takes the shot Alex pushes toward him, throws it back. “I’m just telling you what I hear. Duer seemed pretty sure. What do you need the paper trail for?”

Alex sits back on the heavy wooden stool, the shot untouched in front of him. He considers the question. "Nothing in particular," he finally says. "Just want to be sure before I start repeating rumors."

Hercules shrugs. "Dunno what to tell you, then," he says. "It's a tricky area."

"So whose kid is it?" Alex asks. "Just out of curiosity, I mean."

"That's the thing, nobody knows," Hercules says, bemused. "Everyone knows she's having the affair, but nobody knows who the lucky guy is. He's some slippery motherfucker who takes pains to cover his bases. Could be Madison himself. Could be Washington, for all I know."

"Yeah, I really doubt that," Alex snorts reflexively, and Hercules laughs.

"Right. I'm joking." He glances sideways at Alex's other shot. "Actually... you gonna take that?"

"Depends," Alex says, running a finger down the side of the glass. "What're you gonna say if I don't?"

Hercules gives him another expectant look, and Alex sighs, using the one finger to push it away from himself, over to Hercules. He waits patiently. Hercules throws it back, slams it down, and looks at him, conspiratorial. Like partners in crime.

"So here's the thing," he finally says. "This is something I'd normally tell Washington first, but since it concerns you, I thought... well." He shrugs, and Alex frowns, suddenly struck with a hideous burst of nervous energy.

"I don't know what you heard —" he starts, but Hercules shakes his head.

"It's actually not that. I mean, everybody kind of hears about Washington, but it's more of a joke about Lafayette than anything else. He doesn't really fuck around. Responsible guy. I don't think he's..." Hercules trails off, punctuating the end of the non-statement with a shrug. Alex, now practically vibrating with anxiety, drums his fingers against his leg on beat with his pulse.

"Fuck, man, just get to the point," he says impatiently, and Hercules sighs.

"What I heard is that there's a little rumor going around that you're... that Washington is your dad," he says quietly.

Alex's eyes widen. That... is not what he was expecting. "Hold up," he says, furrowing his brow as he tries to parse it. "Like — my dad dad? I'm his illegitimate son? Is that what you're saying?"

"That's what other people are saying," Hercules stresses, and Alex can't stop the shout of laughter that escapes from his gut. He claps a hand over his mouth as others in the bar turn to look over at them, but his shoulders shake silently in mirth as he tries to keep it together.

"Who?" he manages to force out between restrained giggles. "Who the fuck is saying that?"

Hercules is laughing now too, his look now less of concern and more of amusement. "Couple guys who work for Senate Republicans," he says. "One of Jefferson's staffers or something. Apparently Jefferson's convinced you're Washington's bastard kid and that's why he hired you out of nowhere and why he's been keeping you so close. He thinks that's why you didn't get fired after that shit with the briefing..."

"Oh, my God," Alex laughs. He can't believe this. On the one level, he knows it's not good, per se — personally, he'd prefer to keep any kind of rumors about himself out of the public sphere, especially so early in his political career — but this? Far less damning than the truth. So, so much less damning than the truth. "That explains why Jefferson was so weird to me at that gala on Friday," he muses quietly. "Asking me where Washington 'unearthed me from...'"

Hercules shrugs. "The one thing they've got — which is what gave me pause, not gonna lie — is that they're saying Washington was stationed in the West Indies for a while."

"Are you kidding?" Alex shakes his head. "You've seen pictures of my dad. That piece of shit looked exactly like me. You saying it's more plausible that George Washington is my father than the guy who had my exact face and hairline?"

Hercules shakes his head. "Nah. I'm not... I just thought you should know. That's gonna be their next whole thing, to discredit Washington. I'd say look forward to that rumor leaking in a few days, at this rate."

"Good to know," Alex muses. He finishes the rest of his beer, then wipes the corners of his mouth with one hand. "I should go. I'm fucking beat. It was good seeing you, man."

"Yeah. We gotta get together more often," Hercules echoes. Alex swings his new backpack over his shoulder — a compromise, as Washington had wanted to buy him a leather satchel stamped with his monogram — and slides off the high stool, flagging down the bartender to close out his tab.

He turns it over in his mind as he takes the green line back to U Street. Theodosia Prevost being pregnant -- that makes sense. That's something he can use, especially considering the bargain she struck with Burr. Especially if she doesn't pop out a kid in a few months, he thinks. Nothing like provoking outrage over the do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do GOP hypocrisy to strike a shitty piece of legislation dead in the media. He can work with this.

As for the question of Washington and his own parentage — that part's just funny. But he also can't shake the feeling that it's good coverage as well. The fewer people who might guess the truth, the better. He's not in a place to complain.

Washington's back on Wednesday, and the day is long as ever. He barely glances at Alex during the morning meeting, and Alex is fine with that; tries not to meet his eyes too expectantly. Instead, he throws himself into the work he's assigned. It's nearly three when he looks up to find Lafayette perched on the edge of his desk.

"So," he says casually. "What is this I hear about the matter of your parentage?"

Alex leans back in his chair, amused but also wary. He wishes Lafayette would just give him a straight answer as to what he knows. "I didn't know you trusted rumors coming out of Jefferson's office. What about the one that you had plastic surgery to look like him?"

"There is no such rumor, and I didn't hear it from Jefferson," Lafayette says. Off Alex's long, irritated look, he sighs. "I heard it in the Senate dining room at lunch. Apparently you are quite the subject of discussion there."

"I'm a popular guy." Alex rolls his eyes and returns his attention to the pile of paperwork in front of him, but Lafayette doesn't let it go. He reaches out and taps his fingers on the paper in front of Alex, clearly demanding his attention. Finally, after holding out as long as he can, Alex heaves another great sigh and looks back up. "What do you want?"

Lafayette shrugs. "I am tremendously bored, and find myself stricken by, ah, professional curiosity. I'm certain you understand."

"It's not a very professional topic," Alex says with a shrug. His irritation is slowly threatening to topple the wall of indifferent resistance he's built, and he sighs as Lafayette gives him a smirk. "What do you know?"

"I know that Washington would not allow me to return your phone to you myself when you left it behind at the Four Seasons," Lafayette says. "And that he had me call in a favor to pull certain, ah, classified information before he met you to return it. And that he spoke of you nearly incessantly during that time." Lafayette takes a pen from the cup on Alex's desk and twirls it between his fingers, a nearly delicate gesture. "Why is that, I wonder?"

"I wonder, too," Alex responds flatly.

Lafayette shrugs again as he sets aside the pen. "I suppose we may never know," he says. "It must remain a mystery."

"Sure," Alex mutters absentmindedly as he returns to his pile of paperwork. Lafayette hops off the desk, then pauses before walking away.

It's nearly seven by the time he's finished. He has found he prefers to leave nothing unfinished for the following day, much prefers a clean slate each morning. His phone flashes with a new message from Washington: Have you eaten?

Alex yawns, and then, with a start, feels a pang of hunger shoot through him. Somehow he'd managed to work through the entire day, forgetting lunch entirely. Nope, he shoots back. I'm starving.

Come meet me in the Capitol, comes Washington's response. Working late tonight.

He knocks on the door of Washington's hideaway ten minutes later, having successfully slid through security after a brief, worrisome snafu in scanning his laminate. Washington opens the door and ushers him in, down to his shirtsleeves, looking exhausted. He allows Alex to take off his jacket and shoes, collapse on the couch lengthwise, closing his eyes and exhaling heavily. This couch is even more comfortable than the one in Washington's office.

"It's nice, isn't it?" Washington comments. "I've slept there, too. Shower in the gym, sleep in here. Sometimes I wonder why I bother keeping an apartment in the district."

Alex cocks a brow as he looks up. "Why do you?" he asks. "I was wondering that, actually. It's not as if you live so far away."

Washington sighs. He opens a large paper sack on his desk, removes a foil container and a fork. "Macaroni and cheese from the Senate dining room," he comments. "A particular favorite of Jefferson's, but don't let that deter you." He hands it and a fork to Alex, who sits up eagerly. He really didn't realize how hungry he was until now. As he digs in, Washington heaves another sigh and takes a seat on the couch beside him.

"I like to keep my life in the district separate from my life at home," he says carefully. "What about you? Don't you compartmentalize, in a sense?"

"In a sense," Alex says through a mouthful of pasta. He swallows and adds, "I dunno. I don't have the resources to be as private as you are."

"One can buy privacy," Washington remarks thoughtfully, "but not peace of mind." Alex watches from the corner of his eye as Washington adjusts himself on the couch: shirt cuffs, wristwatch, posture. The same routine he goes through every time he's about to be photographed or say something of meaning. "Why did you move to D.C., Alexander?"

Alex frowns. "You really want the whole story?"

"Please." Washington gestures openly, rearranging his stance on the couch, turning closer to Alex and looking him in the eye as he eats. "I assumed it couldn't have just been a question of work. You never talk about New York."

"There's not a lot to talk about," Alex says. He wipes his mouth with a napkin and shrugs. "D.C. was a place I chose. New York wasn't."

"That's an interesting way of putting it, son."

"Yeah, well." Alex falls silent, trying to formulate a narrative, make sense of the swirl of words that jumble senselessly when he talks about this. He takes a breath. He starts at the beginning. "I mean, my dad left when I was a baby. My mom moved us to New York when I was pretty young and then she up and died when I was ten, so that wasn't great. I grew up in foster care and it sucked. It wasn't... there was no stability, I never really knew where I was going to be the next year. My brother and I got split up in the system when our mom died and I haven't seen him in years."

"That's horrible," Washington remarks, but Alex shrugs.

"It's not that bad. I sometimes look him up on Facebook. He works at a Wal-Mart in Nyack, he's not a genius or anything." He sighs, chews the inside of his cheek. "You know, in the New York public school system, you have to apply to different high schools, right? It's like college, but worse, because you're thirteen. You have to take an aptitude test and everything. Or, well, you don't have to, but then you just end up going to whatever school you're zoned to, and that sucks. Most people's parents really do all the work and the applications for them, but the family I was living with at the time were kind of just in it for the stipend, so I did all the work myself. The applications and everything. I had to take the train from the Bronx to Brooklyn to take the test at like, six AM on a Saturday in January. But I got into Bronx Science, which is, like, one of the best high schools in the city."

"I know," Washington says. "I saw your transcripts. Your grades were excellent. It's why I wondered why you joined the Army instead of going to college."

"I told you, nobody gave me enough money," Alex shrugs, but Washington shakes his head.

"Boston College and SUNY Binghamton both offered you full rides," he says. "You went to Afghanistan instead."

Alex falls silent. He doesn't want to talk about this. He's not going to talk about this. "Why did you join the Army?" he asks instead. "You had every opportunity in the world. You went to Duke. And then you went to Kuwait."

Washington raises both eyebrows, a parody of interest. "I'm sure you understand the appeal of military service to a young man who sees nothing of value in his immediate future."

"I..." Alex doesn't have a follow-up. He takes another bite of macaroni and cheese. Even lukewarm, the sauce oozes appealingly out of each shell. Jefferson's taste isn't entirely terrible, he grudgingly admits to himself. He watches Washington watch him instead.

Somewhere in the hideaway, a clock is ticking. It sounds like a bomb. Like a countdown to something about to explode. Alex wrinkles his brow and Washington notices.

"I've never been able to tell where that ticking comes from," he grumbles. "I assume the previous tenant entombed one of his rivals under the floorboards."

"That's an optimistic assumption," Alex says, and Washington laughs. He reaches out and takes a forkful of macaroni from the container on Alex's lap.

"Jefferson," he muses as he swallows. "I'm sure you've heard, by now, the rumor he's spreading about... us. Your parentage."

"Mm," Alex agrees. "It's... a bit of a reach, isn't it? Sir?"

Washington's eyes sparkle as he laughs again. "I would say so," he agrees. "And I suppose there are more damning rumors that could be spread."

"That was exactly my reaction," Alex admits. "I guess it could be much worse. Nobody's really going to believe this, are they?"

Washington shakes his head. "Doubtful. It's too far-fetched to really catch on. Besides, I was never stationed in St. Croix. I spent a week staying at the Air Force base there, but I doubt your mother and I would have even had the opportunity to cross paths, let alone..." He trails off, and smiles wistfully. "It is amusing, though. The prevailing rumors have always been that I'm infertile, which is untrue, and that I'm gay, which is.... this would serve to contradict both of those."

Alex laughs. "Maybe I should start calling you Daddy," he says without thinking. Washington's eyes widen slightly, and then it sinks in, the weight of what he's said.


"I mean — I didn't mean it like that," he amends hastily, setting the mac and cheese aside and shaking his head, brushing his hands off on his pants. "I just, you know, if we wanted to lean into that rumor as a distraction, play that up, it seems like —" He's babbling now, and he senses that this is a losing game, and it comes as a mild relief — coupled with new, fresh horror and arousal — as Washington slides off the couch and to the floor, arranging himself on his knees in front of Alex.

"Oh my God," he says faintly, only half aware that he's still speaking.

Washington's dark eyes flick up to his. He places a hand on either of Alex's knees and parts them further, hands moving slowly but steadily up his thighs. His cock twitches as Washington's palm skims over it, and then he dips his head to mouth along the outline, steadily becoming more apparent inside Alex's left pant leg.

"Say it," he says, as he ghosts a hot breath over the trouser wool, and his eyes lock on Alex's, deadly serious.

Alex swallows. Fuck. His jaw is clenched too tightly, and he has to wrench it open. When he speaks, his voice is barely a croak. "I —"

"Say it," Washington repeats, and there's no mistaking it for anything but a command this time.

Alex's eyes slide shut. "Daddy," he whispers.

Washington slides down his zipper with one hand, the other softly stroking his cock through his pants. Alex lifts his hips to facilitate the removal of his pants entirely, but Washington only slides them and his boxers down as far as mid-thigh. He dips his head to breathe, hot and heavy, on his balls, soft breath that makes him squirm. "Again," he murmurs, and Alex wrenches his eyes open and forces the word out.

"Daddy," he murmurs, a little louder this time. Washington is taking his time, teasing with his tongue, nuzzling little kisses into his groin. "Daddy," he chokes out again, and Washington looks up at him, pupils blown. He's never looked hungrier. Alex has never felt more —

Vulnerable. Exposed. On display. A dozen adjectives readily flash through his mind, presenting themselves eagerly, but none seem to fit. He wants to squirm away, has never felt like he might overheat like this during any sex or scene he's ever experienced —

"Don't stop saying it," Washington says roughly, hoarsely. "If you stop, I will. Understood?"

Alex nods, eyes beginning to prick with tears again, and fuck, why does this keep happening? It's all physical, not emotional, his body betraying him in a way he can't explain or control, and off Washington's commanding look, he nods again. "Yes, Daddy," he says, a little more firmly, and with that, Washington dips his head and takes the head of his cock into his mouth, taking him down in one go.

Alex throws his head back against the couch cushions, staring up at the white ceiling of the hideaway, fingers digging into the cushions as he repeats the goddamned word. "Daddy, please, Daddy, oh my God — don't stop, please —"

This shouldn't feel right, his mind helpfully supplies, this shouldn't feel good, and yet should and shouldn't are abstract ideas he can't conceptualize as his cock hits the back of Washington's throat. Washington doesn't gag, doesn't even flinch, just bobs his head on Alex's cock, mouth hollowing out around him —

He pulls away, replaces his mouth with one big hand, pumping him roughly. "I told you not to stop saying it, princess," he rasps, before taking him back between his lips and swallowing him down to the root.

Alex is undone. He digs all five fingers into the arm of the couch as he pulls at his own hair with his other hand. "Please, Daddy," he hears himself pleading, "please, don't stop, Daddy — I need you to suck my cock, I love your mouth, please, Daddy, let me come, I don't care if it's with your hands or your mouth or if I have to do it myself, please, Daddy, just let me come for you." It's as if some other being, some particularly foulmouthed poltergeist, has taken control of his verbal capacity, normally his proudest attribute. He has no idea what's coming out of his own mouth, only that he can't tear his eyes away from Washington's mouth, which is stretched obscenely around his cock, lips reddening with his efforts as he takes Alex down, again and again.

He's balls-deep in the other man's mouth, but Washington has him completely in his thrall. "Daddy," he hears himself whisper again, a pitiful little whine that he'd never admit to or own, and Washington makes a hard sound in his throat, and that's it —

He finishes, unbearable bliss overtaking him with two quick thrusts of his hips, which Washington parries unblinkingly, throat open, eyes still locked on Alex's as he finally pulls away.

Alex can't really breathe, or form words, really, or think about anything other than the spent, filthy feeling creeping over him as Washington stands up, clearly hard in his pants. "I," he begins, but doesn't have a follow-up. He tucks himself back into his pants. "That was... do you want me to...?"

Washington blinks, shakes it off. "Not necessary," he says, voice still low and raspy, but Alex shakes his head roughly. Anything to move past that last moment. He pulls at Washington's shirt, pulls him down onto the couch. Washington lets him, lets him take him out of his pants, and Alex closes his eyes as he licks his palm wetly and starts stroking him off.

"Daddy," he whispers after a few moments, and Washington jerks, comes with a start.

That's another dry-cleaning bill on my head, Alex thinks, but doesn't say it. Washington cleans himself up hastily, tossing the wipes in the wastebasket, and finally pauses, looking up at Alex, his face cloudy and inscrutable.

"There are worse rumors," he says after a pause, and Alex laughs, despite himself. Despite — everything.

"Yeah," he mutters. "I'll see you tomorrow, if that's all."

Washington nods. "Take the rest of that macaroni with you," he says. Alex does. He doesn't argue. He tucks the paper sack into his backpack, and is halfway out the door when Washington stops him.

"Give me five minutes, and I'll drive you home," he says, but Alex pauses, shakes his head.

"I actually — I have to meet someone," he says regretfully. Washington looks at him warily.

"Right," he says after a beat. "Tomorrow, then."

"See you tomorrow," Alex echoes, and with his backpack swinging from one shoulder, he slides out the door and glances down at his phone. There's a message on his screen. He slides it open.

From: William Duer
200 Connecticut at 8:30?

Alex swallows and taps out his response.

Be there soon.

Chapter Text


William Duer’s posted up in a booth near the back of 200 Connecticut. It’s a sports bar near the Hill, attracts a more conservative crowd than any place Alex visits, but somehow he feels like this is good. It’s a good cover. He’s unlikely to run into anyone he knows in a place like this. William looks good, too, if kind of douchey, clean-shaven and sporting a pale blue bow tie, and he’s already got two beers in front of him, tall cans of Modelo, because that’s the kind of person William Duer has always been.

Alex pauses by the booth, uncertain of how to play this. “Hey,” he finally says, in a small, humble voice, flashing him a smile. “How…. how’s everything?”

William shrugs. “Same as it ever was,” he says, and Alex takes off his backpack and slides into the booth across from him.

There’s a brief moment, a pause, and then Alex opens his mouth to say — something, anything — but William cuts him off. “Look, I have somewhere to be in a while,” he says, “so as much as I’d love to sit and play catch up — which we really should do, you look great, by the way — we’re going to have to keep this short.”

Alex nods, cracks his can but doesn’t take a sip. The last few hours have got him feeling buzzed enough. “So. Theodosia Prevost. How do you know her?”

“I know her husband,” William says. He runs his finger around the rim of his own can, and Alex watches his hand move idly. Long fingers, thin and pale and delicate. The span of his hand is wide, but it has none of the strength, none of the thick power of Washington’s. He blinks, shakes it off. This isn’t the time. “James is a good guy. He doesn’t need to be going through this.”

“So what’s his whole… why are they getting divorced?” Alex asks. “I heard a rumor about a pregnancy. How’d you hear about that?”

William laughs. “So a couple years ago, James and I went on a bachelor party trip together. Costa Rica. Really nice place, you should go if you get the chance. Long story short, he gets in a zipline accident about halfway through the trip. Catastrophic injury to his boys. He can’t have children.”

“You… know that for sure?” Alex shakes off the cringing shudder that rolls through him in waves as he considers the specifics of the situation.

William nods. “I’ve had to listen to him bitch about it enough. Whoever knocked up Theodosia — and she won’t get rid of the pregnancy, says it contradicts her faith, though apparently her faith had no issue breaking the whole ‘thou shall not commit adultery’ rule — whoever got her pregnant had two totally-functioning balls. Ergo, wasn’t James.”

"Geesh," Alex says, for lack of anything better to say. "Well. That's good to know, I guess."

William leans back in the booth, draping both long arms over the back of the seat. "What makes you curious?"

"Professional curiosity," Alex shrugs.

"What professional business do you have with Theodosia Prevost?" William counters, and Alex heaves a sigh.

"Look," he says. "Keep this under your hat, but someone in my office cut a bargain with her and Madison's people, and we're looking for a way to undermine it without having to back out entirely." William looks at him expectantly, like he's waiting for more, but Alex folds his arms, takes a sip. He always forgets how much he likes Modelo. Makes him think of summer, rooftops, the Rockaways. He could use a fucking vacation.

After a few moments of expectant silence, meeting nothing but Alex's stone facade, William shrugs. "Fair enough," he says. "Anyway, for what it's worth, I saw her having dinner with some guy a couple months ago, and he kept touching her hands, looked really shameless about it. Remember that week when it got really cold? They were kind of tucked in a corner, but Kitty and I were right across from them, she swears it was her."

"You didn't see her?" Alex frowns.

"Nope. Saw the guy, though. It definitely wasn't James. Real good-looking black guy. Short, too. Tweed suit, big smile. Kept looking around the room like he thought someone was gonna jump out and catch him in the act."

The description hits Alex right between the teeth. It sounds too familiar, and on a hunch, he takes out his phone, pulls up Facebook. It couldn't be — but — it's worth a shot in the dark, he thinks —

"Do you think it could've been this guy?" he asks, sliding his phone across the table, and William's eyes widen in recognition as he nods.

"Holy shit. Yeah. That's him."

Alex takes his phone back and looks down at the screen.

So. Aaron Burr.

John hasn't been around these past few days, so Alex hasn't bothered to tiptoe around the apartment or soften the slam of the door when he comes in. But tonight, he steps through the door and almost jumps out of his skin, startled.

"We need to talk," John says flatly as Alex sets down his backpack, pulse racing.

He shrugs out of his jacket. "Talk about what?" he asks, forced casual. "I'm not behind on rent and the vacuuming will get done this weekend. I can pick up whatever you want from the grocery store tomorrow if you're actually gonna be here to eat it..."

John folds his arms. He doesn't soften as Alex continues his patter about the domestic duties of apartment-sharing. "I was thinking we should call a plumber, too, the bathroom sink has been backing up a lot lately—"

"Alex, what have you been doing to make money?"

Alex stops dead in his tracks. Frowns. Forces himself to stay cool. "I have a job, John," he says. "You know. A thing you go to and they pay you a living wage, so you can afford to eat and pay rent and buy things."

John's arms go a little more taut where they're folded across his grey Brown Lacrosse t-shirt. "I'm familiar with the concept," he says, and Alex can't stop staring at the words on his shirt, motherfucker didn't even play lacrosse. "I'm just... I'm curious as to how you've been affording all this new stuff, on top of rent, on top of groceries, on top of transportation..."

"You've never known me when I haven't been underemployed," Alex says.

John shakes his head. "I also know how you are. You refuse to spend more than ten dollars on anything and when you do, you have to call me twice for reassurance before you can go through with the sale. So I'm curious as to what's changed."

"Nothing. Maybe I'm getting better at budgeting," Alex says shortly. He pushes past John, heading toward his bedroom, but John steps in front of him, blocking his path.

"So the new suits — and they didn't come from the fucking consignment shop, Alex, I can tell the difference — and all the new clothes, and that new phone, and the backpack, and the shampoo and conditioner in the bathroom..." John trails off meaningfully. "You need to tell me if you're doing something illegal."

"What the fuck?!" Alex feels bile rise in his stomach, feels his fight-or-flight instinct begin to kick in and the only thing he's ever been able to do is fight, he has no flight in him whatsoever. "What the fuck are you insinuating, John?"

John remains impassive, speaks as if he's practiced reciting this speech. "Your spending habits have gotten really reckless. You're blowing a lot of money you shouldn't logically have, and you act like you're hiding something. You disappear for entire weekends and work late four times a week and never have a straight answer as to where you've been. Alex..." He pauses, and Alex sees him swallow before he spits out the last few words. "For the sake of my own career, I need to know if you're selling drugs."

How dare he. How dare he. Alex can't even form the words at first; can't see past the sea of red-hot anger flooding his vision. He's got venom ready to spit when he opens his mouth, but all that comes out is, "Fuck you, John."

"I need to know," John repeats, "for the sake of—" and that's all he gets out before Alex is shouting.

"For the sake of your own career? Okay, first of all, asshole—" and he jabs at John's chest for emphasis, prompting a surprised step backward "—I don't know what kind of ass-backward thinking brought you to that conclusion, but I can hazard a guess, John. 'The guy who grew up in the projects suddenly has a couple nice suits and a new phone! Must be selling drugs!' I guess they don't teach you empathy and critical thinking at your country club in Charleston—"

"This isn't about your background," John protests. "This is about the patterns I've been observing—"

"I'm sorry, do you also walk up to women in the grocery store and tell them they must not need food stamps 'cause they have a smartphone? Or is that kind of judgment something you reserve just for your best friends?!" Alex can see John starting to hedge and recoil, probably already having second thoughts, but joke's on that motherfucker because he's only getting started. "What the fuck do you know about being poor, John? What the fuck gives you the right to theorize about how I make my money? Is there a special 'personal economics of the working class' AP course they don't offer in public schools?"

"Alex, I'm sorry," John says, holding up his hands in supplication. "The phone — you used to do -- I just thought —"

"I took some Adderall in grad school, John, everybody does it," Alex spits. "Except when it's someone who looks like me, it's an 'amphetamine' and 'a drug possession violation.' And what the fuck do you mean by 'for the sake of your own career?' I'm sorry, does your civil rights legal internship have a problem with you, uh, fraternizing with undesirables? Let's say I were dealing drugs. That's the hypothetical 'were' there, John, just for clarity's sake. I'm sure your friends would love to trot me out in front of a sea of cameras and take credit for getting me acquitted by proving the jury was stacked with rich white men, but that's as far as it goes, huh? Can't be seen actually having a relationship with someone like that. We're just here to make you look more legit." He takes a heaving breath and spits the last sentence, the one that's been burning white-hot on the tip of his tongue since the start of the whole fight. "That's all I am, anyway. A fucking prop to you."

"Alex, we're the same —" John's voice is pleading, and he can hear tears threatening to fall. Good. John was always so fucking sensitive. John's never had the full fire-hydrant strength of Alex's vitriol turned on him. It's probably about time.

"I'm not selling drugs." Alex keeps his tone cold and professional. "If you're looking to buy, go ask your own dealer." He pushes past John and into his bedroom, slamming the door behind him.

Alex breathes heavily, heart still hammering away in his chest, his own asshole-behavior regret instinct kicking in instantaneously. He wants to turn around and apologize, but John's voice is already coming through the door, stony and ice-cold.

"If you're not going to tell me where the money's coming from, then I'm gonna have to request that you move out," John says, the words coming out hard and rehearsed again. "My name's on the lease. I have full legal authority to ask that you vacate the apartment by the end of the month."

He doesn't respond. He rips off his jacket, hangs it up with more force than it requires, hurls his shirt across the room and kicks off his pants and stands there, sweating with anger and shaking with adrenaline, in his t-shirt and boxers.

"Fine," he says in the direction of the door, and then repeats it again, more loudly, his voice firmer. "Fine."

John says nothing. Alex doesn't hear footsteps. He can sense John still standing out there, staring at his bedroom door, trying to get him to apologize. He doesn't open the door anyway.


"So," Washington says, his voice warm and languid and fucked. It's Friday night and they're sprawled across the bedsheets in his Cleveland Park apartment. Alex relaxes further, laying his head on one of the plush pillows as he lets Washington trace patterns on his bare back. "What are you doing for the break next week?"

Alex frowns. "Is it the spring recess already?"

"Mm. I suppose we've all lost track of time." Washington chuckles softly as he trails his hand up Alex's back lightly, raising goosebumps as he cards it into the hair that brushes his shoulders. "You don't have plans, do you?"

Alex lifts and lowers a shoulder, pressing his cheek to the pillow to look back up at Washington, who is seated against the headboard. "Not really. I mean... apartment hunting, I guess —"

"Really?" Washington frowns. "What happened? I was under the impression that your roommate—"

"We got into a fight," Alex admits. "A blowout. Kind of a friendship-ender, if my past friendships have set forth any sort of pattern."

"May I ask why?"

"He accused me of being a drug dealer because I wouldn't tell him where I was getting all this stuff." Alex says it quickly, flatly, trying not to make it out as an accusation, even though, he thinks, in a way it is. If Washington hadn't — if he didn't insist on spoiling him like this, throwing down his personal credit card as soon as Alex looked twice at anything in a store window, buying him a new phone as soon as the old one froze up once in a meeting — but then again, if Washington weren't Washington, he wouldn't be here at all, in this beautiful apartment, one beautiful hand stroking his hair and giving little kitten scratches at his scalp. It's the one thing, he thinks, keeping him halfway even-keeled, mentally speaking.

Washington sighs, long and low, and when he looks down at Alex again it's with a heaviness in his eyes. "I'll find you an apartment," he says, and Alex opens his mouth to protest but he shakes his head. "No. This is my fault. Clearly, the endgame plan here is for you to make up with your friend, but... you should have your own apartment anyway."

Alex bites his lip. "In my name."

"Of course." Washington doesn't even blink. "We'll work it out. In the meantime, I was going to ask you..." He shifts in position, lays down on his side to rub Alex's back more firmly. Alex lets out a little whine as he hits a knot, arching his back into it. He bites down on his lip.

"What were you going to — oof, that's really nice, stay right there — ask?" He waffles at the end, not sure whether to tack on a 'sir' or a 'daddy.' Since apparently the latter is a thing they're doing now. He's still not sure why it works so well for him. He doesn't want to fuck his real dad, clearly, but it seems as though the father-shaped hole in his own life makes the name so much more appealing, the more he thinks about it. He thinks he could probably be really, really into this.

He heaves a sigh and flips onto his back, looking up at Washington, who's hovering just above him, propped up on one elbow. Washington smiles a little, softening, and runs his hand down his chest, raking fingertips through the sparse hair, before resting his palm, warm and broad, on his belly. It still makes Alex cringe a little, want to squirm away — he's confident, but there are limits; there's no mistaking the slight but soft swell of his stomach for abs — but then Washington leans in, brushes his lips against Alex's, the slightest suggestion of a kiss. His dick stirs. He hates when Washington does this to him, starts teasing before they're both ready to go again. He exhales into it anyway.

Washington pulls away, a smile in his eyes. "Martha and I booked a trip to the Maldives," he says casually. "If you have any interest in coming along..."

Alex furrows his brow as he considers it. "Next week?"

"Mm." Washington kisses him again, lips drifting down to his jaw and sucking lightly on the pulse point just below his ear. Alex's eyes slide shut as Washington squeezes him a little tighter. "Private resort. Five stars. I'm sure you'd find it very comfortable, my boy."

He huffs a laugh as Washington kisses his throat, tongue hot against his skin. Fuck, he's already getting hard again. He's pretty sure this man is trying to kill him. "That's 'princess' to you, thanks," he says, and Washington looks up at him, eyes shining.

"Thanks who?" he says quietly, and Alex bites his lip.

"Thanks, Daddy," he mutters, and Washington's eyes get a little darker. Fuck. Yeah, this is definitely a thing for them now. They're doing this. He can't really feel guilty, though, when it makes Washington's breath hitch, makes his voice go just a little more raw and hoarse. He thinks he's found Washington's secret weakness. He can't feel anything but glee about that.

Alex flips onto his side, curls up against Washington, grinding back a little as he molds himself into the S-curve of his position. Washington kisses the shell of his ear. "We'll leave Sunday. Martha can't wait to meet you."

Chapter Text

Mount Vernon is everything and nothing like he expected.

It’s Saturday afternoon when Washington pulls into the grand driveway. Alex had only half-packed while Washington’s car idled outside his apartment that morning, throwing things into a bag while glancing worriedly over his shoulder, terrified that John would come bursting in any minute.

But John is nowhere to be found, his bedroom door shut and locked, and Alex feels the knife of spite twist bitterly in his gut as he scrawls a note on a post-it and slams it on said door: Out selling drugs. Be back next week.

He throws a few things into his backpack and rejoins Washington in the car, sunglasses low over his eyes. "Let's roll," he says, and they do.

The winding drive in front of Mount Vernon is trimmed with flowers, a few Alex remembers from his stint in the floral section of the corner bodega in high school: primrose, plumeria, flowering ivy. The front lawn is brilliantly green, and the trees that line it are bursting with pink and white blossoms, the kind that are beautiful to look at but immediately send his allergies haywire. Washington laughs a little as Alex sniffs, tentatively, feeling the edges of a pollen headache already starting to creep up on him.

"Don't worry," he says. "It only lasts a couple weeks, and then all of this is as green as you can imagine."

"Do you know much about the plants?" Alex asks, and Washington nods as he parks.

"I'll have to give you a tour of the greenhouses," he says. "Not immediately, of course, but there will be time this afternoon, certainly." He takes Alex's backpack out of the trunk and hands it to him. "We should have time for a drink before Martha comes back from her tennis game."

Washington lets them both in, and Alex senses that a couple months ago, the grandeur of this place would have made him gasp. Now he contains his reaction to a deep, impressed nod, looking around appreciatively as he surveys the entryway: the intricately painted crown molding, the stunning furniture, all of it appropriately antique in appearance.

"It's been in this family for generations," Washington says, sounding bored. "I grew up here, as did my father, and my grandfather, and so on back to the 1700s." He shrugs. "I've made— certain renovations— though the rest of the family has limited what I can do by getting the damned place registered as a historical landmark... Nobody wants to live in a landmark."

"I don't know, sir," Alex remarks as he looks at the stained glass in a window, hands clasped behind his back. "I don't know that I would mind."

Washington laughs. "It's not a museum, princess, you don't have to stand at attention like that." He runs his hand down Alex's back, squeezing slightly at his waist. Alex relaxes into it, allows Washington to tug at the hem of his turquoise t-shirt. "Would you like a drink?"

"Yeah," Alex says. "What've you got?"

He follows Washington to the kitchen, which has been more evidently remodeled lately. It looks less like a museum piece and more like a spread in Martha Stewart Living, of which, he recalls, it was at one point the focus. "Oh, Martha keeps a fully-stocked bar now that the kids are all grown," Washington says. "We have become accustomed to entertaining... Now, she made a drink the other week, I'll try to follow her lead. I believe there was rosewater, lemonade, and... vodka?"

He looks expectantly to Alex, who shrugs and nods, agreeable. "That sounds amazing."

"Good. Let's be sure she kept the vodka chilled." Washington busies himself at the bar, hand-squeezing lemons, and Alex slides into a seat at the breakfast nook, glancing furtively around the kitchen for more hints as to the Washingtons' private lives. He finds few. The front of the stainless steel fridge is bare and shiny, even devoid of fingerprints, and the counters gleam bright white, free of clutter. Only the framed photo on one wall, near the entry to the dining room, betrays that a family ever lived here, that this is not merely a very well-appointed mock-up in a Home Depot or IKEA.

Alex turns back to find Washington watching him closely as he finishes the drinks. "Anything catching your eye?" Washington asks over the noise of the shaker, and Alex shrugs.

"It's very neat," Alex says, and Washington laughs.

"That's all Martha's doing. She can't stand clutter..." Somewhere in the house echoes the slam of a door, and Washington sets down the shaker with a knowing, raised brow. "Speak of the devil."

It occurs to Alex to rise from his seat as Martha Washington enters the kitchen. Dark skin aglow, set off by her bright white tennis dress, she has a regal affect all her own, he thinks as he stands. Martha kisses Washington on either cheek, then turns to Alex, looking him critically up and down.

"Aha," she says, in a delicate southern accent, the vowels stretching as if around the barrel of a hot curling iron. "You must be the famous Alexander."

Alex nods as he walks the couple steps closer to her. "Alexander Hamilton," he says, and then, "I, ah, work for your husband."

She laughs. "Believe me, the introduction is unnecessary. Appreciated, certainly, but..." She trails off, then looks to Washington, half her mouth curling into a knowing smile. "I've never known you to have much of a type, dear."

Washington coughs. "Would you like a drink?" he asks, pouring the contents of the shaker into two elegant martini glasses. "I was just fixing Alex and myself a couple of those rosewater lemonades you made—"

Martha takes one of the glasses from him, sips it delicately, leaving a coral-pink lipstick print on the edge. "A little less rosewater next time," she says decisively. "It tastes a bit like a rosebush."

Washington takes it back, sips opposite from the lipstick. "You're not wrong," he admits. "I'm almost afraid I'll choke on a thorn."

"I'll take a mint julep," Martha says. "Alex, are you any good behind a bar?"

"I— I went to bartending school," he shrugs, trying to recall what's in a mint julep. He just remembers loathing having to muddle mint leaves and sugar on a busy night when he could pour three beers in the same amount of time.

Martha sighs. "Given that George is— perhaps a little out of his element—"

"I drink straight liquor for a reason, Martha," Washington teases gently, and she laughs.

"In any case, I think we'd all prefer a lighter touch on the mixers," she says, nodding to Alex. "Go ahead, darling. Make yourself one as well."

Alex swallows and gets to work. He senses that this is some sort of test, much in the way of the golf game. He recalls that he and Washington have yet to return to a golf course. He doubts he's being brought along on vacation just to serve drinks. But it doesn't stop him from doing his best, shaking and stirring with gusto, a little Tom Cruise action for the lady of the house. Martha watches in mild interest, eyes flicking over Alex when he looks up from the bar to pour three mint juleps.

She takes a cautionary sip of the one he hands her, and Alex notes with pride the way her lips curl into an appreciative smile. "This is delightful," she says, and raises her glass. "Welcome to our home, Alexander."

Alex catches Washington's eye over his glass, and he flashes the smallest, most approving smile. He senses that he has passed another test. He has never felt quite so relieved.


The afternoon is sunny and warm, and Washington suggests they all take a walk around the grounds. Martha demurs, citing a desire to shower and recalibrate before their flight the following day, but it's with a knowing look that she bids them to enjoy themselves. "The weather won't stay like this for long," she says, waving a hand through the pleasantly dry air. "Take a long walk."

So they start off across the back lawn, the Potomac sparkling brightly in the background. Alex slides his sunglasses back down his forehead as Washington leads him down a garden path. "These tulips only bloom for a short period of time," he says. "You're very lucky to be here to see them, my boy, they'll likely be wilting before you get back."

"Do you tend to the gardens yourself?" Alex asks, realizing it's a stupid question but wondering nonetheless. Washington laughs a little, steering Alex down another path and into a thicker grove of trees. Their blossoms are already beginning to wilt, tiny green buds starting to sprout on their branches.

"I don't know as much about botany as I'd like," Washington says regretfully. "These trees— these are pear trees here, actually, our gardeners have really done their best to let them flourish. Best pears you'll ever eat."

"I'll have to come back when the fruit is ready to drop," Alex says, a little flirtatious, a little suggestion to his tone. Washington looks at him hungrily, picking up what he's putting down.

"You will," he says decisively. "You'd spend all summer here if I had my way, princess."

"Oh." Alex reaches up, plucks one white blossom from the tree and fingers the petals. He is tempted to tuck it behind his ear, play it like a Southern belle, but Washington takes the flower from his hand instead and slowly, agonizingly slowly, trails it across his lips.

He obediently parts them, eyes falling half shut, letting out the slightest breath as Washington tosses the flower to the ground. It feels almost silly, this performance of seduction in the privacy of the pear trees, but with no one around to catch them or laugh, he can't bring himself to care. Washington kisses him softly, hands cupping either side of his face and sliding into his hair, and as he pulls away, he looks down at Alex with a soft, unreadable look.

"Come," he orders, decisively again. "We'll look at the greenhouses."

They take another one of the long, winding paths toward the cluster of greenhouses at the edge of the property. Washington rests a hand possessively on Alex's hip as they walk, their bodies occasionally bumping together. The greenhouse is hot and humid, as expected. Alex swallows as Washington begins to play with the hem of his t-shirt again, one finger slipping down into the waist of his khaki shorts.

"Are you all right?" Washington says gently, trailing said finger along his hip. "You're very quiet, my boy."

Alex shakes his head. "Sorry," he says, voice slightly hoarse from lack of use. He clears his throat. "I'm just... sorry. I'm elsewhere."

"Don't apologize," Washington says. Another order. Alex swallows again. "Where are you?"

Alex takes a breath, turns to a flowering lemon tree. "You know how you told me to drop the whole Theodosia Prevost thing?" Washington says nothing, a long, pointed nothing, and Alex rushes on, stumbling over his words in an effort to get them all out before Washington makes up his mind how to feel about it. "I mean, I did, I really tried to drop it, but a friend, um, had overheard me asking about her before we talked about it, and he said some stuff to another friend, and. Well. Long story short. I know some sh—some things that I think could perhaps be of use. In this situation. Sir," he adds, trying his best to soften the rush of what he's just said.

Washington nods slowly as he thinks it over. "You know you've disobeyed a direct order," he says quietly. "What did you hear?"

"Aaron Burr got her pregnant," Alex says, spitting it out as quickly as he can get the words out, and he hears Washington suck in a breath as he turns back to the lemon tree.

There's silence in the greenhouse for a few moments, before Washington clears his throat. "You're certain of this," he says. Not a question.

"Yes," Alex says. Not really an answer, either. "Her husband is impotent and she's pregnant, and that's why they're getting divorced, because he knows it couldn't be his. And my friend swears he's seen her having dinner with Burr, and he said Burr looked like he was doing something he shouldn't be, and— well." He takes a breath, swallows. "We can use this, can't we?"

"Use it?" Washington shrugs. "For what?"

"To undermine the amendment," Alex says, frowning as he turns back to Washington. "Which none of us want to happen anyway."

Washington takes a breath, heaves a sigh. "No," he says, after a short, thoughtful pause. "I've already established. I won't be made out to be a hypocrite. The deal with Madison will stand."

"But—" Alex blinks rapidly, but Washington shakes his head.

"I'll have a talk with Burr about the standards of professionalism I expect within my office," he says. "Believe me, Alexander, this is something I would have wanted to know. Thank you for telling me."

"Even though it wasn't actually useful," Alex mutters. He starts to walk away, stirred by a sudden desire to examine more closely a vine of English grapes, but Washington catches him by the shoulder, and he stops in his tracks.

"I never said it wasn't useful," Washington says quietly. "You'll be handsomely rewarded for this, my boy."

Alex sucks in a breath. "Here?" he asks. The heat and humidity are getting to him, going to his head. The back of his neck is already damp with sweat.

With a smile, Washington shakes his head. "Let's go back," he says. And Alex follows.

When they return to the house, it's late afternoon, and Alex can hear snippets of a phone conversation coming from the kitchen. "Martha," Washington murmurs. "If you'd like to have dinner, I'm certain there's something in the fridge— she mentioned something about zucchini ribbons with salmon, or a seaweed salad with daikon, I think—"

Alex shrugs. "I'm actually not super hungry," he lies. "I was going to take a shower, actually."

Washington nods. "May I join you?" he asks, and Alex thinks about it for a half second before he nods.

The master bathroom is as large as Alex's own bedroom at home. Washington leads him inside, turns on the shower behind the wide glass panes and allows the water to heat up as he turns back to Alex, rucking his hands up the sides of his t-shirt. "You're all sweaty," he murmurs. "The humidity of the greenhouses is an acquired circumstance, I suppose..."

"Mm." Alex allows him to pull the shirt over his head, hands moving down to the button on his shorts. He starts to fumble with it himself, but Washington shakes his head, and he obediently takes them away, allowing himself to be undressed at Washington's leisure. When he's naked and barefoot on the cool marble floor, he pulls the hair tie out of his ponytail and shakes it out playfully.

Washington is still looking at him like he might devour him, and Alex takes this opportunity to start unbuttoning his own linen shirt. Washington lets him, stands there still as Alex slides it from his shoulders and then moves unbuckle his belt. It occurs to him that this, too, is new. Washington has never allowed him this privilege, has always chosen to remove his clothes at his own leisure. But with every inch of skin revealed to him, Alex feels a wave of newness, of novelty, wash over him.

He leans in and buries his face in Washington's chest as he takes a step closer. He smells like skin, like greenery, like the earth of the grounds they've just walked. It's intoxicating. Alex feels drunk, somehow. He seriously doubts it's the result of the single mint julep he made all those hours ago.

He allows himself to be guided toward the shower, lets Washington move him under the spray and tilts his head back gratefully as the hot water hits his scalp. The water pressure is phenomenal, hard and even, and Washington presses their bodies closer together, hot wet skin sliding against skin as the bathroom fills with steam.

He moans. It's an accident, but then he feels Washington's mouth at his shoulder, feels teeth gently scrape the skin there, and he moans again, on purpose.

"I'm so glad I found you," Washington murmurs in his ear, hands moving down to clasp his hips, and he's hard against Alex's ass as he reaches for a bottle of shampoo in the caddy. It smells like fruit, like the islands. It occurs to Alex that this is probably Martha's. That he'll smell like a woman, like a wife. He imagines that Washington might like that, as he tilts his head back further, closing his eyes, allowing Washington to massage the lather into his scalp.


Martha gives them a knowing look as they reenter the dining room. "There's a summer salad on the kitchen counter," she says, "and coconut yogurt with cardamom and figs in the fridge. I fermented a fresh batch on Friday." She's got her laptop open on the table and a glass of white wine in front of her, and she smiles slightly as Alex tries to avoid her eye. He feels so exposed like this, hair wet and wearing more new clothes Washington chose for him, and it's so strange that here, their secret is simply fact.

"What's in the salad?" Washington asks, and Martha rolls her eyes, good-natured, as Alex takes a seat opposite her at the table.

"Go look for yourself," she says. "I wasn't in the mood for fish."

"It's a bit redundant, considering our destination," Washington says casually from the kitchen. "Have you packed?"

Martha nods as her attention returns to her computer screen. "By the way, my assistant will be joining us after all," she says casually. "Things with her family fell through. The more, the merrier..."

"Indeed," Washington says with a knowing smile. He sets a plate of Martha's salad in front of Alex, and takes a seat beside him to dig into his own. "Well, good. I suppose we'll all manage to keep ourselves occupied."

Alex tries to keep his expression placid as he takes a bite of the salad. He recalls something about Martha's assistant, remembers Washington referencing a similar arrangement— he wouldn't have taken Martha for preferring women, but, he thinks, none of them exactly wear their preferences on their sleeves.

"In fact," Martha adds, "I believe she expressed a desire to join us for dinner tonight as well. We've got to leave so early tomorrow morning, it makes sense."

Washington shrugs, and Alex pours himself a glass of Martha's pinot gris. They eat in a comfortable silence, Alex lost in thought and Washington occasionally taking long pauses of his own, until they hear the crunch of tires on the driveway outside. Martha closes her laptop before leaving the dining room, and Alex looks to Washington.

"You'll like her assistant," Washington shrugs. "In fact, I believe the two of you have already met."

There's a click of heels and the patter of two familiar voices in the entry hall, and Alex's heart jumps in his stomach, caught off-guard and bewildered but suddenly very certain of what he's about to see. He gulps down the last few sips of wine in his glass and turns, unsurprised.

Martha smiles as her assistant sets down her suitcase. Alex inclines his head, sets aside his empty glass and stands.

"Hello, Eliza."

Chapter Text

“Hi, Alex.”

Eliza smiles at him, comfortable and self-assured as she sets down her bags on the dining room floor. Martha raises an eyebrow, glancing between the two of them.

“You two have met?” she asks. It’s not quite a question so much as a request for further elaboration, one which Alex isn’t certain he’s able to fulfill. He’s still not certain that this isn’t a grand prank at his expense. But it really is Elizabeth Schuyler; the dining room is steadily filling with the distinct, delicate lilac scent of her perfume and Alex’s sense memories rarely lie to him. He clears his throat, uncertain, as he shifts in place.

“We have met, yes,” he says after a short pause. “I… I didn’t…” He coughs. This is stranger than he expected, almost disorienting, and the awkwardness is palpable. After a moment, Washington clears his throat, and he and Martha disappear into another room, leaving the two of them together.


“So,” Alex says after a moment. “I thought you said you worked for your sister’s NGO.”

Eliza flushes about eight different shades of crimson at that, finally breaking their uncomfortable eye contact to stare at the ground. She stalks to the table, apparently right at home, and pours herself a glass of wine. “I did, at one point,” she says stiffly, before she takes a sip.

“When we met, though? How long have you been, uh, ‘working,’” and here he pulls air quotes around the offending word, “for Mrs. Washington?”

Eliza shakes her head. “It’s not… it’s difficult to explain,” she says quietly. “When I found out you worked for Washington — I just kind of freaked out, I didn’t want you to mention my name and hear any intimate details. I’m not a prostitute,” she adds, with more emphasis than he’s expecting.

Alex blinks, the harshness of the word hitting him, settling in. “I’m not either,” he says. “I don’t know why you’re being so defensive.”

“I have an actual job, is what I mean,” Eliza follows up. “I’m an executive assistant.”

“I wasn’t judging you,” Alex says. “Shit. I’m not really in a position to judge… how long have you known?”

“A month or so,” she says. “I wasn’t sure at first, but after I saw you two at the gala, I knew… and then Martha showed me a picture of George’s new… and it was you, and it all just clicked.”

Alex swallows. He doesn’t know what Martha would have told her. He’s not certain that he wants to know. He shakes his head, feeling his damp hair settle on his head, and swallows again.

“I’m going — I’ll be back in a minute,” he says, and Eliza sips her glass of wine again as he leaves.

Washington finds him in the bedroom, flat on his back on the bed. “I’m not sulking, by the way,” he announces preemptively as he sees Washington look him over curiously. “I have a headache.”

With a chuckle, Washington sits beside him on the bed. He doesn’t reach out to touch him, though Alex half wishes he would, uncertain of whether he’d move in to it or pull away. “Are you upset?” he asks cautiously, and Alex shakes his head.

“I’m just kind of… Don’t worry about it.” He tries to keep his voice straight and even, but knows it’s not working; Washington shifts where he’s sitting next to him and looks a little less than comfortable.

“We can talk about it. If you’d like. Does this have to do with Martha and her assistant?”

Alex closes his eyes, steadies himself. “You knew. When you saw us at the gala…”

“Have you slept with her?” It’s not an accusation. Washington’s tone is no different than before. It still hits Alex like a sledgehammer.

“No,” he says firmly, shaking his head. “No, I haven’t — I only met her a few weeks ago. It’s never been anything more than a flirtation, you know, an ego boost for both of us. And I had no idea — if I’d known —”

“You’re not… this isn’t something you have to apologize for,” Washington says, sounding frustrated. He shifts again, and Alex sighs, still a little less than comfortable. He wants to apologize anyway. It feels like he owes someone, somewhere, in some aspect of this situation, an apology. Washington takes a breath and exhales slowly, coolly, before he adds, “What Martha and Eliza have has emboldened me with you. They’re… they are very close, and it developed organically, long after Ms. Schuyler was hired at the company. Martha didn’t place a Craigslist ad for an escort, Alex, just as I didn’t lay my cards on the table with you until it was clear you wanted me as much as I did you. They’re happy. And I don’t want to be presumptuous, but we’re happy, aren’t we?”

There’s something to his tone, a genuine wonder bordering on pleading to the question, that makes Alex’s ledge of spite crumble. He closes his eyes and nods.

He feels Washington hesitate before he presses a single kiss to Alex’s brow. He keeps his eyes closed throughout it, but then sits up and opens them as Washington pulls away.

“Look,” he says, forcing himself to be honest, even as he struggles to get the words out. “I’m kind of… I’m an impulsive guy, and that gets me into a lot of trouble. I’m not angry or anything. I’m just trying really hard not to act like a dick.” He swallows, and adds, “If it seems like I’m pissed, I’m not, it just… I’m not really used to, like, this aspect. The feelings. I’m not awesome at, uh, relationships, and it’s kind of new, so… I’m sorry.”

He sees Washington’s lips start to twitch into a smile. He hopes, desperately, that he hasn’t completely misread the situation. Fucking idiot, he berates himself preemptively, this isn’t a relationship, you presumptuous fucking tool. This is a powerful man fucking his slutty personal assistant and buying him fancy shit to compensate. This isn’t anything—

Washington takes his hand. Strokes his thumb over the back of it. Alex watches, quiet, trying not to say something he’ll regret.

“Understood,” Washington says. Succinct. Practically sweet, in the moment. There’s a strange, malleable moment between the two of them, and then Washington lifts Alex’s hand to his mouth and kisses it chastely, right on the second and third knuckles. Such a mannerism feels almost unspeakably cheesy in the moment, and Alex can’t help it; he laughs.

Washington hesitates before he’s laughing with him.

“I’m going to pack,” Washington says as he stands. “If you want to talk about this more, that’s fine. You don’t have to. Just…” He hesitates again, and Alex can feel something else bubbling under the surface. “Don’t feel like you have to hide your feelings,” he finally finishes. “I’m an adult, Alexander. I’m not going to be frightened by them.”

Alex says nothing. He turns onto his side. Washington may not be frightened of his feelings, but Alex — he can't say the same for himself. Not yet.

The flight feels endless. Alex works through several hours of it, puts on his headphones and hunkers down with his laptop and gets more accomplished in first class than he ever has in the same amount of time in the office. The rest of the time, he sleeps, and wakes just in time to learn that they’re landing.

Night has fallen in the Maldives when they land. He’s still a little dazed and disoriented all the way through customs. There’s a private speedboat ride through a dark ocean and a quick check-in process at the hotel, but he’s jet-lagged and barely coherent through most of it. He’s coherent enough to gauge that they’ve got the nicest suite of the bunch, a private villa at the end of a long string of villas. Split-wing, two bedrooms on either end of the enormous house. He wants to explore, but more importantly, it’s night, and his body wants to stay asleep. So he collapses into the bed that Washington indicates and falls into a dreamless, fitful sleep.

He wakes up to the Indian Ocean.

“Ah,” Washington says, where he’s reclining on a couch near the window, coffee in hand. Alex blinks blearily as he takes it in through the breaking light: miles and miles of endless ocean through the floor-to-ceiling windows, the sliding glass door leading out to a deck, curtains thrown wide. Washington is in white linen, pants and shirt alike; if he’s feeling any jet lag, it’s not readily apparent. Alex glances at the book he’s got in his hand. A thick novel. He doesn’t recognize the title. “I was wondering when you’d be up. The ladies have already departed. I think they’re spending the day at the spa.”

Alex swallows, his throat cracked and dry. He feels hungover. “How long have I been asleep?”

“A few hours,” Washington shrugs. He sets the book and coffee aside and stands, stretching mightily. Alex watches him, drinking it all in: the view, the man, the ocean breeze stirring the curtains where the windows are half-open. He’s suddenly a little less tired.

“I’m going for a run on the beach,” Washington announces after a moment’s stretch. “You should…” He looks Alex up and down, a slight smirk on his face. “Be presentable when I come back,” he finishes, and Alex feels a shiver run down his spine.

“Okay,” he says quietly, and Washington walks out, leaving Alex to explore.

The villa itself might be the nicest place he’s ever set foot in, let alone been permitted to stay. He wanders from room to room, trying not to allow himself to feel shocked by the extravagance, but it’s nearly impossible not to; he’s thrown by the linens, the ocean view, the high bright ceilings and inescapable expanse of light — light everywhere, flooding his eyeline, reflecting bright blue-green off the ocean and the bright white walls of the villa itself. There’s a deck outside, with both a pool and a ladder straight into the ocean. He doesn’t understand why there’d be a need for both, but he appreciates it nonetheless.

He lets out a low whistle as he walks into the master bathroom. The shower is glassed-in, floor to ceiling, with the rest of the bathroom on one side of it and the vast horizon of the ocean on the other. The exhibitionist in him doesn’t hate it. He turns it on, hesitates, and then sheds his boxers and t-shirt.

He showers. He brushes his teeth. He uses the strange, expensive mouthwash he finds in the cabinet, that he’s pretty certain isn’t Washington’s. He goes through the motions, freshening up, making himself presentable for the promise in Washington’s voice. His hair damp, lower body wrapped in a towel, he opens the luggage Washington packed for him and pulls out a pair of swim trunks in a bright, sunny yellow, and he grins to himself.

Alex is laid out on the deck outside the villa, sunglasses on, laying on his stomach, when he hears a door slam. He’s pretty sure he’s never been this zen. He’s pretty certain his mind has never been this still, this quiet, as he bakes under the late afternoon sun, his own vacation reading — Stiglitz, The Price of Inequality, important but dense — dog-eared and forgotten next to him. Lifts up his glasses, glances at his forearm. Not bad. The fluorescent lighting and dawn-to-dusk workdays in D.C. haven’t been so good to his complexion. He’s already turning a healthy darker gold; a little more color wouldn’t hurt.

“Alexander!” Washington’s voice comes through the open door, and Alex raises his own voice to answer.

“Out here, Daddy.”

He snickers as Washington’s steps speed up, the closer they come. Thank God the deck is private; he’s double and triple-checked — not that he’d mind an audience, he thinks, not when they’re halfway across the world and all fairly certain in their anonymity here. Doesn’t matter. He folds his arms under his face and smirks up at Washington as he sidles through the glass door and out onto the deck.

“Hi,” Alex says, throwing as much filth as he can summon into the one syllable. Washington sucks in a breath, shoulders going up, looking him up and down.

“You look like you’re enjoying yourself,” he says, and Alex lifts one shoulder in a shrug. He can feel Washington’s gaze settle on him like fog; he basks in it. He’s never felt this desired. This wanted.

“I am now that you’re here,” he says, and he can see Washington take another steadying breath. “Although…”

“What is it, princess?” Washington hovers over the top of him, even more imposing from the ground. He’s never looked so tall as he does from this angle, and Alex smirks up at him again, pushing his sunglasses up onto his forehead.

“I left my suntan oil in the bathroom,” he says. “And I really, really don’t feel like getting up. Will you go get it for me?”

Washington doesn’t answer, just turns on his heel and strides back into the villa. He takes his time, which is fine by Alex. He turns his head back to look out at the ocean, sunglasses back on.  He doesn’t even bother to look back up when he hears footsteps behind him, and then Washington is crouching over the top of him, straddling either side of his ass with his powerful thighs and lowering himself onto his knees. Alex squeaks a little despite himself. The pressure feels good, he thinks, as he looks over his shoulder; he feels smaller, almost delicate. And then Washington is pouring suntan oil over his hands, and —

Fuck. That feels incredible. He lets out a weak little groan, melting onto the deck under Washington’s powerful hands. Washington laughs, more to himself than to Alex, hands working over the muscles in his back, massaging it in and grinding the heel of his palm into the place where he’s never not tense.

“God, that feels so good, Daddy,” he murmurs, forcing his inhibitions away. Giving into the temptation to just say it. He knows how much Washington loves that name, can sense that it’s the first time anyone’s ever called him that. And it feels so good but so dirty and wrong, and the wrongness just amplifies how good it feels, and his mind is a swirling mess of contradictions as he arches his back under Washington’s broad, slick hands.

Lips brush against the place between his shoulder blades as Washington rearranges their position, and Alex lets his eyes slide shut. Under the afternoon sun, with no one around for miles and miles of ocean to catch them, he’s fine with this.

“Do you want me to fuck you out here, princess?” Washington murmurs against his back, and Alex nods eagerly, arching his back up, trying to present as prettily as he can.

“Obviously,” he says, jerking his head in the direction of the lube and condoms he’d laid out next to his forgotten book on economics. It’s not as if he didn’t see this coming. He laughs to himself and lifts his hips, practically begging Washington tug his trunks over his hips. He’s a prepared guy.

Washington’s still dragging hands over his shoulders when he hears a door slam somewhere inside the house. Alex, frankly, is good to keep going, but Washington pulls away abruptly, patting him on the hip as he stands, and moments later, Martha and Eliza are stepping out onto the deck.

“You boys look awfully relaxed,” Martha says with an eyebrow cocked. Beside her, Eliza fingers the delicate gold chain around her throat, lifts her hand to twirl nervously through her hair. Martha’s got an arm around her waist, possessive, nearly protective, and Alex suddenly feels a stab of jealousy slash through him. It’s stupid. He knows it’s stupid. But he wants —

He wants Washington to flaunt him like that, wants Eliza and Martha to know who he belongs to. Wants the whole damn world to know. He casually stretches as he eases himself up, still glistening under the sun, mirrored aviators low on the bridge of his nose. He glances up at Washington, grins. He wants to push it further. Wants for it just to be what it is.

“We are,” Alex says, friendly and casual, letting the suggestion of the scenario the ladies have just interrupted color the edges of his voice. “We’re very relaxed.”

Washington clears his throat. “Are you girls ready for dinner?”

“We were about to dress for it. I’ve heard lovely things about the Thai restaurant, so we’ll start there,” Martha says. “We’ll head over alone, if you boys want your privacy —”

“No, no, not necessary,” Washington says quickly, and Alex frowns a little behind his glasses. This is new. Not like he had any trouble letting everyone know exactly what they were doing, and where they were doing it, at home in Mount Vernon. If anything, he thinks, Washington should be less inhibited out here, with no one around to catch or judge them. But Washington steps away, brushes past the women and disappears back into the villa, and Martha shrugs a little. He sees her squeeze Eliza around the waist, watches Martha follow her husband back into the villa as well.

“This view is incredible,” Eliza remarks as she sits down on the deck, kicking off her sandals and dangling her feet into the clear blue water of the swimming pool. “I’ve never been anywhere like this.”

“Really?” Alex asks, a little incredulous. “Didn’t you, like, grow up going to places like this?”

She rolls her eyes theatrically. “My family prefers the mountains. They’re ski people.”

“You’re not a ski person.”

“Not particularly.” She shrugs.

Alex sighs. He sits back on his hands, staring out at the horizon. Not a ship or another person around for miles. It’s oddly isolating, he thinks. “I dunno,” he says. “I’m from the Caribbean. It’s a whole other thing there.”

“I thought you were from New York,” Eliza frowns, and he shakes his head.

“I grew up there. Mostly. I was born in Nevis, though,” he says. “My mom was… my mom worked at a place like this. Some resort for rich assholes.” He can feel Eliza turning to look at him, but he doesn’t look back. He’s a little less than comfortable with the way she seems to look at him — not harshly, but with careful scrutiny, like she sees through the meticulously-constructed bravado he puts on for the world. It’s not with desire, the way Washington looks through him; it’s with empathy.

Alex isn’t comfortable with empathy. He’s not into being looked at like that. It veers a little too close to pity for his sake, and with all he’s achieved, scratched and clawed his way out of, pity isn’t something he’s going to accept.

“Whatever,” he adds, shrugging. “Everything comes full circle, I guess. Que sera, sera.”

“What will be, will be,” she agrees, her voice half-lilting as if she can’t decide whether to sing the song or not. She pulls her feet out of the pool and stands, and he finally turns to look back at her, struck by the way the sun shines through her loose white dress, defining the trim silhouette of her body against the light.

“I see the way he looks at you,” she says. “You don’t have anything to worry about.”

Alex cocks a brow. “You think?”


“What was that, then?”

She shrugs. “Let’s go to dinner.”

Chapter Text

The sun is setting over the vast expanse of the ocean by the time the four of them return to the villa, all of them tipsy, bordering on drunk, laughing too loudly and standing a little too close. Martha’s got Eliza around the waist again, hand splayed across the trimmest part of it and pulling her back in every time her steps get too long, and Alex notes with minor envy the way Eliza looks back at her, lips sinking into her wine-stained lower lip every time she laughs. They’re beautiful, both of them, walking toward the sunset, and their hips knock together every few feet.

It's still warm outside, warm and humid, and so Alex doesn't follow Washington to the bedroom so readily as Eliza does Martha. Instead, he walks through the room to the sliding glass door, and then slowly pushes it open.

“It's early,” he says. “I haven’t even been in the water yet.”

He doesn't wait for Washington's response, just walks out onto the deck, pulling his shirt over his head and dropping it on the crisp white chaise lounge. Everything around them is shades of blue and indigo. He walks toward the water, toward the sunset, and bends to skim a hand through it. Cool, but not ice cold. A pleasant complement to the balmy air around him that threatens more every minute to choke him like a vise. He glances off into the distant seas; there is no one around to see him.

He sheds his pants and takes the ladder down into the water, first one rung at a time, and then letting go all the way, letting himself fall into the deep.

He remembers this, somehow. Ocean water and salt and feeling safe, cared for, protected. Like there's room to chase the danger without strategizing and preparing for catastrophe; like there's no "bridge out" sign looming ahead. He's hit with the sense memory as his face hits the water, as he goes under, submerging himself mind and body alike. Alex stays under as long as he can, eyes closed tight, breath escaping a half second at a time until he can't take it anymore, until his brain starts to blur and fuzz at the edges, until he knows he'll pass out if he stays a second longer —

He bursts toward the surface and a little wave breaks there as he starts to suck in air, and then he's coughing, choking, flailing for the half second until he can open his eyes past the burn of salt and grasp onto the ladder that secures their villa to the lagoon and the deep.

“Alexander!” He hears Washington's voice, tinny and canned, like it's coming through some sort of speaker system instead of half an earful of salt water, and he shakes out his hair, shakes it out like a wet dog as he treads water at the surface, sucking in deep breaths and filling his lungs with fresh oxygen. It's not so humid now, he thinks, bobbing in the swell of another wave, letting himself float with it. It's all sense and muscle memory. He's been here before. This is what he was born to. He'll ride the wave, crest with it, let it break on his shoulders and inhale just in time.

He realizes he's coughing. He stops that as Washington reaches out a hand to the water level.

“Get out of there,” Washington says, and Alex shakes his head.

“I do know how to swim, you know.”

Washington gestures again, hard. “You’re drunk and that’s open water. Out.” It's not an order, not in the sense that Alex has come to know, but he senses he should obey anyway. He takes Washington's hand instead of the ladder and allows himself to be hoisted out of the lagoon, not so dizzy in the brain that he doesn't notice the muscles rippling under the white sleeves and shoulders of Washington's shirt as he pulls him onto dry land.

Naked and dripping, the edge taken off the balmy night air, he stands on the edge of the deck before a fully-clothed Washington, who is looking at him like he's never seen him before. Slowly, reverently, Washington reaches out with one hand and wipes the wet hair from his face, pushes it back over his forehead and out of his eyes. Alex lets him, feeling hot breath go cool on his face as he stands under the heavy stare coming off Washington.

“What in the name of God,” Washington finally says, “did you do that for?”

Alex can't stop himself; finally he's breaking, face cracking wide open in laughter mixed with what feel like — but shouldn't be — tears. He pushes his face forward into Washington's chest, knows he's mucking up his shirt with saltwater and God knows what else, and yet —

There's a hand on the back of his head, cradling it softly, holding him close and steadfast. He breaks, and Washington lets him break, and collects the pieces like gravel off an eroding rock in his hands, keeping them all together. He's dry sand, and Washington is the ocean, and he knows inherently, trusts that the waves will wet him again, make him pliable and moldable and turn him into something coherent. Washington saw dry dirt and decided to build a sand castle. Washington saw terra firma and made it his business to make it his own. Alex is —

He's coming apart, waiting to dry again, waiting for some shitty kid to come kick him in and make him crumble back to a pile of sand. He's born to the beach, to the islands; he knows how it goes.

He pushes his face harder against Washington's chest. He's not crying. The tears don't come when he gets like this. That response was conditioned out of him years ago. Boys don't cry but sometimes their eyes get shiny during really intense sex and their partners are okay with that, they find it sexy, and can't remember the last time he pressed his face against a solid body and let dry, heaving, silent shudders wrack his body like this. Washington presses his hands harder against the back of his head and the small of his back. He doesn't let go.

“Sir,” he murmurs as he finally pulls away. The sun, he notices, has finally set. Jesus Christ, how long was he out? He takes a step back, noticing the way Washington seems to gleam under the bright moonlight. It's close to a full moon. Of-fucking-course it is. Washington's eyes glisten and Alex cringes for him. He doesn't need another person crying on his conscience; he's more than uncomfortable to think he would deserve it.

Washington shakes his head, grabs him by the hand. “Don't call me that,” he cautions. He lets Alex step away and then pulls him back in, half a step back and then back to him, reeling him back. Alex half-laughs. So the old dude's got rhythm. Fine, this moment is surreal enough, he can play it like that.

They fall into a strange, quiet, comfortable motion, almost a salsa but not quite. Alex finds himself keeping time with the fingers of his free hand, and it occurs to him how silly this is, dancing on a fucking island with his — whatever they are — and letting him lead, for Christ's sake, Alex never lets anyone else lead. Another first. First the crying (it wasn't crying) and now this. He moves his hips a little more urgently, more out of habit than anything else. God damn, this is fun.

Washington reels him back in like a fish on a line and it occurs to him that either he's wearing much too little clothing or Washington's wearing far too much. So he reaches for the top button on Washington's shirt, praying he won't get his hands smacked away again. Washington answers his prayers only by moving his own hands up to help, shimmies his shoulders a little — playfully, that was playful, Alex's brain helpfully supplies — as he slides it from his shoulders. His bare chest is dark and seems more powerful than usual in the moonlight, gleaming with the rest of his skin as they both start to work up a little bit of a sweat.

Washington's hands catch him roughly around the waist, and Alex stills his movement, just stands there, quiet and proud with bravado flooding back to him, as Washington just — stares.

“I still want you to fuck me out here,” Alex says quietly, and Washington swallows, nods, and makes for the door they've left open to the bedroom.

Alex arranges himself in what he hopes is a seductive fashion, face down and ass up by the pool, but when Washington returns he clears his throat roughly. “Up,” he says, as if it's all he can manage, and Alex follows, only a little bit put out by the directness of the command. Washington shucks his own pants and boxer briefs and sits down heavily on the chaise lounge. He gestures for Alex to straddle him, holding up the bottle of lube in one hand as he drizzles it onto two of his thick fingers on the other.

Alex arranges himself on Washington's lap and starts to kiss him roughly, but Washington stops him again, shakes his head. “Less teeth, princess,” he murmurs, kissing him long and slow, all lips and teasing tongue, and Alex moans as one finger presses inside him, closely followed by another. Washington takes forever this time, sliding his fingers in and out dead slow and torturous, flexing at the knuckles and managing to brush his prostate time after time. He groans indistinctly into the mouth upon his, wordlessly begging for more.

Finally, after what feels like hours, Alex is pretty certain he can't take a second more of this. He’s kissing Washington’s neck, less teeth, more lips, as he grinds down onto the three fingers inside him, and they feel enormous and so fucking good — he sucks Washington’s earlobe into his mouth, swirls his tongue around the back of his ear, feels the shudder underneath him. Good, he thinks, pulling away and pushing his forehead against Washington’s. “Sir,” he whispers, out of habit more than anything else, but Washington shakes his head.

“I told you,” he says, and then he moves his fingers inside Alex in a way that makes him almost squeak, “I would rather you not call me that.”

Alex draws a single, ragged breath and lets it out between his teeth, his thigh muscles quavering from the effort of holding himself up on Washington’s lap. “I’m gonna… I need you to fuck me, though.”

He sees Washington smile, feels the huff of a laugh escaping, and he nods eagerly, they’re both nodding eagerly, and —

“Oh my God,” he murmurs when he’s finally seated on Washington’s cock, both of them sitting up on the chaise, and if he turns his head just so he can stare out at the ocean, but that would involve keeping his eyes open, and he’s ninety percent positive he can’t —

Washington has both hands clasped around his waist, grounding him, keeping him there, and Alex starts to move, fucking himself properly, long and slow and deep. He feels Washington’s hips start to snap upward and instinctively moves his hands to those broad, muscled shoulders and claps down. “Let me do the work,” he mutters, and Washington nods again, biting down on his clavicle —

“Say my name,” Washington gasps, and Alex screws up his face, trying to get words out around where he’s slowly picking up the pace, starting to lift himself up and slide back down in longer, fuller strokes.

“I — Daddy,” he mutters, but Washington shakes his head.

“My real name,” he says into Alex’s neck and shoulder, hand on his waist and the other on his back, keeping him steady as he goes, and Alex’s head spins, trying — but it’s not — he’s never called him that before, it’s so weird, so…

He catches Washington’s lips with his, kissing him not quite softly but not so hard as to make him jolt away, and as they both pull back for air, Alex sucks in a breath and whispers, “George.”

He’s lying diagonal across the bed inside the room, staring out at the water, a little more sober and a little more scared, now, of what seems to have shifted between them. Washington — he’s still Washington, whatever happened outside won’t change that — walks back into the room, two glasses of water from the kitchen bar in his hands. He doesn’t turn on the light. Fine. Alex feels safer in the dark.

“Don’t let yourself get dehydrated,” he says, and hands one to Alex. He doesn’t need to be ordered to drink it. His entire body feels as though it’s made of salt and alcohol at this point. He gulps it down in one go, setting the glass aside and laying back down as Washington joins him.

At some point, they did put clothes on, and Alex theoretically knows he should shower, but the salt scent clinging to his skin feels like home. It’s the only part of this place that feels like home in a good way.

“I hate myself for not enjoying this as much as I should,” he comments, and Washington’s hand stills where it’s rubbing the small of his back.

“Are you unhappy?” he asks, voice full of concern, and Alex hastily shakes his head.

“It’s not you. Nothing about this is you.” He chews the inside of his cheek until he tastes blood. Bad habit. He swallows copper and tries not to touch the raw spot with his tongue. “I don’t belong here.”

He looks up to see Washington shaking his head, his face grave and serious. “That’s not true,” he says, but Alex interjects before he can finish.

“No, it just —” He waves a hand through the air, willing the words to come more articulately than they have so far. “I want to be comfortable with this, and, like, with everything you’ve done for me, but it feels like a costume for me. I just feel like everyone can tell that I’m not supposed to be here and that I’m only here because I’m fucking my boss—”

“Hey, hey, hey.” Alex cringes with his entire body as Washington cuts him off, looking and sounding hurt. “Is that all you think this is? Alexander, I don’t—”

“No,” Alex says hastily. “I don’t — these last couple months have been incredible. Like, literally unbelievable. But you need to understand that I’m really not used to any of this. I’m not… this is the first time in years that I’ve been with the same person for an extended period of time, okay? I don’t handle one-on-one attention well, I don’t know if you’ve noticed.”

“And why do you think that is?” Washington asks, and Alex sighs.

“Are you a therapist now?”

“Don’t deflect the question,” says Washington. His tone is serious, but not unkind, and Alex feels his resolve start to crumble for the second time tonight. “I want to know how to help you. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, Alex, but I’ve… I seem to have developed an unexpected emotional attachment to you, son, and I don’t want this to be more than a stumbling block.”

He closes his eyes, looks up at the ceiling. “You really want me to get into all the mom shit now? Or is the dad shit more pertinent to this specific conversation?”

“I know you’re troubled,” is Washington’s response. “What I want to know is why you feel so uncomfortable here, at this resort. You haven’t looked at ease since we got here, save for those few minutes this afternoon on the deck.”

Alex heaves a sigh and sits up in bed, ducks his head and rubs the back of his neck as he considers the question. “I was talking about this to Eliza before,” he says. “You didn’t overhear any of that, did you?”

Washington shakes his head. “Not a word.”

He huffs an exhale. That would’ve made it easier. Fuck it, he thinks, and launches into the whole fucking story.

“My mom worked at one of these resorts, the Four Seasons in Nevis. She was a waitress at one of the restaurants when she met my dad, who was there on vacation. Y’know, classic love story, man meets woman, man knocks woman up, man gives her fake contact information and is thereafter unreachable. I have, like, one photo of the two of them together, which is the only reason I know that I looked just like him.” Alex pauses and gestures for Washington’s glass of water, takes the sip he’s offered and continues. “So, yeah, that was never part of the story. Our house was pretty much destroyed by Hurricane Isaac when I was 10, so she just said screw it and moved us to New York instead of trying to rebuild. And then she came down with pneumonia that first winter in the city and died, and the foster system split up my brother and I and that was… pretty much the end of that. And I don’t know. Being here just drags up all that shit. The way people used to talk to her, people like you —”

“In what way?” Washington asks gently, and Alex shrugs, sighs.

“Not you, specifically, but wealthy people. People who never have to worry about money. I can tell the difference between how they talk to people like me and how they talk to people like you, because now it’s like… they think I’m like you, strangers look at me and they see someone who’s never had to eat rice and peanut butter to stay afloat just because I’m dressed nice, and they just treat me with respect.” He shakes his head. “You don’t really get it. I know and I can’t fault you for it, because at least you’re better than John — I mean, look, you don’t give me shit for wanting to be upwardly mobile, and that’s what makes this okay for me, you know? You haven’t lectured me about how I’m giving up my principles or selling out my heritage or assumed that I’m probably selling drugs…”

“Whoa,” Washington says, holding up one hand. “Your roommate seriously accused you of being a drug dealer? Why would he make that assumption?”

Alex rolls his eyes. “Because he’s Henry Laurens’s son. And having a Cuban mom makes him an expert on the complicated intersection of race and class, even though he’s, y’know, Henry Laurens’s son and grew up in a part of Charleston that I don’t even think I’d be allowed to visit, let alone live.” He sighs, and then adds, “I mean, look, no, that sounds uncharitable, he really does try and he has good intentions. Most of the time. He just… he doesn’t understand how it works. And sometimes I get this really bad feeling that he latched onto me at Columbia because I made him feel more, like, ‘real,’ or like I gave him a pass to say fucked-up things about the neighborhood I grew up in because I criticized it first. I love him, it just… whatever.” He shakes his head, takes another sip of Washington’s water that is now his own. “So now we’re up to, like, ‘drug dealer’ and ‘illegitimate son’ as being the top two misconceptions about this relationship. What is that thing people say about hearing hoofbeats and looking for zebras?”

Washington laughs a little. “So it is a relationship. You’re okay with admitting that.”

He clenches his jaw, grinds his molars, tries not to poke at the sore spot with his tongue. “I don’t know what else to call it. You… we’re…”

He doesn’t know what to call it. That part is true. He doesn’t know how to apologize for the impulse that kicks inside him like Rosemary’s Baby, compelling him to lash out, push Washington away. He senses, on some level, that it’s way too late. That he let himself get too attached, much too quickly.

Washington takes the glass of water and sets it aside, lays a hand on Alex’s bare calf and just leaves it. He doesn’t mind. It feels heavy, stills his heartbeat to a steadier pulse; grounds him to the bed. “Look,” he says quietly. “I’m aware… this started as something and became something else. I didn’t expect that. I saw an opportunity to indulge a fantasy. I didn’t expect you.”

Which hits Alex in a place he’s not expecting. “Yeah,” he says weakly. “I… that’s pretty much what happened here, too.”

“You like how things are,” Washington muses. “The balance of power… it can often feel one-sided —”

“I like that,” Alex confesses quietly. “I like the… wrongness of it, I guess. I wouldn’t mind taking that further. The — punishment and discipline and stuff. I like that. I like you when we do that.”

“Mm.” Washington hums a little, squeezing down on his calf. “That’s a conversation for another time, perhaps, but yes. Although… there’s another matter, when I speak of the issue of power. Professionally, I mean. If this got out, I could take it. My reputation, my name, they could weather a scandal. But you — this would follow you for the rest of your career. It’d stain you in a way it wouldn’t me. You have to be aware of that.”

Alex’s stomach twists at the subject. “So what does that mean here?” he asks quietly, dreading the answer. This isn’t — Washington wouldn’t bring him halfway across the world to end it like this —

“It means we have to be more careful,” Washington says. “Construct a better story. I’ve been meaning to ask, how do you feel about Eliza?”

This comes straight out of nowhere, and Alex half-shrugs. “Fondly,” he says. “Not — it’s not the same, but we get along, she’s very beautiful — very beautiful —”

“Careful, my boy, she’s also Martha’s,” Washington smirks. “But good. That’s good. The two of you would make an interesting couple for the good of the public eye. That’s something we could perhaps discuss going forward. Not now, but…” He trails off, his gaze wandering off in the direction of the sea. The moonlight reflects off the water directly into their room, and it’s brighter than it has any right to be.

“Look,” Alex finally says, breaking the silence and choosing his words carefully. “I don’t really… I’m not good at this. I just…” He swallows hard. “You don’t say much, either. I feel like I tell you all this stuff about me and you don’t give much away. That’s the only thing that gives me pause about this.”

Washington raises an eyebrow. “What is it that you want to know about me?”

“Everything,” Alex says, frustrated. “You never told me why you joined the Army, even.”

“You’re perceptive. You hear things. I assumed you would extrapolate,” Washington says, and Alex bites the raw spot on his cheek again, goddamnit —

“It’s not the same as hearing it from you,” he says plaintively. “Just… don’t talk in riddles and give me things to figure out. It’s weird. I know it’s, like, occupational hazard, doublespeak, politics as usual, whatever, but I wanted to hear these things out of your mouth. Because then it’s real, you know? I just—”

Washington squeezes his calf again. “I joined the Army because I found, and still find, military service to be an admirable thing,” he says. “And because my family had certain — expectations — that I knew I could not fulfill, and this provided another option to make them proud. I had high-minded ideas about honor and glory. I didn’t think I’d see the things I saw, but they made me stronger. And at the same time, it taught me to internalize, and that a good poker face and learning to be comfortable with emotional isolation were worth more than I knew.” He pauses. “If your background gives you license to run and be afraid, mine should be worth at least an explanation as to why I withhold. I will try to do better.”

Alex swallows. “All right,” he says, and sighs. “I’m sorry.”

“Don’t apologize.” Washington finally takes his hand away and stands. “I have work to do. Sleep, if you can manage it. I’m afraid the time difference has taken its toll on my internal clock.”

Alex lets himself fall back down to the mattress, watching from the corner of his eye as Washington sits down heavily at the desk near the window. The glow of his laptop screen lights up the room brighter than the moonlight before he taps at the keyboard to dim it.

It’s not perfect, perhaps, he thinks as he drifts off. But it’s a start.

Chapter Text

"How are you feeling?"

It's nearly noon when Alex drags himself into the living room of the villa, wrapped in a towel and fresh from the shower, in search of Advil and a bucket of water. He thinks he maybe shouldn't have spent the entire day previous drinking the way he did; it's given him the kind of hangover you get from a marathon and not from a blackout, the kind that churns low in his gut and makes him queasy with every other step. Or maybe that was something else; maybe it was the conversation — he doesn't know.

"I'm fine," he says to Washington, who looks like he's just come in from the deck, his skin a slightly darker shade of golden brown, gleaming a little with either sweat or suntan lotion. Perhaps both. "Where are the girls?"

Washington waves a hand vaguely in the direction of the door and begins to button his shirt, leaving it open halfway down his chest. Alex eyes him with interest. He’s doing this on purpose. "They went to brunch, and I think Martha said something about a speedboat trip… are you hungry?”

“Not really.” Alex pulls a bottle of water from the fridge and downs half of it in one go, ducks his head and rubs the back of his neck after he swallows. He can feel the weight of Washington’s gaze on him. It feels particularly permeating this morning. “Hey, so, uh. I’m sorry about last night.”

Washington turns to glance at him askance. “Why would you be sorry?”

He sighs, makes a little gesture and noise of admission. “You know. All the… feelings and stuff. I honestly didn’t mean to freak out like that. Things were weird.” Resigned — and still aching from the tense position in which he’d slept — he sighs and sits down heavily on the long white couch, staring out the windows at the bright turquoise water.

“You don’t need to apologize for having feelings, Alex,” Washington says with finality. He returns from the dining room and sits down beside Alex, a bowl of fruit in his hand. “The staff sent us a fruit platter this morning. You need to eat something.”

“The only thing I want to eat right now is a bacon egg and cheese,” Alex mutters, but Washington eyes him sideways and shakes his head, and picks up a strawberry from the bowl in his other hand and shifts a little closer on the couch.

“Go on, princess,” he says, lifting it to Alex’s lips. “For me.” Up close he smells like fresh sweat and coconut oil, and Alex’s body is still screaming for a greasy egg sandwich but Alex’s body also can’t resist this. He parts his lips and lets Washington feed him the single strawberry.

Fuck, it’s good, plump and ripe and juicy, and he nods appreciatively as he swallows. “Fine. That’s not bad,” he says, and Washington gives him a crooked little smirk before picking up a piece of pineapple. He holds it out to Alex and this time it doesn’t even occur to him not to accept it, opens his mouth wide enough to let Washington pop it inside. And he always forgets how much he loves fresh pineapple, makes an appreciative little noise as his eyes slide shut, and the towel around his waist falls just a little bit askew as he abandons his self-consciousness and obediently parts his lips for more.

Washington lifts a berry from the bowl, but doesn’t offer it to Alex so readily; he squeezes it between his thumb and forefinger until it bursts. A single droplet of dark-red juice runs down his thumb and Alex can’t stop himself; he chases it with his lips, sucking both the berry and the juice into his mouth and licking what remains from Washington’s fingers. “Good girl,” Washington murmurs from the side of his mouth, and Alex feels a flush of arousal and pride start to flood his veins as he tilts his head back a little.

He lets Washington feed him the rest of the fruit in the bowl, can’t hold back an audible noise of pleasure when he bites into a particularly juicy slice of mango. Washington is looking at him with dark approval, licking his own lips from time to time, and when Alex has licked the last of the juice from his hand, Washington kisses him softly on the lips.

“Get dressed,” Washington says quietly, but it’s an order nonetheless. “We’re going for a walk.”

It's a little less humid than it was the previous day, as they set out along the beach, Alex with his sunglasses set low and his hair pulled haphazardly into a messy bun. It's getting long enough to bun it now. That can't be professional, he thinks.

"I should get a haircut," he comments idly as Washington takes a few steps closer to the water, letting the waves wash over his feet and up to his calves. Washington glances at him and shrugs.

"If you want," he says. "For what it's worth, I like where it is now."

Alex rolls his eyes and steps into the waves as another one breaks around their feet. "Burr keeps making comments. 'It's unprofessional, not the right image for the office,' et cetera."

"Burr isn't your boss," Washington says. He reaches out and takes Alex's bun in one hand, stray pieces falling out around the front as he does. "And Burr doesn't get to do this, either," he adds, and he tugs on it sharply, exposing Alex's bare throat. Alex sucks in a breath at the quick snap of sensation at his scalp, the sharp arousal that follows. He wonders idly if Washington plans to do this all day, toying with him and mashing at all of his buttons until he's painfully on edge by nightfall. Truthfully, he hopes it's the case.

Washington lets his hair go and Alex shoots him a grin. "Guess not," he says. "I might just get a trim."

"Whatever you want," Washington says, emphasis on the word you, and Alex smiles more to himself as he turns back out to the water, shading his eyes as he stares out at the horizon.

They walk on, carefully avoiding talk of work, or whatever Washington has been up at all hours doing on his laptop. It occurs to Alex that it has something to do with the Madison amendment, but as much as he itches to bring it up, it feels unwise. This place, this bubble — he wants to keep it sacred, untainted by politics. In the wake of Washington's blithe acceptance of his breakdown, of his feelings, a certain clarity has come over him, a calmness he rarely knows. It occurs to him that breakdowns and orgasms are very much alike: the buildup followed by an incoherent break, and then a sort of cool-headed perception that follows, unclouded by irrational desperation. So he's in something of a post-orgasmic haze as he walks the length of the little island with Washington, their hips and hands occasionally brushing, Alex occasionally stopping in his tracks to let Washington continue ahead a few paces, so as to admire his bare back and calves from behind.

When they return to the villa, Eliza is draped over a chaise on the deck, her hair ocean-wet and a Pynchon book in hand. Martha, laid out on a towel closer to the pool, pages through a copy of Vogue China.

Eliza glances up from her book as they slip through the sliding door and out onto the smooth surface of the deck, a striking contrast to the hot sand of the island. "There you both are," she says as she sets aside Inherent Vice — Alex notes with admiration that she isn't reading a copy with the movie-poster cover — and picks up a glass of what looks to him like pineapple juice, or perhaps a drink mixed with pineapple juice. "We were wondering where you'd gone."

"It felt like a good time to take a walk," Washington says as he sits down heavily in a chair beside the pool. Alex eyes the other, but the pool itself looks more appealing in the heat of the afternoon sun; he strips off his t-shirt, aware of how both women turn to appraise him as he does, and stripped down to his yellow swim trunks, jumps into the pool with a splash.

Floating on his back in the deep end, he only half-pays attention to the conversation going on around him. There's talk of dinner plans in the nicest of the resort's several restaurants; Eliza announces her intent to take a snorkeling trip the following day. None of it sticks in his brain. He's clear, hazy, miles away.

There's another splash near the opposite end of the pool, and Alex turns, rights himself to see Eliza wading in from the shallows, white bikini and red nails agleam in the bright sun. He turns just in time to see Washington and Martha exchange a knowing smirk and a nod.

Eliza ducks her head beneath the water, surfaces with her hair slicked back and smiling, and Alex grins back. "Hey," he says, for lack of anything else to say, and she pushes off from the bottom, glides through the water like a dolphin, all grace and S-curves as she joins him in the deep.

"So you snorkel?" It's a stupid question, but she seems to take it in stride, just nods as she treads water beside him.

"I love it, actually," she says. "I'd really like to get my scuba license this summer and start going on diving trips, but for now, it's very nice. The ocean life in this part of the world is incredible."

"You should go to the Caribbean once you get your diving license," Alex says. "It's supposed to be unbelievable."

"I'd actually like that," she says. "Maybe we could all go. Where was it that you're from, specifically? Nevis? That would be a nice trip."

Alex pulls a face. "Or maybe somewhere else," he says, and then quickly, to change the subject, "I wouldn't mind all going skiing, either. Never been."

Eliza shrugs. "I guess," she says. "I much prefer the sun."

Alex watches her bob in the water, arms spread wide and eyes sparkling as he floats a little closer. He's struck, suddenly yet not very suddenly at all, with the desire to do something he knows he probably shouldn't.

She's looking at him with a funny little smile on her face, tongue between her straight, perfect teeth; and Alex looks instinctively to the Washingtons, who are both watching them from the deck, Martha's sunglasses low on her nose and Washington's pushed up on his forehead.

He looks to them askance, and so does she, he notices, from the corner of his eye, and slowly, in perfect and practiced unison, Washington and Martha give them a pair of deep, knowing nods.

Alex slides his hand over her bare back under the water, splaying his fingers and pressing two of them against the indentations in the small of it. He lets the momentum of the waves in the water bring them closer together, feels one of her legs tangle around his, and hooked together like this, he finally dips his head low to brush his lips against hers.

The kiss is instantaneous and feels too good, too decadent, to really be happening. Not better than Washington, per se, but different — where Washington is pure strength, muscle and raw power making him yield, Eliza is softer, plush lips and slick smooth skin that gleams pale beneath the glimmering water of the pool. He pulls her closer, her body flush against his, and deepens the kiss, his mouth falling open on instinct as she nips at his lower lip.

"You're beautiful," he murmurs as she pulls away, and Eliza smiles, placid and collected.

"Thanks," she says, and Alex hears Washington laugh where he's seated, watching the show.

He senses, somehow, that this is not for them. That regardless of how much they may have wanted to do this, that night at Angelica's party, perhaps a little more or less at the gala, this has not been orchestrated for their own gratification. He realizes it the more he watches the Washingtons from the corner of his eye, the way they smile knowingly at each other as Alex tips Eliza's chin back up from where she's studying the bottom of the pool and recaptures her lips in another soft, languid kiss.

The realization hits him as Eliza wraps her legs around his waist and starts to tow him to the shallower end -- this is why Washington has spent all day working him up like this, it's why he teased him so knowingly, getting him half-hard and then leaving him cold. He wanted this. He must have conferred with Martha, arranged the whole moment. He feels as though he should almost be affronted at having been set up so readily. Then Eliza presses her breasts against his bare chest below the surface of the water, and his affront vanishes, along with his thoughts of literally everything else.

"Pull his hair," Washington instructs Eliza from the sidelines, "you'll be surprised how much he likes that," and Alex feels her thin fingers tangle in his wet hair before she giggles prettily and yanks at a handful. He gasps, taken aback by the sharp sting, how different it feels when his hair's soaking wet, the sensation somehow heightened by the cool air on his scalp.

She kisses him again, taking the lead even as Martha calls, "Go a little slower, baby, we don't want to get him too worked up yet." Eliza slows down immediately, all lips and soft fruity breath and wet eyelashes, and Alex lets out what he knows is a less-than-dignified whine.

"Mm," Eliza says as she pulls away, her legs still wrapped around his waist. He tries to thrust his hips against her, get a little friction against the growing bulge in his trunks, but she looks at him knowingly and simply lets him go, floating backward and paddling back out to the deep. The look on her face makes the meaning explicit; Chase me, she tells him with wide black eyes, and he does.

On the deck, from his chair, Washington is still watching, an odd little smile on his face.

Martha sips her drink coolly and instructs, "Eliza, baby, let's go get dressed for dinner."


They walk to the resort's nicest restaurant in pairs; Washington and Alex departing ahead of the women. "They may be a while," Washington remarks knowingly. "Martha always did enjoy a performance." He smiles sidelong at Alex. "You did a good job there, princess."

Alex blinks. "So that was for you guys."

"I'll admit, I'm not as warm to the idea as she is," Washington says. "I've never been one for sharing. Perhaps it's just my constitution."

He bites back a smirk as he glances up at Washington, toying with the collar of the pale blue linen shirt that Washington had firmly suggested he wear to dinner. "Yeah, I've noticed you can be a little bit possessive," he teases. "It's probably a good thing I don't mind being..."

"Possessed?" Washington supplies, with the arch of a brow.

"A possession," Alex says. "'Possessed' sounds a little goofy, even in context. The implications and all."

Washington laughs. "Ever the wordsmith."

"Yeah, I'm pretty good with words," he shrugs. "But words..."


"Nothing. I don't have a follow-up."

They have a drink at the restaurant bar, Washington ordering them both a pair of mai tais. "Answering the siren call of the islands," he says archly, and Alex smiles in response as he takes a sip.

"I'd expect you to order a sex on the beach, with that motivation in mind," Alex says. "Or does that come later?"

Washington licks his lips, and Alex smirks, chasing the straw in his drink with his mouth, more than half distracted.


When the women finally join them, dressed in coordinating — but not quite matching — white dresses, a waiter leads them to their corner table. Eliza ducks her head as she takes her seat, and Alex thinks he notices a reddening mark, halfway to a hickey, just above the neckline of her dress. He cocks a brow, flashes her a smile of his own, and she smiles cagily, looking away, looking to Martha.

"A couple bottles of cava for the table," Martha decides, "and we'll do the oysters to start — Alex, are you an oyster boy?"

"Yeah, actually, I am," he says eagerly. "I used to go to this great little seafood place in New York during grad school." John took me there on my 23rd birthday, he almost adds, but holds it back, the twinge of regret that accompanies most of his thoughts of John chiming in a minute later.

"I've never had oysters as fresh as the ones at lunch yesterday," Eliza remarks. "I could eat those forever, never get sick of them."

They relax into a comfortable repartee, familiar chatter softened by the day. From time to time, Alex feels Washington's hand descend upon his knee, giving him a firm squeeze before departing, and by the third or fourth time, he feels himself getting turned on under the tablecloth. He's been on edge since the business with the fruit that morning, he knew this has all been some sort of master plan —

"Mr. Washington," comes a voice from behind them, and the entire table turns to see the host striding toward them, a phone in hand. "You've had an urgent call from the United States --"

Washington waves a hand through the air. "Tell them I'll return it shortly."

"Please, sir," says the man in accented English, gesturing with the phone. "It's from the White House — this man, he says it is political in nature —"

Washington shakes his head but takes the cordless phone, hitting a button and holding it to his ear. "Washington," he says shortly, and then falls silent, a look of worry falling over his face as he listens. "No, I — calm down, I understand. Calm down. Yes."

A flurry of looks fly around the table as Alex's heart jumps into his throat. The Madison amendment — the Medicaid expansion — they wouldn't push it through while half of D.C. is out of town, they couldn't, Congress isn't even in session —

Washington hangs up and swallows, his face suddenly very grave. He hands the phone back to the host and lifts his napkin to his mouth, dabbing at it almost delicately before placing it beside his plate.

"President Franklin has passed away," he says abruptly. "We're going home."

Chapter Text

When their plane lands in D.C., it’s to the distinct feeling that the end of the world is imminent.

There are no rumors in the twenty-four hour news cycle, only things that are known and things that remain unknown. By the time they land, the things they know seem to outnumber the things they don’t. The things they know, as Alex tallies them up, are as follows:

One. POTUS had a stroke while visiting family in Philadelphia for the holiday. He was rushed to Cheney University Heart Hospital in Philly and stayed alive for a short period of time, long enough to make several wry comments about the state of the country should his vice president succeed him. Even in the hour of his death, Alex has to hand it to the guy. One hell of a sense of humor.

Two. President Franklin passed away at 8:54 a.m. Philly time, which was 6:54 p.m. in the Maldives. After the nineteen-hour flight lands in D.C., it’s basically two days after the fact. Which means that they’re two days late to the party, and everyone is pissed.

Three. Which means that as of the time they step off the plane at National, John Adams has already been sworn in as the President of the United States, and the entire goddamn district is in a state of panic.

They take separate cars. Alex is ready to hail a cab of his own, give Washington time to think, but Washington looks at him sharply and asks, “Where the hell do you think you’re going?”

“Uh,” Alex says, gesturing out at the airport pickup lane, which is a zoo. “I was gonna give you some privacy.”

Washington shakes his head. “I need you with me. From here on out, this may as well be a war zone. I need you with me.”

He wants to laugh, wants to crack a joke, call back to ‘gal Friday,’ but the deadly serious tone Washington takes serves as a warning all its own. Instead, Alex swallows, pushes his hair out of his face, and nods. “Yes, sir.”

Lafayette meets them at the door when they arrive at the office, with hardly a sidelong glance at the fact that they’ve arrived together. And this might be a good thing in disguise — that the chaos they’ve walked into just serves to obfuscate their relationship even further. The issue, the question that’s on everyone’s mind, since Adams has yet to make any sort of public or private statement to address it —

“Who does he plan to appoint as VP?” Lafayette snarls into a phone as Alex takes a cautious step back. “No, no, non, give me an answer, I know you must have heard something—”

“It’s almost seven o’clock, nobody’s going to know anything right now and everyone’s leaving their offices, anyway,” Burr says quietly. Alex hadn’t even noticed him come in. “We should all just go home and sleep on this. I have a couple of sources, I thought I might —”

“Whatever you thought you might do, don’t do it,” Washington says coolly, barely looking at Burr. “I think your compromises have cost us quite enough.”

He sees the rage pool behind the whites of Burr’s eyes, but the eruption he’s waiting for doesn’t come; instead, Alex watches him swallow and nod and then smile, just a little, without teeth. “Understood, sir,” he says. Voice quiet, even, steady. Coiled like a snake. It chills Alex to the marrow, even though he’s not quite sure what there is to be afraid of.

“Well, I do not plan to leave,” Lafayette says loftily. “General, I am at your service until the walls of the district fall like Jericho.”

“Me too,” Alex says immediately, although what the hell is he supposed to do to help, and besides, he barely knows what the hell Lafayette is saying. He sees Washington take a deep breath, and then he nods.

“Okay,” he says steadily. “Listen. We need to find out who Adams’ people are vetting for the vice presidency.”

“Sir, for clarity’s sake,” Burr says, “is this a question of your wanting the appointment or not?”

Washington looks at him curiously, a strange little glint coming to his eye. Alex suddenly remembers the greenhouse, telling him about Theodosia’s pregnancy — Jesus, it feels like a year ago, he can’t believe it was five days prior — and his entire body starts to sweat. If Burr knows that Washington knows — if he finds out how he found out…

“I want to know whether I’m being vetted,” he says clearly. “For reasons both personal and political.” And the meaning is loud and clear as far as Alex is concerned. Washington has plenty he’d want to sweep under the rug if he were being considered for the veep’s job. He’s not so arrogant so as to think himself the beginning and end of the secrets this man has to keep. But if Burr knows what he’s talking about, he doesn’t show it. He simply shrugs again and nods.

“Understood, sir,” he says. “I’ll start calling my press contacts. Perhaps Maria Reynolds knows something, she’s always got her ear to the ground —”

“Maria Reynolds?” Lafayette scoffs, exploding in derisive laughter. “Maria Reynolds would not recognize a reliable source if it performed fellatio on a senator in front of her. She’s a blogger, for Christ’s sake.”

A stab of resentment slashes through him at that, and Alex feels his hackles go up. Lafayette spits the word blogger as if it were a synonym for prostitute. “Don’t forget that I was a blogger up until a couple months ago,” he snaps, and Lafayette rolls his eyes.

“You don’t know Maria Reynolds, do you?” he asks. “She is — she was an aide during Franklin’s first term until it was revealed that she was writing a D.C. gossip blog on the side. One which mainly focused on her own, ah, exploits with married men. She slept with members of Congress and exploited them for confidential information, which she later revealed after they were no longer of use to her. Does that ring a bell now?”

Alex cocks a brow. “I think that’s kind of baller, actually,” he admits, and shrugs as Lafayette groans.

“She did not fact-check. She knows nothing of ethical journalistic standards. She published information that could have ruined lives. And now she blogs for Gawker Media.” Lafayette throws up his hands. “American media will be the death of us all.”

“Incisive as your commentary is, I’m going to talk to Maria,” Burr says. “Do either of you have any close contacts in the Adams office?”

Lafayette jerks his head in Alex’s direction. “He does.”

“I do — wait, do I?” Alex furrows his brow. “Remind me.”

Lafayette rolls his eyes again. “Thom Pinckney. John Laurens’ boyfriend. He’s Adams’ deputy comm director.”

Alex feels a wave of panic start to heat up his insides, and he clenches his jaw, clenches his fist at his side, tries to figure out how to talk his way out of this one. “You know John just as well as I do. Pinckney’s not—”

“Nonsense,” Lafayette says impatiently. “John is an acquaintance at best. He is your — truth be told, I have never been able to parse exactly what goes on between you two, but that’s neither here nor there. You are far closer with him than I am. Go talk to Pinckney. Find out what he knows.”

Alex looks to Washington, desperate for an out. Because he knows — he knows exactly what went on with John, he can’t make him take this bullet —

But Washington simply nods thoughtfully. “Go talk to this Pinckney,” he says. “Get me an answer. I’m counting on you.”

Alex swallows, crams his hands in his pockets. “Sir, I’m not certain I’ll be able to do that.”

“Figure it out, Alexander.” Washington’s voice is cold, all business, and the glint in his eyes signifies a command but Alex isn’t sure how to read it. “Go talk to Pinckney.”

Part of him is desperately praying that John just won't be there when he gets home. He gets an Uber instead of fucking with the metro, doesn't even bother to make conversation with the driver -- he wouldn't know what to say if he did.

He sees the way the guy looks at him when he gets into the backseat, anyway. "Florida and U?" the driver says, glancing at him in the rearview mirror, taking in the expensive jacket he's wearing over the slacks and shirt he flew in, the nice luggage he hauls with him into the back of the Suburban. He looks expensive, Alex realizes self-consciously; he looks like someone who would be a dick to an Uber driver.

"Yeah," he says shortly. Because he doesn't have the energy not to be a dick. He wonders if the note he left on John's bedroom door could conceivably be used against him as evidence. The law doesn't have a lot of tolerance for asshole sarcasm. "Thanks, man."

When he lets himself into the apartment, he's still desperately hoping John won't be there. But there he is, sitting on the couch, feet up on the coffee table with a Thai takeout bag on the couch. "Hey, babe," he says without turning his head. "Thank God you're early, I'm starving but I didn't want to eat without you —"

"Hate to let you down, then," Alex says, trying to keep his voice light and friendly, but John whips his head around anyway, a look of annoyance immediately springing to his sharp, freckled features.

"You're not Thom," he says, and Alex shrugs.


John folds his arms across his chest, takes his feet off the coffee table. All defensive gestures Alex has seen more times than he likes to admit. "Your, uh, note indicated that you wouldn't be back for two more days," he says. "I didn't expect —"

"Yeah, well," Alex says. "I don't know if you noticed, but the world is kind of ending."

"You got a tan," John says, and he makes it sound more like an accusation than a comment. "Where were you?"

"It doesn't matter," Alex says, waving the question away with one hand, but John squares his jaw and stands up, ready for a fight.

"I think it does," he says. "You just up and disappear for five days like that? What am I supposed to think?"

"I don't know, that I was off on some island vacation with all the money I made selling drugs?" Alex deadpans. He's not having this conversation. He's really, really not having this conversation. But John just stares at him, blank and beaten, and he sees John's shoulders start to fold inward, and he feels —

"I thought maybe you did something stupid," John says quietly, the meaning implicit. "I didn't know what the fuck to do. You storm out and disappear after we have a fight, I don't see you for almost a week, nobody can get ahold of you, your phone was going straight to voicemail, I must have called you a thousand times —"

"I wasn't getting them, I was out of the country," Alex says impatiently, and John shakes his head again.

"I felt horrible," he says. "The only reason I didn't call anybody was because I didn't know who to call. You don't have any — you have me, basically. And I felt like it was my own fault."

The guilt hits him hard just then, flooding in like someone broke a pipe somewhere in his brain, and he wants to tell himself to suck it up but suddenly he doesn't know how to do that. He wants to tell John a careful lie that will sweep it all under the rug and put the entire ordeal behind them, but he has no idea how to go about that, either. These past couple months have built a wall between them made of conscious lies and stupid mistakes. And so he does the stupider thing. The one thing that might actually clear this up, if it doesn't make it a whole lot worse.

He tells the truth.

"John," he says quietly, and then clears his throat, throws his shoulders back and sucks in a steadying before he says it. "I've been fucking my boss."

It doesn't get quite the reaction he expects. John doesn't gasp or freak out or anything. He just furrows his brow and folds his arms a little tighter. "What do you mean?"

"I mean — Washington. Me. We've been sleeping together. Practically since I got hired." John still looks a little bit confused and dumbstruck, and Alex groans, impatient again. "That's where all the stuff's been coming from. The suits and the phone and everything. That's why I'm always working nights and weekends, because we go out to dinner and out of town and then we have sex. That's where I was this week. He took me to the Maldives. We're fucking. We're dating, actually. That part's new, but —"

"Wait," John says, still evidently confused. "Like some kind of... sugar daddy situation?"

"That's a vulgar term," Alex says automatically, and then, "no. Not really. We're just..." He waves a hand in front of his face, as if to snatch a more elegant explanation out of thin air. "I know it sounds fucked up. I know that. It's so hard to explain."

"It doesn't just sound fucked up," John says, frowning. "It is fucked up, Alex. On multiple levels, even. Leaving aside the fact that he's a married man —"

"They have an arrangement," Alex says hastily. Ask Eliza Schuyler about that, he almost adds, but bites his tongue just in time; Eliza doesn't deserve to be dragged into this fight.

"Ethics of marriage and home-wrecking aside!" John exclaims. "He's your boss, Alex, that power dynamic is inherently unhealthy, it's dangerous, you're both breaking about twenty different rules and guidelines about appropriate workplace behavior when you consider that he's also paying you for sex — Jesus Christ, Alex, I thought you were maybe selling drugs, I didn't even think to assume prostitute —"

"I am not," Alex hisses, taking a step forward, "a prostitute. Can you please, for a minute, stop assuming you know everything about how the world works and just listen to me, for once?"

"I'm the one who thinks he knows everything?!" John looks incredulous, wide eyes and a gobsmacked smile on his face. "I'm not the one letting my boss take advantage of me and calling it a relationship —"

"Jesus fucking Christ, John!" Alex says, finally snapping. The careful restraint he's been exercising throughout the entire conversation is gone, nowhere to be found, and now he's fucking angry. "I'm a grown man, okay? I'm an adult who can handle his own shit. Nobody is being taken advantage of here. I could leave any time I like and ruin his reputation. You know how many things I've overheard? You know how many rooms I've been in, courtesy of him, where deals are being made that most people don't even know about? It's mutually assured destruction, asshole, not that it'll happen, because we fucking care about each other."

"You have to prepare for the worst here, Alex—" John says, and Alex takes a deep breath, tries not to shout or snap.

"You act like I haven't been doing that my entire life, John," he says in the calmest tone he can muster. "I am, in fact, capable of taking care of myself. The attractive thing here is that for once in my goddamn existence, I don't have to."

With that, he sits down on the grey leather ottoman, the one John brought with them when they moved from New York. The one Alex had groaned and complained about U-Hauling all the way from Washington Heights, down four flights of stairs there and up another three once they reached D.C. John's favorite piece of furniture in the old apartment, for reasons Alex would never be able to parse on his own.

"I'm sorry," he says quietly. "I've been such a dick to you, man."

He glances up in time to see John pull a little face — a no shit, Sherlock kind of face, more visual punctuation than anything. "Well, yeah," he says. "Thanks for finally noticing."

Alex starts laughing despite himself. He's never been so good at this, the whole appropriate-reactions-to-emotionally-charged-situations thing. He did just walk into the ocean to avoid having a conversation about feelings with the man he's been fucking. Somehow, that memory — fuck, all the memories from the past few days, he's starting to wonder whether the island was even real or just some sort of elaborate fever dream — just heightens the inappropriate laughter, heightens the tension. "I'm sorry," he apologizes between giggles. "It's just... Fuck, man. I really suck at this."

John sighs and sits down on the couch, elbows on his knees, running both hands through his mess of curls. "I just don't understand you. You're my best friend. That's never gonna change. And yet..." He looks back up to Alex, scratching uncomfortably at the nape of his neck. "You keep doing that thing lately."

"What thing?"

"The thing where you lash out and act like an asshole when someone asks you questions you don't want to answer," John says irritably. "Like when I asked you that totally reasonable question about how you were making money."

Alex holds up a hand, shakes his head. "Whoa, whoa, no," he says. "You didn't just ask me an innocent question, you asked whether I was selling drugs. Two different things."

"It was a reasonable thing to wonder!" John says, defensive. "Your background, your whole thing, it just -- I didn't think --"

"Okay, look," Alex says. "I did do the thing there. Impulse control isn't really my strong suit. We know this. But you never fucking listen to me when I tell you not to make assumptions like that."

"You understand why I assumed—"

"That doesn't mean I'm okay with it!" Alex rips the hair tie from his ponytail and rakes his fingers through his own hair in frustration. "Look, I'm sorry. I was an asshole." He's not sorry, but he senses that this is an area where he's just going to have to suck it up and apologize. Get John back on his side, at least for now. He can see the strategy laid out like a chessboard now, clear as day. "I apologize. I really didn't mean to freak you out by disappearing and I didn't think it would worry you that much. I didn't mean to lash out at you like that, either. I'm honestly... I'm trying to be better, okay? I know apologies suck. I know they're kind of worthless unless I can back it the fuck up with actions. Just give me another chance here, okay?"

John sucks in a breath. "I still don't understand what this whole thing is with your boss," he says. Not an acceptance of Alex's admittedly heartfelt-sounding, but tabling the issue, letting it pass. Alex swallows hard.

"Look," he says quietly. "Washington is... it's hard to explain. He actually cares about me. He didn't buy me all this shit because he thought he owed me for the sex, it's a whole other thing." He sighs. "We care about each other."

"What does he do for you?" John asks. "Material objects aside. What has he given you that justifies what you're doing for him?"

Alex frowns. "That seems like a presumptuous question," he says. "But I'll bite. He's introduced me to people I would never meet otherwise and they treat me like an equal because of him. He gives me advice that puts into words things I've never been able to really get my head around. Shit that just comes instinctively to people like you and him."

"Like what?"

"Like how to talk to a valet, or how to walk into a room and just assume and act like you're supposed to be there." He sighs. "This is another one of those things that you just — you don't get it because you don't live it."

"That sounds like a cop-out," John says, and Alex sighs again.

"It's not. And that's not the point," he says.

"So what is the point?"

"The point is that he's not taking advantage of me," Alex says firmly. "I know the difference."

John heaves a sigh, the kind that signifies an impasse. "I don't want to say that I approve."

"Well, I don't necessarily need your approval," Alex volleys back, and John holds up his hands in supplication, looking suddenly very tired.

"Okay," he says. A white flag. "I trust you. You're an adult. I've said my piece."

They both fall silent, and Alex wants to say something else — a more sincere apology, something real — but there's the click of a key in the lock, and then Thom Pinckney's stepping through the door, a six-pack in one hand and keys dangling from the other.

"Oh," he says in slight confusion as he looks Alex and John up and down. "Are you... Hi. I don't know if you remember me. I'm Thom."

"Pinckney, yeah," Alex finishes. "We've met."

"John said you were out of town," Thom says, and Alex shrugs.

"Came home early," he says. "I mean, I had to, right? The world is ending."

Thom laughs. "I mean, it's not so bad for me."

Alex feigns surprise, realization. He's gotten pretty good at this. "Oh, right," he says, smacking his forehead. "You work for Adams! Hey, man, congratulations. That must be a huge step up."

"It's not bad, yeah," Thom says, flashing straight white teeth in what looks like a genuine smile of pride. "Bigger office. We're already moved into the West Wing. Hell of a lot bigger than the EEOB."

"I bet," Alex says. He lets out a low whistle. "Shit. Speaking of the EEOB. You know anything about who Adams is thinking for the veep's job?"

Thom rolls his eyes. "I shouldn't say anything about this."

John takes the six-pack from his hand and pulls one of the bottles from the cardboard case, setting the rest on the coffee table. He gestures for the keys in Thom's hand, and quickly cracks open the bottle with one of them, taking a long sip. "I can't believe you've made me like IPAs," he says, a casual, benign, obvious attempt to change the subject.

But Alex isn't going to let it go. "You must know something, man," he says. "Everybody's going crazy. Normally at least one name would have leaked by then. It's like they're choosing a new pope or something."

"I mean, the papacy and the vice presidency are very dissimilar jobs," Thom says carefully. "But I assume the vetting process is similar."

"Who do you think they're looking at?" Alex asks again, and Thom sighs.

"Who do you work for again?"

"Washington," Alex says, and Thom eyes him warily.

"All I can say is maybe don't start making any office renovations this week," he says. "Maybe."

Alex cocks a brow. "Anything else other than maybe?"

Thom shrugs one shoulder cagily, taking a beer from the six-pack and holding it out to Alex. "You want a beer?"

"I do like an IPA," he says, eyeing the label. Thom cracks it open for him, and holds it out, but Alex doesn't take it. "What's this gonna cost me?"

"A favor," Thom says. "At some unnamed later date."

Alex cocks a brow. "Not a big fan of writing rain checks for favors, dude."

"Suit yourself." Thom shrugs, then takes a swig of the beer he opened for Alex. "But you can tell your boss he's in the running. Consider it a little gift to you."

"Why are you so forthcoming?" Alex can't resist asking, and he catches John's eye, but doesn't shut up. "I don't get it. You're a Republican working for a Democrat, doing me a huge solid here, dating a socialist, for Christ's sake -- what's your angle, guy?"

Thom shrugs. He takes another sip of his beer and leans back on the couch, spreading his legs a little wider, letting his left knee knock against John's right. "Call me bi-curious. Party-wise, I go both ways."

Alex pauses, at a loss for words. "Like Theodosia Prevost," he says without thinking, and Thom cocks a brow, smiling knowingly.

"You've heard about Theodosia."

"Hasn't everyone?" Alex can't resist, and Thom leans forward on the couch again, raising both eyebrows.

"You know who got her pregnant?" he asks, and Alex leans in a little further, heart jumping into his throat.

"What does it get me if I do?"

"I'll tell you who else Adams is looking at for veep," Thom say, and it's an offer he can't resist.

He swallows, shifts his jaw, hearing it click in the silence of the room. John's been watching them both intently, head bobbing back and forth like a ping-pong game. Alex glances down at the floor, rubs his hands together, and nods.

"Aaron Burr," he says quietly. "Don't say I told you. Who else is Adams looking at?"

Thom smiles, cagey, knowing, and takes another sip of his beer. Swallows. The silence in the room is fucking palpable, before he answers.

"Nobody," he says. "It's gonna be Washington unless the vetting process turns up something really bad."

Alex sucks in a breath. "If you'll excuse me," he says quietly. "I need to make a phone call."

Chapter Text

He’s halfway out of the apartment and headed down to the street when it occurs to him that this isn't a conversation he wants to have through a phone call. Wiretaps, Hamilton, and he rolls his eyes, ceaselessly blown away by his own stupidity. He stops in the stairwell, pulls his phone from his pocket, and orders another Uber.

Because apparently he’s the guy who takes two Ubers within two hours. That’s who he is now. The Alex of three months ago would probably punch him in the face, he thinks, but also, the Alex of three months ago would have been stuck waiting for a late train for way too long, letting precious time tick away on a metro platform, so whatever. The Alex of three months ago can suck his dick. He pauses, then taps in the address to Washington’s Cleveland Park apartment.

Couldn’t hurt.

The driver shows up thirty seconds later, and thank God, he isn’t very chatty either, because Alex’s heart is in his throat. He holds his phone out in his hand, staring at it, waiting. Uncertain of what he’s waiting for, but waiting nonetheless. He rides in silence to Washington’s place, thanks the driver effusively in Spanish, and steps out onto the sidewalk.

He pulls up Washington’s contact. He hits call.

“I’m outside your apartment,” he says when Washington picks up. “I hope you’re here.”

“Be out in a minute,” Washington says shortly, without questioning. Good. They’re on the same page. They’re simpatico. This should be fun.

When Washington opens the door, Alex doesn’t wait or waste time. He blows past him into the foyer, steps into the living room and shifts uncomfortably in place, waiting for Washington to rejoin him. He can’t help checking him out as he does. Expensive-looking sweats and a tight black thermal. If Alex is gonna die from the nerves pounding through his body tonight, he’s at least going out with a nice visual.

“So,” Washington says. Alex paces a tight square on the living room floor. “What do you have?”

“It’s you,” Alex says.

Washington falls silent. Alex turns his attention to the books on the shelf, running his fingers across the spines. His eye falls on a slim paperback titled The Arrogance of Power.

“Me and who else?” Washington asks.

Alex doesn’t turn to answer. “Just you.”

There’s a long beat. He pulls the book from the shelf, begins to flip through it. He’s a little surprised he never picked this up in school. Then he hears Washington clear his throat, and turns back, sliding his finger into the book to mark his page.

“Well, fuck,” Washington says quietly.

He blinks. “I, uh,” Alex starts to say. “Yeah. I mean. Can’t you turn it down if you don’t want the appointment?”

Washington sighs. He starts pacing, and Alex watches him from his vantage point near the bookshelf, Fulbright paperback still in hand. “I do want it. That’s the issue.”

"Oh," Alex says.

Washington turns and walks toward the kitchen. "You want a cup of tea, my boy?" he asks, and Alex frowns.

"Are you being serious?" He's not upset, only bewildered. "I mean, yeah, I just..."

He follows Washington to the kitchen, nothing the way his sweats hang low on his powerful hips, the way his shoulder blades and the muscles in his back move under the thin fabric of his thermal. He wonders, for a moment, if this is the most vulnerable he's ever seen this man.

In the kitchen, Washington fills a bright blue kettle with water and sets it on the stove. Alex can't imagine where he got it. He can't picture Washington going to a HomeGoods and picking out a tea kettle. It looks new, though, and so he wonders. Leaning against the kitchen island, arms folded across his chest, he wonders.

Washington seems incongruously relaxed, but only in the way he ever is: like a mountain lion, comfortable in his place as apex predator. Ever observant, ever vigilant, but cool to the point of what could be taken for complacency by a mistaken onlooker. It makes Alex nervous to watch him stand up straight in the kitchen, perfect posture, clearly deep in thought. If Burr was all coiled energy that evening, a rattlesnake about to strike, Washington's easy countenance in the face of — Alex doesn't even quite know what, yet — makes him even more uneasy.

"Sir," he says after a moment. "Exactly how bad is this situation?"

Washington makes an uncertain little humming noise, turns to the cabinets and opens one of them. "I suppose that depends on whose side you're on," he says cryptically. Takes out a box of tea bags. "Do you have a preference?"

Alex wrinkles his nose. "Yogi Tea?" he asks, unable to catch himself just in time, and Washington laughs.

"I've been known to indulge in yoga, too, here and there," he says. "I should teach you a few poses. Might be good for the tension..." He takes out two tea bags and sets them aside, then removes mugs from another cabinet shelf. REELECT SENATOR GEORGE WASHINGTON, one reads, and the other bears the insignia of a long-defunct veteran affairs PAC. Alex swallows.

"How bad is this for us?" he asks instead. Washington turns back to him, dropping both tea bags in the empty mugs, and sighs.

"Let's recount what we know," he says heavily. "Fact: you and I have been — having sexual relations, as the judiciary committee might put it — practically since you were hired. I have spent significant amounts of my own private money on gifts, trips, and other favors for you."

Alex nods. Chimes in. "Fact: your policy director has been having an affair with the House Majority Whip's chief of staff that has, as far as we know, resulted in a pending divorce and an illegitimate child." He doesn't say bastard. Thinks it, but doesn't say it.

"Fact: said policy director conspired with said chief of staff to write an amendment voiding the health care expansion in exchange for ending the government shutdown," Washington says. "Without permission or approval."

"Fact: he has yet to face any sort of discipline or termination for fucking us over like that," Alex says bitterly, ignoring Washington's look of rebuke. "Is that about it?"

Washington shrugs. "There's also the matter of my knowing about the Burr/Prevost affair and not doing anything to halt the amendment," he says casually. "Which is why I asked you, very specifically, to drop the subject. The less I knew, in that situation, the better."

The kettle whistles. He takes it from the stove.

Bile and panic both rise in Alex like mercury in a thermometer. He watches Washington placidly pouring two cups of tea, his vision almost black with terror, his breath coming shorter as he tries to breathe in counts of seven-ten-seven. He should have known — fuck, fuck fuck fuck, deniability. Wasn't that something he should have remembered? Maintain deniability at all costs? Fuck. Fuck. His vision is going fuzzy at the edges as he grips the countertop to keep from sinking to the floor.

"Granted, I had my suspicions," Washington says, and if he recognizes that Alex is frozen and rooted to the floor in abject panic, he certainly doesn't take note of it, just puts the kettle back on the stove and turns off the burner. He toys with the string of the teabag, dipping it up and down in his steaming cup and ignoring Alex's shortening breaths. "I'd already begun the process of extricating my affairs from Burr's employment — I never liked the man, truthfully, so I expected it would be no great loss, but..." He lifts the cup to his lips, but doesn't sip the scalding tea, just holds it there thoughtfully as Alex desperately tries to calm himself down.

"Sir," he manages to croak, voice choked and mouth dry as a chalkboard eraser. "I didn't — I had no idea — I'm so sorry."

Washington finally looks at him. Washington sets his tea aside and looks him in the eyes, and must finally notice the panic that has him frozen, statue-like, clinging to the kitchen island like a life preserver. He takes a step forward, cautiously places both hands on Alex's shoulders, and — meeting no resistance, not that Alex feels capable of providing it — presses them down, adjusting his posture, making him stand up straight from where he's hunched over.

The firm pressure, the slight adjustment, have an almost immediate effect. He knows this shouldn't work, that he shouldn't calm and steady under Washington's hands like this, when he's almost certainly about to be fired or broken up with or most likely both, but he says nothing, just continues to pace his own breathing, righting his own ship with a little help. Washington keeps one hand on the back of his neck, the other on his back, holding him there in place as he waits it out.

"What's done is done," Washington says quietly. "Lafayette had his suspicions as well — though he kindly didn't make the mistake of voicing them, or even going so far as to confirm them. May I ask how you found out?"

"Robert Livingston's son-in-law," Alex says quietly. Then, "Livingston probably knows, too."

"I don't doubt that he does," Washington says. "It would explain his sudden coldness toward me since the end of the shutdown." He pauses, squeezing the back of Alex's neck in an inexplicably soothing way. "This has, for the record, all the makings of a scandal for the record books. Two illicit affairs, a love child, a closeted senator with an immigrant lover, legislative malfeasance bordering on corruption, and the preexisting rumor that you're actually my illegitimate son. The press will have a field day if any of this comes out."

"Why are you so calm?" Alex asks, his voice barely a whisper, and Washington sighs.

"Because, my boy," he murmurs. "Someone has to be."

Alex lets that one sink in for a moment. Lets it permeate. He pulls himself together, the meaning in Washington's statement implicit but firm. When he's breathing normally again, he turns back to face him and steels himself.

"Question," he says, trying to phrase it in the same steady tone they'd both taken before. "How bad is this for me?"

Washington sighs and turns away, picks up his tea from the counter, and takes a sip. "I'm not angry at you, Alexander," he says conversationally. "I'm disappointed."

That word, disappointed, hits him like a poison dart. Alex grits his teeth, clenches his jaw — he's starting to shift, carry all his tension there from the effort of biting his tongue — and blinks a few times as the now-familiar sting returns to his eyes. Swallows. He's not going to cry, regardless of how much his body wants him to do it. He steps on the impulse, grinds it into the tile under his heel, and swallows again.

"I see, sir," he says. Doesn't lift his eyes from the kitchen floor. Shame isn't an emotion he's ever been intimately familiar with, but he's learning. There's a hand at his chin, directing his eyes up with two fingers, and Washington takes a deep breath.

"Do you think you should be punished for this, my boy?"

Alex closes his eyes, unable to meet Washington's. He sucks in a breath and swallows. His dry mouth is suddenly flooded with saliva. "Yes," he murmurs.

"Yes, what?" Washington's tone is conversational, almost bored. A betrayal of the situation. The upside, he thinks, is that he's neither fired nor dumped. He's tired, he's coming down from a minor panic attack, and he's starting to get a little testy. He's struck by the desire to push back a little, shame still ringing in his blood from Washington's disappointment. He feels the itch, the need to be taken down a peg.

"Yes, Daddy," he says, forcing his eyes open, his voice ringing out loud and clear, and then Washington's hand is back on the small of his back, pressing him down, bending him over the kitchen island. The other hand snakes around and deftly unbuckles his belt, undoes his fly, pulls his trousers down over his hips and his boxers to follow. His shirt is too long untucked, hangs down over his ass, so Washington pushes it up to mid-torso.

"Count them," he whispers, and Alex clutches at the counter in preparation.

It's not soft, and Washington doesn't ease him into it. "One," Alex says shakily after the first blow lands. "Two. Three." He's staring at the granite countertop, the two abandoned cups of tea on a gleaming sea of polished stone, grounding himself as the pain reverberates through him. "Four. Five. Six —" Fuck, that one hurt, Washington's hand is wide enough to span the whole of his ass. "S-seven."

"Louder," Washington says, and smacks him again, harder this time.

"Eight," Alex says. His cock is filling out, he's getting hard even though he knows he shouldn't — this isn't about sex, this is about disappointment, this is about discipline and knowing what he did wrong — but he can't help it. The pain sings in his blood with every stroke. "Nine," he says. "Ten." He hopes it bruises. He wants to feel this until Washington is sworn in as the veep.

"Thank me," Washington orders, and Alex sucks in a breath, arches his back.

"Eleven," he says. "Thank you."

"Thank you...?" Another sharp smack, right to his right upper thigh, and Alex sucks in a hard breath.

"Twelve," he says. "Thank you, Daddy."

"Fucking right," growls Washington, low in his ear, and then Alex is a goner. They're coming harder and harder now, and everything he knows about Washington's strength was a lie; what he thought was 75% was nothing; he's beyond logical thought as the blows rain down on his ass and thighs.

He's still counting, still thanking him, but he doesn't have a fucking clue what language he's speaking; could be English, could be Spanish, could be French; could be a mix of all three, he realizes in horror, as he hears himself — as if from outside his body — choke out a "Vingt-cinq, gracias, Daddy" in a voice that couldn't possibly be his own. He sounds wrecked, he sounds weak, he sounds ashamed, and as Washington fists a hand in his hair to hold him steady, he doesn't know what's worse: the pain or the fact that he loves every second, every square inch of it.

"Trente, thank you, Daddy," he chokes out, stretching the syllables out as long as it takes to form the next word, and Washington stops altogether, releasing his hair, pulls away entirely. He's clutching onto the counter for dear life again, holding himself up on trembling legs, and just as he's about to collapse —

Washington grabs him, wraps both arms around him and turns Alex to face him again, guides him down to the floor and pulls him onto his lap. The pain blooms on his ass and thighs, sharp and growing sharper, and he spreads his legs to straddle Washington's lap and thighs, buries his face into his neck and breathes.

That scent, again. He must have showered after he got home from the office, because he doesn't smell like stale plane air at all; he smells like he always does, dark and spicy and raw, like leather and ink and spilt communion wine, yet nothing like any of those things the same time. Alex presses his face against his neck, takes deep breaths. There's a hand petting his hair. There's a hand rubbing softly over his back in wide, gentle circles.

Washington presses a kiss to the shell of his ear. "Ssh," he murmurs, and Alex laughs. Not as if he's saying anything. Not like he's got the words.

They stay like this, on the kitchen floor, for some interminable amount of time. Alex has no internal way of measuring. It could be thirty seconds, could be thirty minutes. Washington only stops stroking his hair when he pulls away, tipping his head and sitting up a little straighter to look him in the eye.

"Is there... what can I do?"

"We're going to fix this," Washington says calmly. "And I'm going to become the vice president."

"You have a plan."

Washington laughs a little. "Of course I have a plan. I'm not some damsel in distress, regardless of how much my fellow politicians like to feign absence of knowledge to avoid responsibility for their staff's actions."

"Right," Alex says uncertainly. "I didn't — I understand that, sir."

They untangle themselves, standing up. Alex kicks his pants to the side, doesn't bother to put them back on. Thank God he let Washington talk him into leaving a few items of work clothing here. He doesn't quite feel capable of getting himself home tonight.

Washington hands him his untouched cup of tea, no longer steaming, nearly lukewarm, from the counter. "Drink," he says, a casual order that Alex immediately heeds. "You look dehydrated. Don't mind the taste, it's, ah, an acquired one."

"Mmf." Alex chokes down two mouthfuls of hot root water before he sets the cup aside. He doesn't really mind it, truth be told, unpleasant as the taste is. He's vaguely reminded of the home remedies his mother swore by. His real home. He hasn't stopped thinking about Nevis since they landed in the Maldives. He hadn't really thought about Nevis in years. "What's your plan, then?"

Washington regards him warily before he takes another sip. "Do you trust me?" he asks.

"Yes," Alex answers. Immediately. Truthfully. More than anyone.

"Then trust me," he says, calm and collected. "We're going to steer this ship through the storm."

Chapter Text

It feels so normal, so natural, waking up together. That’s the part that sticks in Alex’s craw, that would send him to a therapist if he believed in therapy. He wakes up curled around Washington, with five minutes to go before the alarm sounds, and in that moment the idea of getting up and actually going to work seems absolutely preposterous. Why? Why would he ever want to leave this moment, the place where, he realizes, he feels safest? Washington is still asleep, breathing slow and steady, and as Alex adjusts his position, curling up closer around him, he opens his eyes, just a sliver.

“Morning, princess,” he murmurs through the corner of his mouth, and Alex buries his face into his chest and nuzzles in a little. John doesn’t know about this. John doesn’t know shit about them.

“Morning, Daddy,” he mutters, and a little grin twists at the corners of his mouth as he realizes he likes saying it.

All of it, he realizes, feels so real and natural that he has a hard time believing it isn’t just the norm. Showering together to save time — which has the opposite effect, but Alex trusts that someday, at least, he’ll be able to see Washington dripping wet and nude and not immediately drop to his knees to suck him off — and breathless discussion of some work business, this or that, between pulling on underwear and socks and fiddling with buttons. He feels, in some sick, strange way, that he could easily get used to this. That’s the part that trips him up, that he wasn’t ready for. It’s not the sex that throws him off, or the power dynamic that still exists between them that makes him feel strange. It’s what’s left when all that falls away.

Washington makes him coffee and rye toast with Kerrygold butter. Washington ties his tie for him, there in the front hallway, and presses a kiss to his forehead.

Alex can’t help waiting, nervous, however paranoid it might be, for the other shoe to drop. For disaster to strike. Because he is nothing if not a magnet for disaster, and he senses that being this happy, this content with one person, has just slapped a big old target on his forehead. If he’s learned anything so far, it’s that happiness — however intense it feels in the meantime — is short-lived. It’s transient. It’s not even real. And yet it feels real. As real as the lace panties Washington tossed to him from yet another shopping bag that morning (“Surprise, princess, you’ll look so pretty for me today”). As real as the toast and coffee and shower steam.

He takes this moment, locks it away for when things get bad. Because he knows it's coming. It's just a matter of when.

“We’re going to fire Aaron Burr today,” Washington says resolutely, and starts the car.

"Remind me again how this helps," Alex says. "I mean, I want him out too, but the damage is already done —"

Washington shakes his head. "One secret, I can keep, I can rationalize away. You, I can keep. Burr..." He stares through the windshield at the bumper-to-bumper traffic in front of him. "Burr played with fire."

"Aha." Alex doesn't follow it up with the other question he's been struggling with, the one that goes So if Burr is disposable, what does that make me?  Washington summed it up neatly in four words. You, I can keep. A bargain. He's okay with that.

The silence in the car seems deafening. He stares out the window, then, impulsively, flips on the radio.

Washington gives him a sidelong glance. "Bored?" he asks.

Alex smirks back at him. "Traffic. Y'know." He begins scanning impatiently through the stations. "You pick something."

"I normally just have on NPR if anything," Washington says. "Though I can understand if you'd rather not have public radio on during the commute," and Alex rolls his eyes, teasing but not.

"Okay, old man," he says. "I'll have you know I grew up on both WNYC and Hot 97. I contain multitudes." He lands on 96.3, turns it up a little.

"Don't I know it," Washington says with a faint smile as the light turns green. "I still prefer quiet in the mornings. It helps to gather my thoughts. Too many opinions on breaking news rattling around before I've had a chance to fully form my own... I'm not a fan of being told what to think."

Alex shrugs. "Fair enough." He starts to turn it off, but Washington shakes his head.

"This is fine," he says, jerking his head toward the stereo. "For today."

Alex grins. "Yeah, you know it is," he says, and he thinks he catches Washington starting to smile as he makes a turn, eyes on the side rearview.

They make it to the Russell Building in comfortable time, and Alex excuses himself to run to the coffee shop on the corner, so as to not be seen coming in through security with Washington. He's waiting for his cappuccino near the counter when he spots Thom Pinckney, now dressed in a sharp blue suit and thin red tie, new West Wing credentials displayed prominently around his neck.

"I'm sorry, I asked for a coconut latte—" Pinckney is saying to the barista, when Alex sidles up, whacks him lightly on the arm. He turns and looks down at him with a look of faint surprise. "Alexander? Hey."

"Hey," Alex says, keeping it light. Keeping it casual. "What brings you all the way out here? You're, uh, on the wrong side of town."

Pinckney gives him a conspiratorial look. "I think you know exactly what brings me out here," he says with a faint smile. "It's kind of exciting, truth be told. I've never been on a vetting committee before!"

"Yeah, few people have," Alex says, taking his drink from the barista. "So what's your timeline looking like?"

Pinckney shrugs. "It honestly depends on what we dig up," he says. "Shouldn't be long. I'm talking to Knox and Greene today. Apparently they sent me because I'm not a party insider."

"Well, yeah, you're a Republican," Alex frowns. "That's pretty much the opposite of a party insider here."

"Yeah," Pinckney says. "The idea is that I'll be less willing to let certain red flags slip past, or that things will stick out to me. But..." He takes a sip of the new coconut-milk latte he's handed, and nods approvingly. "I serve at the pleasure of the President, first and foremost."

"Fair enough." They start for the door, and as Alex steps out into the bright spring morning, he slides his sunglasses down over his eyes, shoulders his backpack, glancing up at Pinckney knowingly. "Looking forward to working with you."

"Likewise," Pinckney says, inclining his head. "Look, maybe we should get a drink sometime. Without John. Talk a little more openly."

Alex cocks a brow. Cocks his head. "Is this just more of your bipartisan curiosity at work? Or do you have something to tell me that you couldn't say with him around?"

Pinckney grins. "Maybe," he says. It answers neither question, but before Alex can press it further, he's walking jauntily off, monogrammed leather satchel swinging against his hip. Alex watches him go, a mild nervousness beginning to build within him.


When he walks into the office, a few minutes later, he's still sipping his cappuccino slowly, mulling it over. He sets his stuff down at his desk, readies himself for the morning staff meeting — Washington has taken to allowing him in the room for these lately — but is quickly distracted by the unusual commotion coming from Washington's office. He frowns. Already? Goddamnit. Washington had promised he could watch while he fired Burr —

Except as he looks around, he notices a serious of very odd circumstances all at once. The nameplate formerly affixed to Burr's door is already gone. The lights in his office are dark, the door is ajar. Alex furrows his brow, pinches the bridge of his nose, and — with a wary glance around the rest of the room, who all seem to be captivated by the torrent of rapid-fire French coming from Washington's office — he carefully slides into Burr's office, trying not to disturb the angle of the door even as he flips on the fluorescent light.

He blinks rapidly. The place is gone. Cleared out. Nothing but the empty, gleaming desk and filing cabinets remain. Motherfucker even took the spider plants.

This isn't right. This can't be right.

He turns the light off and leaves as quickly as he snuck in, and crosses the bullpen to Washington's office, rapping on the door so hard he thinks his knuckles might split. Lafayette whips the door open immediately, and pulls him bodily inside by the lapels of his suit.

"What happened?" Alex asks, struck dumb as soon as the door is slammed shut behind him, and Washington, standing behind the desk, holds up a sheet of paper and a slim white envelope and reads.

"Senator Washington,

"Please accept this letter as my formal resignation from my position as Policy Director within your staff. I am afraid that, due to unforeseen circumstances, I am unable to give proper notice and must let you know that my final full day of employment will be today, May 24th.

"While I regret that I must resign immediately, I have enjoyed working on your staff and have gained invaluable experience. I wish you and your colleagues well in your future endeavors and thank you for your prompt attention to this matter.

"Sincerely, A. Burr ."

Alex glances back and forth between them, dumbstruck. "What does this mean?" he asks, rapidly trying to contextualize. "Does he know that we know about the pregnancy? Is he trying to cover your ass?"

"You know about the pregnancy?" Lafayette asks in surprise, and then shakes his head. "I do not know. I doubt it. The only ass Aaron Burr cares to cover is his own."

Washington frowns, throws down the paper. "The timing. He couldn't have known that I'm being vetted — I barely knew — but something's up. He knew that we planned to let him go anyway."

Lafayette is pacing the carpet, an infinite figure eight, his phone still held aloft to his ear. "He is not answering," he groans. "Again. Seven times, I've tried him —"

"Fuck." Alex throws himself down on the couch, winces hard as he feels the impact against his bruised ass. "Okay, so what are the possibilities? He resigned to cover our asses, he resigned to cover his own ass, he resigned to take another position —"

"My money's on that last one," Washington says gravely. "I have a hunch. I never should have trusted him —"

"For what it is worth, I have been saying this for months, sir," Lafayette says. "If you had listened to me —"

Washington cocks a brow. "I'm sorry?"

Alex watches Lafayette cringe and shake his head, hanging up the phone and throwing it back in his pants pocket. "I apologize. I just — this Burr thing, and I barely slept, I was up all last night calling everyone I know, trying to find out who else is to be vetted —"

"Oh, shit, I forgot to tell you," Alex says, leaning forward eagerly on the couch. "The Pinckney thing? Totally worked out. He gave me everything. I would have called you, but I, ah..."

He looks to Washington expectantly, who takes over without missing a beat. "He took it directly to me," he says.

Lafayette arches a brow, looking him over with renewed interest. "You knew about Ms. Prevost's pregnancy and now this business with Pinckney," he says approvingly. "Is this the journalist in you? This investigative business?"

"What?" Alex says, a little bewildered. "Oh. Uh. Yeah. I guess so."

"Well," Lafayette says. "This is lovely news, but Aaron Burr is still a — what is the word?"

"Shady motherfucker," Alex mutters.

"Language, pr—Alexander," Washington says, throwing him a look of rebuke as he shrugs back into his suit jacket. "I have a meeting."

"A vetting," Lafayette fills in, and Washington sighs, nodding.

"It may be several hours," he says, picking up a banana from the bowl of fruit on his desk. "In the meantime, do what you can to figure out what the hell's going on with Burr. Both of you."

Lafayette and Alex exchange a glance as they watch him leave, and Alex sucks in a breath. "What now?" he asks, and Lafayette shrugs.

"How certain are you, that Burr is the father of Ms. Prevost's child?"

"Pretty certain," Alex says. "Like, eighty percent."

"I would place my own certainty at around the same percentage," Lafayette says slowly. "Perhaps we should pay her a visit and see if we cannot clarify the matter further."

"And what if it's true?" Alex says. "What do we do with that then? He's not our problem anymore. What if..." He trails off, a new idea coming to light. "This Maria Reynolds he's so friendly with. What's her story?"

"I already told you," Lafayette says stiffly. "She is nothing more than a glorified prostitute —"

"Okay, yeah, that aside," Alex says brusquely. "What's her sway, is what I mean? Like, let's say we had an interesting story about someone in the soon-to-be-VP's office resigning in disgrace making a couple unsavory deals with the mother of his love child. Would she be able to get that out there? Emphasis on the 'in disgrace' part? You follow?"

Lafayette slides his glasses off, rubs a hand across his face. Alex sees his shoulders go up as he takes a deep breath, then slowly nods.

"I follow," he says quietly, and sighs, looking up. "Yes. That seems likely."

"Right," Alex says. "Then let's go talk to Theodosia."


They make it through security at the Rayburn House Office Building by calling on Lafayette's friendly rapport with one of the guards on duty, citing an off-books meeting with Congressman Mercer. The House is in session, but, Lafayette says with convincing certainty, Theodosia will be around.

Alex follows Lafayette over the threshold of Madison's office, doing his best to affect the same cold confidence, the same grounded assurance that they're meant to be there. And certainly enough, no one bats an eye, save for one younger staffer who looks at them both askance.

"Mr. Burr's not feeling well," Alex says quickly. "He sent a delegation instead."

"Send him my regards," says the kid, and Alex nods as he and Lafayette head for the door in the corner marked Theodosia B. Prevost.

They don't knock. If anything shady's going on, might as well not hurt to catch it in the act. But there's nothing scandalous to be caught as they step into the office, only a beautiful woman with a thin face and heavy bangs, who slides her glasses off her nose as she looks up at them both.

"Mr. Lafayette," she frowns, her voice throaty and husky, not at all the whine Alex had imagined in his thinking over the situation. "And... who are you?"

"Alexander Hamilton," Alex can't resist saying, and then jerks his head at Lafayette. "I — I'm with him."

Lafayette rolls his eyes. "I suppose you have heard, Ms. Prevost, of your friend's sudden departure from our staff," he says, politely but cool. "We wondered, perhaps, if you might be able to shine some sort of light on this situation."

Theodosia Prevost looks them both up and down, her brow furrowed. "I'm sorry," she says. "I don't really know what you're talking about."

"Aaron Burr resigned this morning, no reason given," Alex says. "We're kinda curious as to why that is. Now, we know you two are friendly, and we're wondering if he's said anything to you that might explain his motivations."

"No," she says shortly, looking back to the screen in front of her. "He didn't. I'm sorry, I really have to get back to work."

Alex cocks a brow. "Fair enough," he says. "By the way, you look lovely today, Ms. Prevost. One might even say you're — glowing."

The look of horror that dawns on her face as the meaning sinks in fills Alex with a dual sort of sympathy and glee. "I'm using a new moisturizer," she says, her voice shaky and unconvincing, and Alex shrugs.

"Well," Lafayette says. "Whatever it may be, it is working for you."

He and Lafayette exchange a look, and they make for the door, Alex practically vibrating with excitement. As they step out into the hallway, Lafayette turns to him, grabs him sharply by the shoulders.

"That was brilliant," Lafayette hisses, "I didn't expect —"

"Did you see the look on her face?!" Alex tries to keep his voice down, but it comes out as a harsh whisper anyway. "Oh my God, holy shit, my man, he's definitely the dad, we just Maury Povich'ed the fuck out of this situation —"

"I don't understand the reference, but I gather that it's a good thing!" Lafayette has a wide grin on his face as Alex holds up his hand for a high-five. Lafayette takes it, smacks his palm hard, and grins wider. They stand there in contemplative, excited silence for a moment, and Alex is about to ask what they're next move is, when —

"Hello, boys."

Alex whips his head around at the slimy voice coming from behind them, but he already knows who it is. Fuck. Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck. "Senator Jefferson," he says, feigning confidence.

"What business do you have with James's office, I wonder?" Jefferson's drawl seems to become even more exaggerated the longer he talks, and Lafayette rolls his eyes.

"A friendly errand," he says smoothly. "Would that I could stay and chat, but I've got work to do." And without a backward glance at Alex, Lafayette shakes Jefferson's hand and strides off down the hall, leaving him stranded there with this —

"So, Alexander," Jefferson says, oily and confident, clapping him on the shoulder, a parody of friendliness. "Walk with me. I've got a meeting downstairs, I'd love to get to know you a little better."

Alex swallows, glancing at Lafayette's retreating figure. He's about to fabricate a flimsy excuse, but for perhaps the first time in his life, his ability to bullshit extemporaneously and on command is failing him. "There's not much to know," he says as Jefferson tugs him by the shoulder a little bit, practically towing him down the hall until he's following by his own accord.

"Ohoh, I disagree," says Jefferson. "You see, I'm always interested in hearing about where Washington finds his new staffers. He doesn't make it a priority to hire Virginians, which has always struck me as... interesting."

"Well, his chief of staff is a French ex-pat," Alex says, "and he's about the most capable person I've met in D.C. so far, so I can understand where he's coming from."

Jefferson laughs a little. "Washington and his immigrants," he says. His voice is light, but there's an ugly twist to the word immigrant, one that makes Alex's stomach churn as it sinks in. "You'd think he would learn, someday, that a habit like that doesn't always attract the right type of attention."

Alex shrugs. "I guess his priorities are just different from yours," he says.

"Guess so." Jefferson smiles without teeth as they head into the stairwell. "And now these rumors about you getting promoted, spending so much time with Washington... I suppose I understand why Mr. Burr jumped ship. You had your eye on his job, didn't you?"

"I didn't... I haven't heard any of these rumors," Alex says, heart in his throat. "I'm very happy doing my own job, and I don't like what you're implying... How did you know Burr resigned?"

He watches the look on Jefferson's face, watches every subtle twitch, every little movement. He knows— he knows — that this isn't good, that Jefferson is trying to intimidate him —

"Because, Mr. Hamilton," Jefferson says with a placid smile, turning to face him on the second-floor landing of the stairwell. "I hired him."

It's at this moment that Alex feels his phone start to vibrate, buzzing insistently against his leg, and he pulls it hastily from his pants pocket to see Washington's name flashing on the screen. He holds it up weakly to Jefferson. "I'm sorry," he says shortly. "I have to take this."

Jefferson tilts his head, his placid smile curling into a smirk. He looks Alex up and down knowingly, dismissively. "Ah, yes," he mutters. "Daddy's calling."

It feels as though he's been stabbed. That word. Their word. He doesn't — he wouldn't know, he has no way of knowing — it has to be about the other rumor, the good rumor, the one they decided to run with — but as Jefferson smiles a little wider and starts to stride away, Alex knows in his gut that he's lying to himself.

He knows. Somehow. He knows.

He hits the button and summons all the voice he has left. "Hamilton," he says, and as Washington starts to speak, he can still hear the hard soles of Jefferson's wing-tips clicking on the stairs.

Chapter Text

The office is mostly quiet when he returns. Charles Lee is having a loud phone conversation in the bullpen, negotiating with a blogger about a story leak that wasn’t supposed to happen until Friday, but Alex isn’t really in the mood to listen. The rest of the office is on pins and needles — silent people, silent desks, one intern hovering over the morning donuts, unsure whether she’s allowed to take the last one.

It’s Boston creme. Alex gives her a look, and she skedaddles. He thinks he deserves this. One last meal.

Lafayette’s office door is shut, but Alex knocks anyway. He thinks he hears a faint “Come in” from the other side, so he tries the handle.

Lafayette takes a deep breath as he enters the room. “I apologize for leaving you alone with Jefferson,” he says immediately. “But I have taken that bullet for Washington too many times. You can understand why I took advantage of the opportunity to pass it on to someone else…”

Alex closes the door. Takes a seat. Looks down at the donut in his hand and sighs. Literally his favorite kind of donut, and he can’t imagine actually eating it. This is what Jefferson has done to him. This is what he’s done to himself. He takes a small bite, chews thoughtfully.

He has to say it. He also has to ask.

“I have a question,” he says, choosing his words as carefully as he can. “Do you and Washington… what’s your relationship like?”

Quelle importance?” Lafayette looks up from his work, setting aside his pen as he rakes his eyes over Alex. Alex takes a bigger bite. He can barely taste it.

“I’m just wondering,” he says, through a mouthful of donut. “Your relationship… the dynamic between the two of you, when you’re alone. How do you see him? How does he treat you? That kind of thing.”

Lafayette eyes him suspiciously, but shrugs in response. “He is like a father to me. I admire the man very much.”

“Yeah,” Alex mutters, “me too…”


“Nothing,” he says. “I just…” And here he sighs. Because it’s the question he’s been thinking about for weeks, since the entire thing started. The one he hasn’t been able to bring himself to ask Washington, knowing it will only disappoint him. But he has to ask. He has to know, given what he’s gotten himself into. “Has he ever, y’know, hit on you?”

“I don’t —” Lafayette frowns, and Alex feels his face heat up as he rushes to elaborate.

“Made a pass. Y’know.” He waves his hand suggestively through the air, takes a deep breath. “I was just wondering.”

“No!” The immediate look of surprise and shock on Lafayette’s face suggests that he seems to be telling the truth. “No, no, non. Nothing of the sort. I would never — he is like a father to me, as I said.” And then the look changes, grows a bit more critical, a bit irritated. “This is about the rumors, yes?”

“There are more rumors?” Alex groans. He rakes his non-sticky, non-donutty hand through his hair, tugging at the roots in frustration. “Jesus fucking Christ, how would anyone — I didn’t think we were — the dominant narrative was supposed to be the illegitimate son thing, goddamnit.”

He looks up to see Lafayette looking at him in suspicious confusion. “What are you talking about?” he asks.

“People knowing about me and Washington,” Alex snaps. “Obviously that’s what this is about, Jefferson even — why, what are you talking about?”

Lafayette slowly raises an eyebrow. “Is there something going on between you and Washington of that I should be aware?”

Alex blinks. "Don't you... You don't already know?" He thinks back on all of his strange interactions with Lafayette — his cagey tone, the knowing looks he throws around like beads at Mardi Gras — what was he acting so goddamn knowing about if he wasn't perfectly and completely aware of what was going on? "What did you think was going on?"

Lafayette frowns. "Did Washington not set you up with the SecDef's daughter? His wife's assistant?"

"What? No!" Alex knows this is stupid, he knows full disclosure is far from his friend here, and yet — he can't stop himself, can't rein it in, can't hold his tongue now or ever. "We've been sleeping together!"

"You and Miss Schuyler? Or..." One dark eyebrow goes up as Lafayette finally grasps what Alex is telling him. "No."

"Yeah." Fuck, he wishes he hadn't devoured that donut so quickly. He'd give anything for something to do with his hands. "Wait, you really thought he was setting me up with Eliza?"

Lafayette nods, a barely-suppressible look of glee slowly creeping in about his features. "I simply thought — the new clothes, the long weekends, you both accompanied them on vacation — when he saw you flirting with Miss Schuyler at the ALEA gala, he was quite amused —"

"Was he now." Alex grits his teeth.

Lafayette hums, still smirking. "He said Martha would be quite amused by this turn of events. I didn't... Of course, I know of the General's inclinations, but... I never would have assumed..."

Alex heaves a sharp sigh, shoots him a glare as he digs his fingers into the arms of the chair. "You can't tell anyone," he says shortly. "I'm being serious. This is — it's hard to explain."

"Evidently," Lafayette chortles. "I shall not breathe a word. I have kept his other secrets, this one is no different..." He trails off. "Why? Why is this pertinent now, pray tell?"

The silence in the room is deafening as Alex stares at the desk, considering his options. If Washington has already put out the story that he and Elizabeth Schuyler are a burgeoning couple, what are Jefferson's suspicions? It's a good cover. A great cover, he thinks — there are photos of them together, a picture from the gala of him whispering in her ear, clutching her elbow, and the two pictures she snapped on vacation, posted to her personal social media with a series of palm tree emojis, they can run with this — fuck, Washington did have a plan all along, he never should have doubted it...

But then — he recalls Jefferson's oily confidence, the swagger in his step as he'd looked Alex up and down before dropping that bomb. That wasn't a bluff. He's not a professional poker player, but he knows that was no bluff. Whatever Jefferson's so sure about, he was certain enough to lay it out on the table like a royal flush. And something awful twists in his stomach as he thinks about it, remembering the way Jefferson's lips had curled into a sickening smile, the little simper to his voice —


He knows, Alex realizes, in his gut of guts. Whatever he knows, he knows, and he has no idea how that might have come about, but it's more than an idle threat. He has to take Jefferson seriously. Anything else would be suicide.

"Jefferson knows," he says shortly, and he doesn't have to look up to know that Lafayette is staring at him in abject horror.

"No," Lafayette whispers, and Alex nods. "How would he...? He is not — were you not careful?"

"We probably could have been more careful," Alex mutters. "But we never — Washington is crazy about cameras, he never does anything where he knows we could be taped." Anything else is hearsay, Washington had explained to him; his word against a random stranger's, who will the press believe? Alex begins counting off the times they might have slipped, finds that he can count them practically on one hand — the bookshop in Annapolis, the restaurant where Washington had fed him off his fork, the menswear boutique, though Hercules would never — the Maldives, where no one looked twice at them. Everything else...

They'd stuck to his private office, the hideaway, or Washington's own apartment. All three quite private, hidden behind locks and impressive security. Who else would know? How else would they know?

"We were careful," Alex adds slowly. "No, we were very careful. There were three, maybe four times, but..."

"Maybe four?" Lafayette says, aghast. "Do you not —"

"It was his move. Every single time," Alex says sharply. "I would never. I'm a fucking idiot with no impulse control, but even I'm not that dumb."

"So how does Jefferson know, then?" Lafayette counters, and Alex shakes his head.

"I don't know. We'll have to wait and find out."


It turns out that he doesn't have to wait long after all.

Alex is sitting in Washington's private office, well after much of the rest of the staff has departed. Washington himself is still being vetted. He'd called Alex, Lafayette and Lee, given them the rundown. The session was mostly being conducted by a third party, James Duane, a lawyer none of them knew personally, only by reputation. Nat Greene, Robert Morris, and Thom Pinckney had all dropped in as well.

"I don't know how much longer it'll be," he says heavily. "We're taking a dinner break. You can all head home, if you like."

Lafayette had called Adrienne, told her not to wait up. He and Lee ensconced in Lafayette's office, up to their asses in phone calls now that the story has finally seemed to have leaked (and Alex digs deep into his PolitiFinder contacts, shoots off an email to Deborah Sampson begging her to hold off on publishing anything concrete). He's sitting at Washington's own desk, now, drafting press release after press release, readying them for —

There's a knock at the door, and Alex sighs. He's deep in his groove. He doesn't want to talk to Lee about the specifics of this press packet or that blogger contact. "Yeah," he groans, and looks up as the door slides open.


"Senator Jefferson," he says quietly. "Representative Madison." They've come together as a set, they always do, and then Alex furrows his brow as he registers the third member of their party. "Aaron Burr. Sir."

Aaron Burr shuts the door behind them, stands there with his hands behind his back. None of them look as though they're trying very hard to intimidate. They don't have to, and they know that, Alex realizes as he swallows. Their presence is enough, and they know it.

"What is this about?" He tries to keep his voice light. He knows there's no fooling this trio, but he tries, valiantly, nonetheless.

Madison is the first to speak. "Quite an auspicious office for someone of your position," he says with a little cough, looking around the room. "Tell me, does Washington himself have a throne in some other office, such that he allows his bodyman to occupy a space like this?"

"Senator Washington is in a meeting," Alex says coolly. "We have an arrangement. I do my best work in a proper office."

"I'm sure you do," Jefferson snickers, and Alex swallows again.

"What is this?" he asks again, and a series of looks go around their little triangle until he feels like screaming.

"I'm certain you have a few ideas of your own," Jefferson says with a smirk. "But if you need it spelled out for you —"

"If this is in regard to something Lafayette or I said to Theodosia Prevost," Alex lies swiftly, "you can take that to Lafayette. The visit was his idea and I'm certain he has more to say on the topic."

"If only it were," Madison says. "Alas, my boy..." He trails off meaningfully, and Alex has had it.

"Out," he says shortly, pointing at the door, but Burr steps back against it, folding his hands in front of him now, and Alex feels his pulse start to rattle against his throat.

"Perhaps we should cut to the chase, then," Madison says, taking his time with the words, slow and steady like the proverbial tortoise. "I'm certain you're aware that your swift rise has prompted a bit of interest around Congress. After your little performance in front of the press following the resolution of the shutdown, in particular, we were all curious about you."

"Myself included," Burr says. He's still smiling as he says it. It's more than a bit unnerving. "You see, I've been in D.C. for a few years, I like to think I know my way around, and I have never seen someone embarrass themselves as badly as you did without facing some consequences. But you, Alexander!" He laughs a little, as if it's a private joke between them. "You just continued to rise and rise. Being promoted to deputy comm director under Charles — though retaining the duties of your prior position — attending all manner of dinners and galas on Washington's arm..."

"You can see, then, why we had... certain suspicions," Madison laughs. "At first glance, the evidence seemed to suggest a more familial connection, and I'll admit, I was intrigued. But then..."

Jefferson raises a brow, takes over. "But the deeper we dug, the clearer it became that Washington is not, in fact, your father, so much as your... daddy."

This time Alex is ready for it, ready for the hot, insinuating lightning strike that fizzes down his spine, and he forces himself to meet Jefferson's eyes, a challenge. "That's not true, and my girlfriend, Elizabeth Schuyler, can confirm that," he says. Leaning into the plan. Trusting Washington. "You're barking up the wrong tree, unfortunately."

"Are we?" Madison asks, his voice surprisingly pleasant. He opens his jacket, takes out his phone and calls up a picture. "What does this look like, then?"

He holds it out to Alex, who swallows as he stares at it. Grainy, sure, but clearly them — in the restaurant, tucked into the corner at Tavola Toscana, Alex leaning over the table to let Washington feed him off his own fork. Alex rolls his eyes, shakes his head. "That was a joke taken out of context," he says sharply. "Haven't you ever seen Lady and the Tramp, Congressman?"

"Interesting," Madison says. He scrolls through his phone and calls something else up, and Alex is frozen in place, can only wait for it, his heart hammering in his chest as he stares with dark fervor at the men in front of him. And then Madison's turning up the volume on his phone, setting it down on the desk as he hits "play" on an unnamed audio file —


"Don't stop saying it, or I will stop."

"Yes, Daddy . . . Daddy, please, Daddy, oh my God — don't stop, please — please, don't stop, Daddy — I need you to suck my cock, I love your mouth, please, Daddy, let me come, I don't care if it's with your hands or your mouth or if I have to do it myself, please, Daddy, just let me come for you —"

Madison hits pause, puts the phone away carefully. "It goes on from there, of course, but you get the gist."

Jefferson smirks. "So," he says. "You and your daddy, huh? I suppose my gut instinct was wrong. We live and we learn."

Alex can't speak. He's frozen, his mind white with rage and terror, fingers dug into the blotter on the desk as he closes his eyes and wills himself, wills himself, not to panic. Not now. Panic later. The anxiety he's expecting doesn't come, only a dull sort of buzzing in his ears that threatens to drown out the rest of the conversation.

Madison is still talking. "You see, the evidence suggests that Washington has been spending quite a lot of money on you. Donor money. Campaign money. Government money, as it happens."

"Those are some mighty nice suits you've been wearing lately, Alexander," Jefferson says as he takes a few steps forward. "And is that a new phone I see there?" He gestures at the one sitting on Washington's desk. "Hell, you even look better fed..."

"You know what I see here?" Madison says casually. "To the naked eye, I see a senator spending quite a bit of money on a low-level staffer, who should in no way be able to afford the lifestyle he seems to live." Alex clenches his jaw. "And then I begin wonder where that money comes from. Mr. Washington's a wealthy man, sure, but he's a married man, as well — and you and I both know he's an intelligent man."

"His wife would notice, if he were spending this kind of personal money on you," says Burr. "I've met Martha many times. She's got a steel trap of a mind, and they both freely admit she manages their accounts. So let's say Washington wants to buy you some pretty new things without attracting his wife's attention. How does he pay for them?"

The three of them all smile without teeth, and Alex feels a spurt of indignant triumph begin to rip through him. "Oh, my God," he says in awe. "You're so wrong, you don't even know what you don't know —"

Jefferson cocks an eyebrow. "Are we?" he says. "Because from where I'm looking at it, the story seems pretty damn plausible to me."

"And to the public," Burr adds. "I'm sure the press would have a field day with this. The prospective vice-presidential appointee misappropriating federal money to spoil his sugar baby?" He laughs, harsh, mocking. "He'd be forced to resign. But you, Alexander? You'd be ruined."

Alex blinks rapidly, forcing himself to focus. Because — the thing is — the men in front of them, they're wrong, but their story looks right. The medium is the message. He dimly recalls saying those exact words, here in this office, before any of this even started. The medium is the rumor; the message is their ruination.

Not just him. But Washington.


He can't let this happen.

He steels himself, clenches his jaw, and opens his goddamned mouth. Because the rumor — that's more dangerous. Rumors are always worse than the truth. "You're wrong, and I'm going to prove to you that you're wrong," he says steadily. "And if you can keep my secret, I can keep yours, Burr."

"My secret?" Burr cocks a brow, and Alex laughs.

"You and Theodosia Prevost," he says. "You got her pregnant, and then you made that health care compromise with Madison's office, and if that news got out, you'd both be — what was the word? Ruined?" He cocks his head. "Both of you. Don't you think your child deserves better than a couple of corrupt laughingstocks as parents?"

"We'll go to K Street," Burr says, but his voice isn't quite so assured as his words would indicate. "Or Wall Street. Haven't decided."

"I'm not fucking around," Alex says, harsh and low in his throat. "So you have a recording. So you have one photo. That doesn't prove the bulk of what you're saying. Look at the accounts. Look at Washington's private and office accounts. He hasn't spent a dime on me that wasn't his to spend. You think his wife doesn't know? You think his wife doesn't approve? The only crime we've committed has been one of ideology, and maybe neglecting to file some paperwork with HR. I've earned every promotion I've gotten and everyone else in this office can back me up on it." He swallows, wipes the corners of his mouth with thumb and forefinger, and keeps talking. "I haven't even received a real promotion. I'm still making exactly what I was making when I was hired. The deputy comm director title is a title only. We have kept our hands clean. We know what we're doing. And I think the press is going to be a whole fucking lot more interested in how you obtained that recording than in the contents. Do you have any more questions for me, gentlemen?"

His entire body is vibrating as he looks from person to person, from Jefferson to Madison to Burr. Jefferson cocks a brow and glances at Madison. "What do you think, Jimmy?"

Madison shrugs. "We'll look into the accounts. You do know I'd prefer not to look like a fool."

"The recording, however..." Jefferson shrugs. "That's damning. That's damnable. Perhaps I could let it slide, keep it in the vault, if Washington promises not to give us too much trouble in the Senate, but..."

"As the Vice President," Madison finishes, and they exchange a look before turning back to Alex.

"He turns down the appointment," Jefferson says, "or we tell the people what we know."

Alex leans forward in the chair. "I can't make that decision for him."

"Then we will," Madison says quietly. "He turns down the appointment, or else we'll have Mr. Burr pay a visit to his friend Maria Reynolds."

"And if he does?" Alex can't resist asking. "If he doesn't take the offer? Will this all go away?"

Jefferson and Madison exchange a look and a shrug, and head for the door. Burr's on his way out behind them, but pauses.

"Perhaps," he says. "But you know the funny thing about rumors, Alexander. Most people don't really care whether they're true or not."

Chapter Text

His phone buzzes on the desk.

Alex isn’t sure how long he’s been sitting here, staring blankly at the stack of papers in front of him. Somehow, what he was doing before, this press release and that wording pass on Lee’s speech — none of it particularly seems to matter.

His fingers are sweating. They’re damp and clammy. He wipes his left hand hastily on his pants before he swipes over his phone screen and lifts it to his ear.

“Sir,” he says immediately. “You should probably get back to the office soon.”

“I’m already home, actually,” Washington says. His voice sounds buzzed, not drunk, not like he’s even necessarily been drinking, but like he’s riding some high. The crest of some wave that Alex himself will have to break. He winces. “Get a cab over, princess, I’ve got some news to discuss that isn’t the best fit for a phone conversation—”

“I’m on my way,” Alex says quickly. Hangs up. This, at least, gives him a buffer. A few minutes to figure out what the fuck to say and how to say it. He can get his panicking done in the car.

Traffic is worse than expected. It’s close to an hour before the driver drops him at the curb outside Washington’s apartment. It was half an hour too much time alone with his own thoughts; he’s itching and uncomfortable in his own skin, feeling a bit as though he’s about to do something incredibly stupid. Although, he thinks, laughing bitterly to himself as Washington opens the door, it’s a little late for that. He shudders to think at what he could possibly do to top his own stupidity now. Kill someone? Add murder to the list of rapidly-escalating charges against him? Might as fucking well.

And then Washington opens the door, and Alex’s heart sinks through the floor as he realizes, fully, what he’s about to have to tell him. Washington is grinning and has half shed his workday clothes, pulls him inside in his shirtsleeves and boxer briefs. There’s jazz playing in the background. He’s —


“Sir,” he says quietly as he steps inside. “I think — I’m not sure you’re going to… I’m so sorry.”

Washington frowns. “What is it, son?” He leads Alex toward the kitchen, takes a sip of the glass of wine he’s left on the counter. It’s so fucking domestic Alex could die and he hates this. He hates that this is how it’s going to end. That this is the last thing he’ll see, Washington half-clothed and drinking red wine and humming along with Miles Davis, before the world gets pulled out from underneath him.

He bites down and summons all the energy he has, and spits it out. “Jefferson knows.”

It’s as if the air leaves them both. The conversational equivalent of introducing a black hole to the room, pulling everything to its gravitational center, an unimpeded force of destruction. Alex doesn’t really know how black holes work. It’s something he thinks, dully, that he should look up someday.

“What does he know?” Washington says, flat, unreadable, and Alex inhales sharply.

“He has — recordings,” he says quickly. “From your hideaway. The two of us. The one he played… it was explicit. I don’t know how much else he has. He thinks you’re spending donor money on me. Or at least thought. I don’t know. I told him —”

“Alexander.” Washington’s voice is sharp as a whip crack and it makes Alex jump. “What did you tell him?”

“Too much.” Alex is flinching in place even as he tries to parse the contents of what he recalls saying, the rambling, self-righteous landslide of words that came falling out of his mouth when he felt backed into a corner. “I told him — fuck, I admitted that Martha knew, that you have an arrangement, I really shouldn’t have said that — I said it was all private money, that all we did was break a few workplace HR policies…”

He sees Washington sink onto a kitchen chair, face and body language still unreadable. He wants to keep rambling, but, for once, senses that he’s said too much. “I’m so fucking sorry, sir.”

Washington grimaces. “The recording,” he says. “How did he…” And then an aghast look of horror passes over his face, thundercloud-like, and he sucks in a breath. “The ticking. I always assumed it was the office’s proximity to the building’s infrastructure — or a neighbor’s grandfather clock — I never thought —”

“But how would they know?” Alex asks. “Who has access to the hideaway? I thought the whole point was that they were supposed to be a secret location — you don’t even know where Knox’s is.”

“You know where it is,” Washington says, ticking them off on his fingers. “Lafayette does. And Burr knew…”

Alex closes his eyes. “He’s been in Jefferson’s pocket for God knows how long,” he murmurs, and Washington makes a short sound of assent. “Jesus Christ. How did I not see —”

“Because I trusted him,” Washington says flatly. “I was the naïve one here. This isn’t your fault, Alexander. I would bet money that recording device was in the office long before you came into my life.”

“Okay,” Alex says uncertainly. “So what they said was that you have to turn down the appointment, or else they’ll release the recording.”

Washington cocks a brow. “Well,” he says. “That presents a problem.”


“I’ve already accepted it.” Washington leans back in his chair, rubs the back of his neck thoughtfully before adding, “Did they say who they’d send these recordings to?”

“Maria Reynolds,” Alex says. “I mean, I’m certain most media outlets would publish it, but they were quite adamant about it being Maria Reynolds —”

“Because she has no code of ethics,” Washington mutters, low in his throat. “She’ll publish anything. Which is…” He trails off. “Do you remember, once, Mr. Mulligan saying something about a love child of Jefferson’s?”

Alex looks up from where he’s been slowly shredding his cuticles, hands in his lap. “I — vaguely,” he says. “Something about his housekeeper. Paying her off.”

Washington nods slowly. “I’m not a man to make idle threats, Alexander,” he says slowly. “When I draw my gun, it’s with the intention of shooting to kill. That being said, Jefferson has overstepped his bounds one time too many.”

“Sir,” Alex says, breath catching in his throat. “What if I… you don’t have to do this. What if I came clean about it? Went to the press and told them the truth? I could—”

“No,” comes Washington’s response, sharp as a whip yet again, and Alex starts. “Absolutely not. Don’t do anything stupid, Alex. We need to obtain copies of those recordings, so as to have proof that the hideaway was tapped, and we need some sort of proof of Jefferson’s love child, so as to counter his obsession with my morality, make him look like a hypocrite if he decides to make a move. We’ll keep Burr’s dalliance with Theodosia in our back pocket, as he’s made it quite clear that he’ll do anything to protect her. I’m not being sworn in for two more days. Do you think we can make this happen before then?”

Alex blinks. “I — I can handle the recordings,” he says, although he’s uncertain that he can. “Madison had at least one of them on his phone.”

Washington nods thoughtfully. “Okay,” he says. “I do have some knowledge of remote recording and security devices. We have one at home in Mount Vernon, for security reasons. The recordings mine captures back up to a hard drive rather than the cloud, again, for security — impossible to access remotely, but in the event that the contents need to be destroyed, it’s possible to do so physically. Do you follow?”

Alex frowns. “You think there’s a hard drive somewhere with a bunch of recordings of you on it?”

“That’s exactly what I think,” Washington says. “It’s just a hunch, mind you, but it’s a strong hunch. We don’t need to destroy the recordings, only prove that they exist. Tortious intrusion is a serious crime. But we need them.”

“Okay.” Alex takes a breath. “I can handle that. I think.”

Washington nods. “I think you can,” he says. “This isn’t only your fault. We’ve both been tremendously stupid. That being said…” He takes a breath. “The threat isn’t about the vetting or the vice presidency. Of course they asked. They have to. ‘Have you ever had a homosexual encounter?’ You should have seen the look on Duane’s face, it was a farce—they don’t care. The party doesn't care. It’s the public we have to worry about.”

“So taking it public ourselves…” Alex trails off, and Washington shakes his head emphatically.

“Not an option. Destroy Jefferson and Madison with their own corruption. Don’t destroy yourself, my boy,” he says. “There’s a reason they went to you with this instead of me. They’re trying to set you up to fall on this sword, destroy both of us by playing into the human desire for martyrdom.”

“I don’t have a martyr complex.”

“You don’t have any impulse control, either, I’ve noticed,” Washington says archly, and Alex feels his face grow warm, because he can’t really argue with that one. Fine. He’ll let it lie. Washington fingers the stem of his long-forgotten wineglass, and sighs. “Get some sleep.”

“I can’t,” Alex admits. “Not like this. I’m too… my body won’t let me. I used to take Ambien when I got like this but I ran out.”

Washington sighs. “There’s melatonin in the bathroom cabinet,” he says. “Take one. I can’t afford to have your judgment impaired right now.” Any more than it normally is, Alex fills in automatically, but says nothing, just pushes his chair out from the kitchen table and drags his feet into the bathroom.

The melatonin puts him out fast. He sprawls into Washington’s bed and falls asleep alone, on his stomach.


New York is nothing like he expected.

It’s not like the movies. Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, that’s kind of what he’s expecting when they pass through customs at La Guardia. But it’s not. It’s the height of summer and the air is as sticky as it is in Nevis, but worse-smelling, with a heavy scent of garbage that seems to cling to their clothes as they board a dollar van to the Bronx.

It’s hot. It’s the hottest day of the year, says Uncle Pete. He’s not really their uncle, he’s a cousin, but he’s Mama’s age and lives in the Baychester Houses and is letting them stay there, at least until Mama finds a new job. This building, he can already tell, is not somewhere he’ll be proud to let people know he lives. At least back home, they had a house. Not a one-bedroom apartment in the projects with roaches that scurry back into the crevices when he flips on the lights in the middle of the night. The fluorescent light in the elevator flickers and dims every two floors and Uncle Pete lives on the sixth.

“Hey,” says Mama, kissing him and Jimmy both on the foreheads. “We’re on the top floor. This is a penthouse apartment.”

He screws up his face and finds the place he lost on the page, running his finger over the top corner, flipping the pages fast. Smooth. It’s soothing. Jimmy won’t stop making noise over his two Hot Wheels cars.

“You study real hard,” Mama says the first time they pass the Columbia University stop on the 1 Train, “and maybe you’ll go to school there someday.”

“Yeah,” Alex grins. Thinks about himself at Columbia. Returns to his book. Maybe.

“No doctors,” she had groaned, “no hospital,” and Alex doesn’t know exactly why, understands it has something to do with insurance and their tourist visa having run out weeks ago, but through his fever, breath coming out in racked spurts as he fights for every bit of oxygen he can suck through the phlegm in his chest and lungs —

He lies his head on her chest and lets her hold him.

She’s holding him, and then she’s not.

Uncle Pete lasts about four more months. Jumps dead in front of the 6 train at Westchester Square.

Alex doesn’t flinch. He doesn’t even blink. He doesn’t think about it every night for the next five years, the screech of metal against the tracks and the sparks on the third rail and the anguished scream Pete let out before his body —

The blood. There’s so much more blood in a train suicide than anyone ever expects. He sees three more of them over the course of his life and it never ceases to amaze him. He always runs a hand over his face in the aftermath, dazed, dull, expecting it to come away covered in spatter like a scene from a horror movie or like Patrick fucking Bateman or some shit. It never happens. The last time it happens, John is with him, and John crumbles that night, face sagging against Alex’s shoulder as he chokes on his words. Their friend. Lost her fucking mind with half a semester left of grad school, threw herself in front of a downtown 1 train at 9:14 a.m. in the springtime. John had never seen anyone die before.

New York is nothing like he expected and it isn’t his home. None of the families he moves in with are his home. There’s no such thing as a home anymore, not since the hurricane. It was the last home he had. He’s not —

It’s not —


He wakes up overheated. His entire body a fever. The clock says 2:41 and Washington is there, breathing steadily in the bed next to him, and Alex presses the back of his hand to his own clammy brow, praying he’s not getting sick, praying he’s just running hot from the blankets, because he doesn’t fucking know how his federal government health insurance works and he doesn’t like doctors anyway.

Washington’s breath is clear and even and Alex watches it, listens to it. The rise and fall of his powerful chest in the dark and his breathing, steady as a metronome.

His body buzzes with words he shouldn’t say, so he doesn’t say them in English, just falls back face-down on the pillow and whispers them into the silk pillowcase.

He opens his eyes again, half an hour before the alarm goes off. And he’s ready to draw his own gun, groggy as he is, hauling himself into the shower before Washington even wakes.

“I don’t know if I’d kill for anyone I love,” he remembers telling John once. “But I’d probably take a bullet for them.”

“Me too,” John had said, eyes sparkling like it was something that mattered, like a real commonality instead of a thing everyone says. But what Alex hadn’t said in the moment, the real question that plagues him — stepping between two drawn guns, does that count? Whose bullet is he taking? Who is he protecting? He needs fucking coffee. He needs reassurance. He needs a lot of things.

He’s gone, calling a cab before Washington wakes up. He leaves a note on the coffeemaker with a smirk on his face.

If I get arrested for breaking and entering today, you better post my bail, old man.

— ♕

Chapter Text

He's the first person in the office by a long shot. Alex makes himself a couple cups of coffee, sits down at his desk to start formulating a game plan. He has an idea. He has a germ of a plan, a sprout of an idea, but often his ideas don't come to fruition until he writes them out on a page, improvising and letting the words flow out of him until he's got a few thousand words of stream-of-consciousness brilliance on the screen in front of him. Either that, or he improvises, but this isn't a day for improvisation.

The research he does suggests his plan would work. If Washington is correct — and he chooses to believe that Washington is correct, because he doesn't have a lot of margin for error outside of that — and Madison and Jefferson are backing their recordings up on a terrestrial hard drive, rather than in some kind of cloud storage, then it's probably nearby, somewhere in either the Russell or the Rayburn Buildings, or in the Capitol Building itself.

His gut has a less impressive track record than Washington’s words when it comes to where he lays his trust, but his gut is telling him it's in the Rayburn Building. More specifically, in Madison's office. When he and Lafayette walked in the day previous, the look that staffer had given them was significant, he thinks. He looked at them as if he was expecting someone else. Burr. And Alex had chalked that up to the affair, as anyone in their right mind would, but now he's not so certain, again. How often would Burr and Theodosia let themselves be seen sneaking around the office? Fuck's sake, not even Washington flaunts their own business that openly.

No, he decides, this isn't just a matter of Aaron Burr being a familiar face in Madison's office for reasons pertaining to where he's sticking his cock. This is something else. Something bigger. Something like —

Something like his coming in on a regular basis to review secret, illegal recordings of his boss, perhaps?

Alex grins as he works through it, fingers flying along his keyboard as he taps it out. So Congress is in session. Madison will be in chambers all day — he's the House Whip, there's no way he'll be around, not with the vote happening on the floor today. But there's also the matter of Theodosia, who, according to Lafayette, tends to stay in the office when Madison is out and about.

He has an idea for handling that, too. A stupid idea, but what else is new?

Otherwise — he sees little else standing in his way, if what Washington has taught him holds true. Head up, shoulders back, act as though you belong, and it's unlikely that anyone will question their presence until after they're gone. He hopes.

He fucking hopes, at least.

But he can't let his nerves and better judgment get in the way this time. Not today. Not with what's at stake. Today, unfortunately, is the day of all days to summon what bravado he can, walk in, and hope to hell and heaven alike that he can, once again, get lucky.

There's a buzzing in his blood, a sort of confidence that he knows well. Good. He might as well be a little bit manic, ride the razor’s edge. Maybe it makes him do stupid things, but it also makes him smarter, too, possesses him to move in directions a saner man wouldn't. This is treachery. This is one degree removed from treason already. But he's not sweating it. Because, he laughs as the thought occurs to him, how much worse could it possibly get?

The office door slams, and he whips his head away from his screen.

“Monsieur Lafayette,” he says, in as charming and suave a voice as he can assume under the circumstances (the circumstances being that his heart already seems to be vibrating at a frequency normally only audible to dogs). “Just the man I needed to see. No glasses today? Good look. I dig it.”

Lafayette frowns. “I broke my frames last night and must wear contacts until my new ones arrive. It is seven in the morning. How long have you been here?”

“Don't worry about it,” Alex says quickly. “I need your help.”

“To do what, pray tell?” Lafayette is moving carefully, warily, looking around like he's expecting someone else to pop out, and Alex laughs, because of course he does.

“To break into James Madison's office, locate a hard drive containing some recordings that could ruin Washington's entire career and mine and maybe even yours in one fell swoop, and steal it.”

Lafayette's staring at him like he's lost his mind, and Alex is almost tempted to laugh again and tell him preemptively to stop looking at him like that because for your information, Lafayette, he is fine, but before the words are halfway out of his mouth, Lafayette cuts him off.

“All right.”

Alex stops himself mid-breath. Furrows his brow. Just wants to make sure he even heard that correctly. “What did you just say?”

“I said all right,” Lafayette says, his voice going up a little bit at the end. “I don't know what recordings you're talking about, or what they have to do with Madison, but if you say the General's career is at risk —”

“And mine, and again possibly yours although I'm really not sure —”

“—then I'll do it,” Lafayette says. “Yes. Sure. What's the plan? How do I help?”

Alex opens his mouth, then closes it again. In all honesty, this is a little bit of a surprise. He can't honestly say he entirely intended to get this far with Lafayette, and was frankly entirely prepared to go it alone. Asking Lafayette for help was a failsafe, a couldn't-hurt. He doesn't...

“I'm not sure,” he says. “That doesn't mean you shouldn't do it, mind you. Just that the plan was kind of constructed for one —”

“By whom?”

“You're looking at him.” Alex inhales, puffs out his chest. Confidence. Fake it 'til you make it, dummy. After all, if he can't fool the one other guy on their team, it wouldn't make sense to —

“All right,” Lafayette says again, and then, like the break of dawn over the Indian Ocean — wow, Alex thinks, he can make such specific analogies now — he grins, slowly and then all his face splitting open at once. He has dimples! Alex never noticed the dimples before.

Okay. Not now. Focus on Lafayette's dimples later, Hamilton, these are desperate times.

“Okay,” he says, forcing his voice to stay stable. “So here's the plan I'm working with. We walk in like we own the place. We say we're on an errand from Burr. We go into Madison's office, we look for the hard drive, we take it, we walk out. We're gone before anybody but the one intern we talk to knows we're there. Simpatico?”

He grins at Lafayette, who looks at him, brow furrowed, as if he's seeing him for the first time. “You expect this to work?” he says slowly, and Alex shrugs.

“It's about as complicated as every other plan I've tried so far,” he says. “Life isn't Ocean's Eleven, Lafayette, my man. Sometimes the thing that's so simple it seems stupid is actually the thing that works.”

Lafayette frowns. “And Madison? What if he is in there?”

This is where Alex is prepared. He opens his browser, pulls up Politico. Front page: HOUSE SET TO VOTE ON LIVINGSTON MEASURE, MADISON AMENDMENT, DESTROY HEALTH CARE AS AMERICA KNOWS IT FOREVER.

“He's not gonna be,” he says, and smirks. And Lafayette nods slowly, approving. Amenable.

“Then all right,” he says, for the third time, and Alex lifts both eyebrows. “When are we doing this?”

“Well,” Alex says quietly, and pulls out his phone. “I just have to make one quick call.”

He blocks his number, as Lafayette watches approvingly, and then pulls out a scrap of printer paper, upon which he's painstakingly copied down a phone number. “Called in a favor to get this,” he says, by way of explanation. “I knew it'd come in handy. And William Duer still owed me for the dine-and-dash he did on my ass three years ago.”

“Charming,” Lafayette remarks, but Alex just rolls his eyes and dials from the new blocked number, clearing his throat and affecting a sort of scratchy, upbeat tone.

“Good morning, Mrs. Prevost, this is Cameron from Total Woman. We were going through your charts last night and noticed a disturbing discrepancy in a couple of your test results. If you can come into the office this morning, that would be best. Someone will be able to see you right at nine. Again, this is Cameron.” He hangs up with a satisfied look at Lafayette.

Merde.” Lafayette blinks. “I cannot — Alexander — that was a stroke of genius —”

“Actually, I can't take credit for that one,” Alex says. “Came to me in the shower this morning. Have you ever seen the movie Mean Girls?” Off Lafayette's shrug, he presses on. “Whatever, it was big when I was in high school. Did I sound relatively feminine? I was going for at least mysterious and androgynous.”

“Perhaps a bit like Scarlett Johansson,” Lafayette manages through a choked laugh, and Alex shrugs.

“Cool. I'll take it. So I'll give it until nine, and Theodosia should be out of the office for at least a couple hours,” he says.

“What do we do until then?”

Alex shrugs. “We wait. Do you know how to pick locks? I never got the hang of it, myself.”

It’s close to nine when they walk into Madison’s office, heads high. Alex has a shelf of papers in a manila envelope tucked under one arm, and Lafayette carries his sleek leather laptop bag slung over one shoulder.

“Burr sends his regards,” he tells the office assistant, who barely glances at them. “We’ll just be in and out.”

She doesn’t blink, just shrugs and goes back to whatever she’s doing. Alex bites back a gleeful grin as he and Lafayette stride toward Madison’s office, praying to God it’s not locked. He jiggles the knob, then pushes down. The door slides open slowly.

“Fuck,” Alex whispers to Lafayette, and Lafayette smirks a little as they step inside. “This is going way better than I expected. This is insane.”

“Knock on wood,” Lafayette says. “Do not speak too soon.” They shut the door behind them and stand in the center of the room, brows furrowed. They’re not going to ransack the place, but —

“Okay,” he says quietly. “Let’s be very careful to put things back where we found them. We should probably be wearing gloves, but fuck it, right? Just —” He opens a desk drawer, but finds it filled with nothing but chocolate-covered raisins and yogurt pretzels and a couple boxes of envelopes. Of course Madison would have the worst taste in snacks, he thinks, closing the drawer and trying the one underneath it. Bunch of folders, but — he skims the contents of two of them — none of them look interesting. Tax shit.

If I were a hard drive, where would I be, Alex murmurs to himself, bending down — fuck, it could look like anything, he’s not even certain exactly what they’re looking for…

“There,” he points. A wood-paneled cabinet under the desk. He can see wires sticking out of a hole drilled in the side, connecting up to the back of Madison’s computer. He tries the door. Locked. “Can you pick that lock? I really don’t want to have to smash it.”

Lafayette sighs, and takes a paper clip from the desk, unfolds it carefully. “Again, knock wood,” he says, and Alex taps reflectively on the desk, wondering if it’s the only American idiom Lafayette ever bothered to learn. Whatever, not his concern, not the point. He watches with bated breath as the paper clip slides into the lock, and Lafayette begins to jiggle it carefully. After perhaps forty-five seconds of this complicated dance, and a little bit of whispered swearing in French —

“Bingo,” Alex murmurs, as the cabinet drawer pops open. He pulls his shirtsleeve over his hand — for some reason, it occurs to him that he really ought not to get fingerprints on this one — and pulls it further open. He’s ready to grab the hard drive and go, when —

C’est des conneries,” Lafayette spits.

Fuuuuuuuck,” Alex groans.

The cabinet — save for the tangle of wires, connecting Madison’s desktop computer to nothing, apparently — is empty. Alex at least has the foresight to take out his phone and snap a photo of the empty cabinet before slamming the door shut again and standing up in frustration. “It can’t just be gone,” he says. “Like, it has to be there somewhere. Fuck. Do you think he knew and took it home with him?”

“I doubt it,” Lafayette says. “But where would you keep something you would not want found? Where does the General keep his, ah, secrets?”

Alex blinks. “Members of the House don’t have hideaways, there’s too many of them,” he says slowly. “But… the Whip’s office…”

Lafayette nods. “Quite easily accessible from the second floor of Congress — but hidden in plain sight, Capitol tours walk by it twenty times a day. Security cameras everywhere. Impossible to break into. Someone would notice us picking a lock.”

“Shit.” Alex slumps against the desk, then stands up straight just as quickly, mindful of his surroundings. “Then again —” He taps his fingers on the arm of the desk chair, thinking quickly, synapses firing on all cylinders. Lafayette frowns.


“What if we didn’t pick the lock?” Alex chews on his lower lip as he thinks it over. “I have an idea. Hold on.”

He doesn’t have much of an idea, it’s half-baked at best, but as they both turn to leave the office, there’s a sharp knock on the door, and then —

“Senator Jefferson, can we get you anything?”

Lafayette turns to Alex, in horror and slight confusion, and Alex, suddenly, feels an idea burst into his head, fully-formed and stupid as the day is long. There are a million ways this could go wrong, he thinks as he grins, but it’s got to be worth a try — stupid, sure, but he’s done stupider things that have turned out better —

“He thinks you’re Jefferson,” he hisses under his breath. Lafayette moves to adjust his glasses, but his hand meets nothing but air, and he blinks rapidly, as if remembering that he’s not wearing them — “Don’t say anything,” Alex cautions, “just keep your mouth shut and try to… look Jeffersonian, okay?”

Lafayette takes an uncertain breath, but then nods.

He opens the door. There’s a kid standing on the other side, cup of coffee in hand. Young. Couldn’t be more than an intern. Alex looks him up and down and nods.

“Actually, yeah,” Alex says quietly. “Senator Jefferson and I are trying to play a little, ah, prank on Madison, but we just realized it would be way more fun to do it to his private office. In the Capitol, while he’s in chambers. Do you know if there’s, like, a master key to that office floating around here somewhere?”

“We’re really only supposed to use it for emergencies,” nods the intern uncertainly, “I was talking about more like an almond croissant or something like that —”

“But I’m asking you for the key,” Alex says, and this is fun. Fuck, this is fun, bluffing his face off like this. “Now, listen, I know you know my boss. I know you know he’s a powerful guy and he’s very good friends with your boss as well. This is an old tradition between the two of them and we really don’t need you to get in the way. Now…” He sucks in a little breath, and smiles slightly, his best approximation of Jefferson’s own little supercilious smirk. “I need you to go get us those keys. Senator Jefferson needs you to go get us those keys. And we can both promise you that there will be a healthy reward in it for you, for helping us out like this. You with me, kid?”

The intern, as if hypnotized, nods. “What’s the prank?” he asks quietly, and Alex laughs.

“Oh, you’ll find out,” he says. “Go get those keys.”

“Right away, sir. I’ll be right back.” And he hauls ass in the direction from whence he came, returning thirty seconds later with a ring of keys. “I think the office key is the one with the brass cover attached to it, the fancy one — if there’s anything else I can do, sir —” and here he looks instead to Lafayette, and Alex’s heart is in his throat and his body is in a cold sweat, because — if there’s one arena in which they bear no resemblance to each other, it’s this —

But when Lafayette finally answers, it’s in a thick Southern accent. “Not at all, boy,” he says, and it’s not exactly Jefferson’s drawl but it’s close, it’s close enough, Alex decides as he claps Lafayette on the arm and nods.

“No, no, you’re good, you’re all good with us,” Alex agrees as he begins to lead Lafayette out of the office, taking care to shut the door behind them. “Thanks, kid, we’ll owe you one. You ever need a favor, you know who to ask.”

The kid grins. “Will do, sir,” he says, and Alex feels the slightest pang of guilt over playing some poor intern like this, but fuck it. The ends justify the means. He makes a mental note to get the kid’s name and offer him a sweet summer gig in the VP’s office if this all works out.

They don’t freak out until they’re out in the hall, by which point they’re booking it as quickly as they can to the Capitol. He’s almost tempted to snap at Lafayette to slow the fuck down, we weren’t all track stars back at the Sorbonne, but they’re both running on adrenaline and Alex senses that Lafayette couldn’t slow down even if he wanted to, and truthfully neither could he. So he throws all the vibrating energy rattling around his body into this, hurls himself forward as they get through the door of the Rayburn Building and start sprinting toward the Capitol, and if they’re sweaty when they get there, they’ll be sweaty, it’s not like this doesn’t happen all the time anyway — he’s seen fully-elected members of Congress haul ass to stop votes, get into meetings, slide behind a closed door with seconds to spare, it’s not like this is in any way out of the ordinary —

He thinks he hears someone shout “Senator Jefferson!” as they sprint through a side door, and he really would not have thought that Lafayette removing his glasses would have such an impact, but then again, he thinks, people are fucking idiots.

They slide through security like A-Rod crossing home base, pulling their laminates from where they’d stashed them in their breast pockets prior to their sojourn into Madison’s office, and then make for the second floor. Majority Whip’s office. Alex thinks he knows roughly where it is, but Lafayette, blessedly, hauls him forward with confidence. “Slow down,” Lafayette murmurs in his ear as they wait for a tour group to pass, “don’t be so suspicious —”

You stop being suspicious,” Alex snaps, “you’re all sweaty and shit —”

“You are more sweaty than I!” Lafayette’s tone is a harsh whisper as he gestures for the ring of keys, but Alex shakes his head and gestures for him to step aside. The brass key cover, the fancy one. He locates it, slides it into the lock, and turns it.

The door clicks open.

The office is dark. Silent. Not a soul to be found. Hardly bigger than Washington’s own hideaway. They shut the door behind them and flip on the light.

“Mother of fuck,” Alex says, pointing. “That’s it.”

And this has to be it, sitting on the desk atop a pile of papers — like Madison hadn’t even bothered to hide it, like he never expected to have to. Alex blinks carefully as he picks it up. It’s heavy. It’s heavier than he expected, but otherwise it looks totally normal, a 2-terabyte hard drive not unlike the one John keeps his photography on at home, white with bright orange casing. Lafayette opens his bag, and Alex stows it carefully inside.

They exchange a look. Alex is aware, vaguely, that he’s still sweating from their sprint over.

“We should go,” he says quietly, and Lafayette nods. “Before Madison comes back.”

He locks the door behind them as they step back out into the hall, inhaling sharply. It occurs to him that now, they’re running on borrowed time. That if they’d at least managed to replace it with a decoy — not that he could have, it’s not like he’d even known what they were looking for, going in — they’d have bought themselves at least a few more hours. If it were hidden inside the office, they’d at least have the luxury of its absence not being the very first thing Madison will notice when he walks back inside. This is so stupid. This is so, so stupid and there’s video camera footage of them walking into that office and walking back out, and…

“We need to call Washington,” he says, and gestures for Lafayette’s phone. “I’m gonna need to use yours. Just… just in case.”

“I cannot believe we did that,” Lafayette grins, apparently still riding the adrenaline as he hands it over. “I — you — oh, my passcode is 2904 — what is on there, by the way? What was so dangerous that you had to reclaim it?”

Alex shakes his head. “You’ll find out,” he says, pulling up Washington’s contact and hitting ‘call.’ They book it along the hallway and duck into the first men’s room they see, just as Washington picks up.

“Lafayette?” he says through the phone, and Alex interjects immediately.

“Actually, it’s Alex. I — me and Lafayette, we have the thing.”

Washington is silent for a moment. “Bring it back to my apartment as soon as you can,” he says. “I’ll meet you there shortly. Come alone.”

“Your apartment?” Alex says, uncertain. “Just making sure —”

“I’ll be there shortly,” he says again, and hangs up. Alex hands the phone back to Lafayette, and shrugs.

“I’m gonna need that,” he gestures for the bag, and Lafayette sighs, trading him, bag for phone. “If they show up at the office, hold them off. You know nothing, okay?”

Lafayette shrugs. “I still don’t know what is on that thing.”

“Good,” Alex says fiercely. “I promise this will all make sense in, like, three days. I just — thanks. For this.”

Another shrug, and Lafayette turns down the hall in the opposite direction. Alex takes a breath. Heads out the back, the opposite way he came. Checks the time on his own phone.

They’re on borrowed time. Now more than ever.

He’s never felt more alive.

Chapter Text

It’s a little after eleven when Alex is banging on the door of Washington’s apartment. He feels a brief rush of nerves in the spare moment between knocking and the door swinging open, a sort of what-if, a worst case scenario he hadn’t planned for. But then Washington swings the door open, and Alex takes a deep breath.

“I have it with me,” he says, and Washington smiles. Briefly. It’s just as soon replaced by a serious look of concentration as he opens the door wide enough so that Alex can slip past. But he takes that smile in, internalizes it. Carries it with him. He senses that, with whatever is to come, he’ll need it.

“All right,” Washington says as he locks the front door, then deadbolts it for good measure. “Let me see what you’re working with here.”

Alex pulls the hard drive from Lafayette’s bag, and Washington takes it from him, nodding thoughtfully. “This is about what I’m working with at home,” he says, opening his own laptop and plugging the USB into the drive. “Do me a favor and pray it’s not locked or encrypted…”

“If it is?” Alex frowns.

Washington shrugs. “It’s not the end of the world. We still have the drive, and the FBI employs people to crack things like this all the time. But it would be… aha.” He trails off as a pop-up appears onscreen, and hits ‘View folders.’ “This looks about right.”

“Why are they doing this?” Alex says, folding his arms as he leans over Washington's laptop. “Why are they making it so easy for us?”

“Was it really that easy?”

“I don’t know. Maybe, looking back.” Alex shrugs, trying to recount the events of the morning. “I got Theodosia out of the office with a fake phone call from her OB-GYN —”

“How'd you manage that?” Washington asks, looking as though he can’t resist asking, and Alex shrugs again, grinning a little.

“Asked around,” he says. “Someone I used to trade sources with says her colleague saw her coming out of a clinic close to GBU. I extrapolated. Apparently she's taking Zofran, which means either really bad morning sickness or straight-up HG — and she’s older, so it’s technically a high-risk pregnancy — anyway, I knew she wouldn’t want to take any chances. Anyway!” He runs a hand through his hair, tugging on a couple pieces near the front, trying to refocus. “We just kind of went in, looked through Madison’s office, didn’t find anything, but ended up getting an intern to lift us some keys and checked his office in the Capitol Building on a whim. And it was just, like, there. Sitting on a desk. Doesn't that seem too easy? Like it’s a trap of some sort?”

Washington shakes his head and begins clicking through the hard drive. “Not necessarily, my boy,” he says. “Think about it this way. They tipped their hand by admitting they had the recordings in the first place, but it was an intimidation tactic. I’ve known Madison and Jefferson a lot longer than you have, and they’re not the type to assume anyone will ever retaliate against them in a situation like this. We saw this with the shutdown, remember? They’ll do anything to establish their dominance in a battle of wills, but end up unprepared to do battle over it.”

“Huh,” says Alex. “Interesting.”

Washington glances at him sideways, and Alex can see him frown. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing,” Alex mutters. “I was just kind of hoping for more of a fight. So what now? We just take this to the FBI and they go to prison? That’s it?”

Washington chuckles as he clicks on a folder, the name of which is a promising-looking scramble of letters and numbers. “Not necessarily. We don’t know what’s on here. This might not even —”

“But Madison still has the recordings on his phone, too,” Alex interjects as he remembers. “And that photo from the restaurant. What if he just — goes straight to the press now? He could do that, right?”

Cocking a brow, Washington clicks through to the next folder. “Goddamnit. It’s like one of those Russian nesting dolls —”

Matryoshkas.” Alex can’t help filling in the proper word. “Sorry. One of my foster families was Russian.”

“Of course.” Washington barely seems to bat an eye. “This looks — oh, interesting.” The last folder, the smallest doll in the nest, is filled with PDF after PDF, and Alex cocks a brow as Washington clicks on the first. “What’s so interesting that you had to bury it in twenty empty folders with nonsense names, James?”

Washington opens the first of the PDFs and begins to skim it. Alex leans in over his shoulder — they're close enough that Alex can smell the scent of his cologne, his mouthwash, and he closes his eyes briefly, because they'll have all the time in the world once this damn thing gets resolved. Blinks twice, then refocuses.

"Oh," he says quietly. "That's not... huh." Washington is scrolling quickly, but it just looks like some sort of financial report. "I expected something else, I guess."

"Ssh." Washington shakes his head as he opens the next file in the folder. More of the same, all documenting donations from a PAC called Family Future Action. Except... Alex furrows his brow as Washington clicks to the next file, and then the next.

"Why does Madison have records of this PAC's donations to Jefferson's campaign?" he asks, shaking his head. "What does this have to do with anything?"

Washington opens a browser, a funny little look on his face. Types "Family Future Action" into the search bar, and waits for the page to load. "See for yourself," he says to Alex as he opens the PAC's webpage, and Alex frowns as Washington clicks "Board and Staff."

"Oh, shit," Alex hisses as it loads. He takes a step back, steadying himself.

Dolley Madison, President, reads the header, and Alex inhales a deep breath, placing one hand on Washington's shoulder for balance.

"Okay," he says. "Uh. I'm not an expert on campaign finance reform — yet — but this seems vaguely, in some sense of the word, kind of corrupt, right? Unless you know something we don't. It looks like —"

"Like Madison is laundering money through his wife's PAC, which gets donated to Jefferson's slush fund," Washington nods. "And I'm guessing that there is evidence somewhere... wait. Hold on."

Washington opens another window, pulls up the contents of his own hard drive. With a couple keystrokes, the screen begins to fill with individual files, which he sets to sort by file type. There are more PDFs on this thing, Alex thinks, than he even thought possible; Washington scrolls and scrolls and scrolls until he hits another batch with similar title —

"These figures caught my eye before, but I wasn't sure until now..." Washington shakes his head. "Here. Records of outgoing donations made by Jefferson personally to the New Life Church in Charlottesville, Virginia."

"How did you —" Alex starts to ask, and then catches himself. "Oh. Freedom of Information Act, IRS. All this is public information."

Washington nods. "I put in a request for Jefferson's tax records after Mr. Mulligan referenced his possibly paying for the care of a secret child he conceived with his former housekeeper, a Ms. Hemings. Look at this, Alex." He finds the document he's looking for, and pulls them up side by side. "Donation comes in from Madison's PAC, donation goes out to the New Life Church. Same exact figures, occurring twelve times a year for the past, oh..." He double checks a couple figures. "Four years. You know that this is?"

Alex bites down on his lip. "Donation fraud."

"Bingo." Washington takes a breath. "I'd have to double check, but I would bet my entire estate that there is no such thing as the New Life Church, or at least, it doesn't exist as what we would call a church."

"You think it's a shell?" Alex knocks Washington's hand out of the way, goes back to Google. "New life church charlottesville" autofills as soon he types "new," and Washington chuckles as the page loads. Alex blinks again, nods slowly as he scrolls, his suspicions confirmed. Nothing matching that name in Charlottesville or any of the surrounding suburbs. It's a shell.

"The phone number," Washington says. "On the paperwork listing the donations. I called it already, a couple weeks ago, and a woman answered. She wasn't... It's not a church number."

"I'm going to try it," Alex says immediately, and Washington shrugs.

"Be my guest," he says, gesturing. Referring to the number on Washington's screen, he dials quickly, and after three rings, a woman's voice picks up —

"New Life Church."

"Oh," Alex says, thinking quickly. "I'm trying to reach a Ms. Hemings?"

There's a brief silence on the line. "Nobody by that name here," the woman says after a pause. "You must have the wrong number."

"I must," Alex says apologetically. "Have a good one." But she's already hung up.

Washington is looking at him expectantly as he sets his phone aside, and Alex nods slowly. "So this is..." He trails off, uncertain of what Washington wants him to say. Good? It seems good. It certainly seems good. He drums his fingertips on the desktop, mulling it over, and Washington, finally, finishes his sentence.

"The motherlode," he says, and Alex glances up at him.

"And the recordings?"

"Yes!" Washington slaps his own forehead with one wide palm, groaning in exaggerated frustration. "I almost forgot about them — in the wake of, well, this — I didn't —" He begins to click through the drive again, then stops as he reaches another folder, this one filled with .MP4 files. "Aha," he murmurs, and calls one of them up.

It's three fucking hours long, and Alex groans. "We don't have to sit here and listen to all of these, do we?" he asks, and Washington shakes his head.

"I doubt it," he says, scrolling further. Most of the files are titled by date and time, as if automatically named, but there are a few anomalies. He pulls one of them up, and Alex immediately cringes at the name: daddyslittleprincess.mp4.

"That'd be Jefferson, I'd bet," Washington says, noting his beet-red look of disgust. "He was never one for a subtle sense of humor..." He turns up the volume. "Is this the one they played for you when they came in with that intimidation attempt?"

"Yeah," Alex says, his entire body burning up, feverish at the memory. "I didn't... Can you turn it off, please?"

Washington immediately mutes it. "I'm sorry. I'll go through the rest of these when I... I'm sorry."

Alex swallows, nods. "Okay. So..." The words he's looking for are failing him. He's not certain how to put this into words, anyway — what the fuck are they supposed to do now? Just go to the FBI? Bring the whole thing in and go Hello, special agents, I know this is going to be awfully incriminating of our own secret affair, but we've got proof that two members of Congress made illegal recordings and we'd like you to arrest them, please? Oh, and also, there's some proof of campaign donation fraud, so you might want to get the IRS involved in that, too, you might find that interesting.

Washington notices his ambivalence, and places a hand on his arm, squeezing down softly in the way he always finds steadying. The little gesture that always manages to even his keel. God, he's so thoughtful, Alex thinks, biting back the other words, the thing he hasn't been able to stop thinking since the Maldives — since Washington pulled him out of the ocean and — "Hey," Washington says softly, pulling out of his manic reverie. "This is amazing, what you found. I'm so proud of you."

Alex swallows. "So are we out of the woods here?"

"Not yet." And then Washington's all business again. "How long do you think it's gonna be until Madison realizes we have this?"

Alex checks the time. Almost noon. "The House is supposed to vote on the Livingston Bill with our amendment at two," he says. "Do you think we can stop the vote?"

Washington hums as he considers it. "Unlikely," he says. "Don't worry. Even if it passes, it won't make it through the Senate. That's not our concern right now. What we need to do is back all of this data up and make sure we've got it in a secure place before Madison and Jefferson know it's missing."

Right on cue, Alex's phone begins to buzz on the table, and he frowns. Blocked number. "Do I pick this up?"

Washington nods. "Put it on speaker."

Alex obeys, hitting 'speaker' before he answers. "Hello?"

"Well, you two certainly fucked yourselves into this one," comes Jefferson's familiar, slimy drawl through the speaker, and Alex throws Washington a panicked look. "How did you find it?"

"I don't know what you're talking about, Senator," Alex says uncertainly, but Jefferson cuts him off.

"Cut your bullshit, Hamilton. Or learn how to block your number before you go calling around asking for people you've got no business talking to."

"Thomas, it's over," Washington interjects. "We have proof that you wiretapped my private office." He sees Washington take a deep breath and steel himself before he adds, "If you release those recordings to the press, we will bring the contents of this drive to the FBI. Don't do anything stupid, Thomas. I know you too well. You're too smart for this."

Jefferson is silent on the other end for a few moments, but Alex thinks he hears hushed whispering. "Tonight," Jefferson finally says. "The private dining room at the Four Seasons Georgetown. Nine o'clock. Bring the drive."

"As much as I appreciate the offer, Thomas," Washington says, calm and casual, "I'm afraid I won't be able to make it."

Alex can practically see the little twist of a sneer on Jefferson's face through the phone. "Send your little princess, then," he says. "No FBI."

He just no-cops'ed us, Alex thinks with surprising clarity, before he leans in and says into the speaker, "Deal. Nine tonight."

He hears Jefferson chuckle. "Pleasure doing business with you." And then the line goes dead.

He takes a breath, and then another, steadier one. Digs his fingers into the thighs of his trousers and nods. "Okay," he says to Washington. "I have another idea. And this might be kind of stupid, but I want you to trust me, okay?"

Washington frowns. "Don't do anything stupid, Alexander."

"This isn't that stupid," he promises, holding up one hand, Boy Scout-style. "Swear to God."

"You're not getting the feds involved yet," Washington warns, but Alex shakes his head.

"He never said anything about the press," he says. "I'm calling Maria Reynolds."

"Alexander..." Washington shakes his head. "I am being sworn in as the Vice President of the United States tonight."

"So if anything comes out, she won't be able to hit publish until after your hand's left the Bible," Alex counters. "But if this works, she won't have to. I'm calling her now. Gonna tell her to look into Jefferson and the New Life Church."

Washington shakes his head. "No. Don't call her. Don't speak to the press at all, for at least the next forty-eight hours. And for God's sake, don't let anyone know the extent of what you know. Give nothing else away. Walk in, compromise as much as you need to to ensure that none of this will ever surface, and walk out. Do not give them back the drive. In fact —" He opens a drawer, pulls out an envelope and takes out a few $100 bills. Alex steals a closer glance. The thing is stuffed with cash. "Go to Best Buy. Buy an identical drive, in case I can't get this one backed up quickly enough. Keep your hands clean."

Alex accepts the bills, folds them into his own wallet. "Do you really think this will work? You think they're just gonna agree to keep our secrets?"

"If it's that or prison time..." Washington shrugs. "Call their bluff."

"We should still call Maria," Alex says, shaking his head. "Establish the dominant narrative. Get out ahead of the pack."

"No," Washington says, and it's so sharp and firm this time that it immediately calls him to heel. "You'll say nothing. Do not talk to the press between now and tonight. That's an order, Alexander."

He looks up from the rich mahogany top of the desk to meet Washington's eyes, and slowly, solemnly, nods. "Yes, sir," he murmurs, and Washington touches his hand again, lighter, warmer, softer.

"When this is all over, we'll go away for the weekend again," Washington says quietly. "Just you and me. But we've got to get through this. I trust you to deal with Madison and Jefferson tonight. Give them silence in exchange for silence. Do not give away what we have. Understood?"

"Yes, sir," he says again, a little louder, and Washington smiles. Kisses him on the lips, hands sliding up to cradle either side of Alex's head for a moment. Kisses him like it might be the last time.

"Good," Washington says quietly, as they break away from each other. "Now. I've got other business to attend to. You should go back to the office. Return Lafayette's bag, he's precious about his things. Do what you have to. Take my car." He tosses his keys to Alex, who catches them one-handed. "I have more to say, but... I'll say it when this is all over."

Alex tucks the keys into his pocket. He doesn't question the oddness of that last statement; doesn't have the time or the spare space in his brain. "You really think this is going to work?"

Washington shrugs. "Do you trust me?" he asks, and it's not the first time he's asked the question, but Alex pauses for a moment before answering.

"Yes." More than trust. "For better or for worse."

"Then do as I say," he says. "I would never steer you into harm's way, Alexander. Believe me. I need you to pull through this more than I need you to take a bullet for me."

Alex closes his eyes. Lets that sink in. "Understood, sir."

"Right, then," Washington says as he opens his eyes, and he stands up and smiles. "Best Buy. Office. Go kill a few hours somewhere you won't be found. Then dinner. I'm counting on you, son."

He nods, steadies himself. Opens the door and jingles Washington's car keys in his pocket as he walks outside.

For better or for worse.

Chapter Text

Five hours later, he's holed up in a bar called Halyard's, walking distance from the Four Seasons. It's a smaller place, with a private little cubby of a booth just big enough for two, set away from the main space. A two-top table and two uncomfortable wooden seats, and a couple beers, and the new hard drive from Best Buy tucked safely in his own backpack, which he retrieved from the office in a split-second hand-off with Lafayette. He was gone before Jefferson could even make his way over from Dirksen on the off-chance someone might’ve tipped him off. Gone before anyone else knew he was there. That's the idea now, he thinks, as he sits back in this booth in Halyard's, his grey jacket shorn and his emerald green tie loosened and askew. He's hiding out. Lying low. Doing exactly what Washington suggested.

He scans the bar periodically, interspersed with glances at his phone. She said she'd get here as soon as she could, but that was almost an hour ago. Traffic, he reminds himself, traffic is a factor — and work itself, he can't expect her to just drop everything in the moment —

“Hey, Alex.”

Eliza drops her own leather satchel onto the bench opposite his and smooths out the skirt of her fitted navy dress as she sits. She looks tired, concerned, and Alex knows instantly that she knows why she's there.

“Hey,” he mutters as she sits. He pushes the beer he got her in her direction. Blue Moon. She seems like a Blue Moon girl. “Thanks for meeting me.”

She frowns, drops the orange in the glass and takes a sip. "What's happening? What was so urgent? You look terrible, Alex, have you been sleeping?"

Alex shakes his head, rakes his fingers through his loose hair. There's that feverish feeling again, the one that he doesn't like. He swallows hard. He can't afford to get sick. Not right now, not yet, preferably not ever. “How much do you know about the ongoing situation?” he asks quietly, and Eliza frowns again and slides her tortoiseshell glasses down her nose, rubbing the bridge of it and then her forehead, suddenly looking very tired.

"Martha has kept me updated to a degree," she says slowly, less than certain. "I know that Jefferson knows about you two, and he's got tapes of some kind, and he's threatening to release them to the press. I know that the Adams people finagled a top-secret swearing-in ceremony tonight, ahead of schedule, which is why Martha let me go early, since she has to be there. And I know that you're in trouble. Obviously. What have I missed?" She takes another long sip. "Fill in the blanks for me here."

Alex clenches his jaw as he tips back what remains of his own beer. “Madison and Jefferson are accusing Washington of using campaign money to finance our relationship,” he begins. “But they're the ones who have actually been misappropriating donor money. Washington figured it all out. Dark money from a PAC run by Madison's wife goes into Jefferson's slush fund and comes out in the form of donations to a church that doesn't exist, which is partially used to pay off the woman who had his child, his old housekeeper. Who, as it turns out — I did some digging, asked an old friend to run a background check — actually accused Jefferson of assault a few years ago. The charges were dropped and the whole thing was buried, but the press doesn't forget.” He ticks them off on his fingers as he recounts them, tries not to forget anything. “We're pretty sure the wiretapping was facilitated by Aaron Burr. He's been in Madison and Jefferson's pocket for God knows how long, and he's one of four people who know where Washington's hideaway is in the Capitol building — we're pretty sure he lifted keys and planted the recording device at some point. Burr also had the misfortune to impregnate Theodosia Prevost, who is Madison's chief of staff, and then made a shady compromise with her that resulted in the horrific Madison Amendment to the Livingston bill that is currently being voted upon in the House right this minute. And the reason I called you is because earlier today, Lafayette and I broke into Madison’s office and stole a hard drive containing actual evidence of all of this, and now they’re demanding that I return it or else they’ll go public with the affair.” He pauses. “Did I forget anything? Oh, and Washington and I have been fucking, in case you forgot. Somehow that's the least illegal part of this whole mess.”

Eliza blinks. “And the President just died.”

"Fuck. Yeah. And I keep forgetting that part," he says. And suddenly he’s laughing, and he’s laughing, and he can’t stop, and he’s laughing. “This is fucking insane,” he says between breaths, and Eliza is staring at him like he’s completely lost his mind, but he can’t stop. He can’t. It’s so —

“What the fuck,” he adds as he catches his breath. “I just — I’ve fucked up so hard, you know? I took this job because I needed the money, and then I got mixed up in this whole thing with Washington, and then all this just… happened…” He taps his fingers on the tabletop, his body buzzing and hyperactive again. His moods are swinging like a fistfight today. “Fuck, Eliza. I don’t know what I’m doing here.”

Eliza looks at him across the small table, her brow knit; she looks at him like she knows him. And, fuck it, maybe she does. There’s a reason, Alex thinks, that it occurred to him to call Eliza — not John, not Hercules, not any of the tenuous acquaintances he’s made over the past couple of years. His thumb had hovered over her name in his phone before he impetuously hit “call,” and it just felt like the right thing to do.

“Eliza,” he says, “we’re friends, right?”

She’s still looking at him, a little more warily, but she nods. “I would certainly think so,” she says, and he laughs a little again in relief.

“Okay,” he says. “I just — I wanted to make sure. I don’t know. It’s hard to know who my friends are anymore.”

“That’s fair,” she says quietly. “I can understand that.”

“Can I…” He sighs. This is hard to ask. “I need you to do me a favor.”

“Go on.” She’s definitely sounding more wary now, but Alex presses on anyway.

“Jefferson and Madison want me to meet them at the Four Seasons tonight,” he says. “Private dinner. Just the three of us. I need you to do me one small favor. And after that, depending on how things go, I might need a getaway driver.”

There’s a moment where Eliza says nothing, simply places both elbows on the table and her head in her hands, massaging her temples in little circles. Then she sighs, deeply, and her eyes flick back up to meet Alex’s, and he watches her sensible, guarded hesitation slowly begin to crumble.

“I have a question,” she says, surprisingly politely for what he’s asking of her. “If I’d said no, that we aren’t friends, would you still be asking this of me?”

“Honestly?” Alex shrugs.

She nods.

“Yeah, probably.”

“I suppose that’s reassuring,” she says dryly, and Alex laughs. She hesitates again, takes another little sip of the beer in front of her, and then sighs. “Yes. Okay. I’ll help you with… whatever this is. I’m staying in the car, though.”

“Unless I call you. Or text you,” Alex interjects, and she nods.

“Fair enough…” She checks her watch. “What time is this dinner?”

“Nine,” Alex answers. “At the Four Seasons Georgetown.”

“You have four hours,” she says. “I think maybe it’s not the best idea for you to spend it in a bar.”

Alex considers this. Fair enough, he thinks, and shrugs. “What are you thinking?”

She sighs. “Are you supposed to be keeping a low profile?”

“What tipped you off?”

She gestures around the place. “It’s three o’clock and you’re… here.”

“Okay, fair.”

“If George wants you to hide out, come hide out at my apartment,” she says, picking up her bag and leaving her beer half-full on the table. “I live in Georgetown, we’ll be five minutes away.”

Alex makes a little face, not quite comfortable with this. “I dunno. I like the bar.”

“I don’t.” She slings the strap over her shoulder and looks at him expectantly, matter-of-fact. “C’mon. You can follow me in my car.”


Eliza’s apartment is lovely, a sunny one-bedroom in a white brick townhouse. She leads him up the front steps and lets them both in, looking around carefully, suspicious. “Don’t worry,” Alex mutters, “nobody’s tailing you. I kept an eye out.” And then he glances around. So this is what a trust fund and a lady like Martha gets you these days. Not bad at all.

Eliza sighs. “I don’t think there’s such a thing as being too careful under these circumstances.” She flips on the living room light as she lets them in, toes off her heels at the front door and gestures to the couch. “Make yourself at home,” she says uncertainly. “I’m not sure what food I have, but if you’re hungry, I’m sure you can find something. I’ve been juicing a lot. I can make you a green juice if you like, Martha and I have been on a kale-ginger-apple kick lately —”

“S’okay,” Alex yawns as he sits down on the white sectional couch. He kicks off his own shoes and yawns again, stretching out a little. “Is it okay if I —”

“Do whatever,” she says, distracted, walking past him. “If you need to sleep, go ahead. I really don’t mind. I’ll wake you up —”

“Thanks,” Alex mutters as he shifts to lie down on his side, lengthwise on the couch. Rearranges the cushions, clutches a throw pillow in his arms almost by instinct as he feels himself quickly slip into a velvety, dreamless sleep.

He wakes up on his own, groggy and out of sorts, a scant three hours later. He can already sense that the nap was a mistake — his head thick with exhaustion and the one beer he drank only making matters worse, he feels disgusting, yanked out of sleep mid-REM cycle.

He wakes up to find Eliza sprawled in the white leather easy chair across the room, scrolling through an iPad listlessly. She’s changed, she’s in black trousers and a loose blue sweater now, and Alex finds himself wondering through his foggy daze if she ever wears any colors besides navy and white.

She glances over at him. “Good. I was about to wake you up. Do you have everything you need?”

He looks down at where he’d set his backpack and pulls out the drive, hands it over to her carefully. He’d scuffed it up as best he could, done his best to make certain it looked like it had at least been used — bent the cords a little, made it look lived-in. She takes it, sliding it into her own bag with an almost-dainty look of concentration. “Yeah,” he says after a moment, running one hand over his face. “Hold on. Can I use your bathroom?”

“It’s down the hall, to the left,” she says, gesturing, and he follows her directions, locks the door and pauses, for a moment, in front of the mirror.

He looks so much older now than he did even a couple months ago. Heavy bags beneath his eyes. Still tan from the islands, but his hair a little bit lank and greasy, and sweaty at the nape of his neck. He rolls up his sleeves to the elbow, splashes some cold water from the faucet on his face. It wakes him up, marginally. Enough.

“Okay,” he says quietly out loud to himself in the mirror. Makes a face at his reflection, makes another. He senses, as if from outside his own body, that this isn’t quite right. “Okay,” he says again, half-hearted and punchy and sleep-hungover, and breathes in again. Sloshes a cup of mouthwash and spits minty evergreen back into the sink. Slicks his hair back with a couple handfuls of water, using a spare hair tie of Eliza’s he finds in the first drawer he opens to secure it in a ponytail. Takes another breath.

His tie’s askew. He ties a quick, but neat, half-windsor in the mirror and nods approvingly at his own direction.

Act now. Figure out what the hell those feelings this morning were later.

For Washington, he thinks to himself. For better or worse.

“Alex!” comes Eliza’s voice again from the living room, and he exhales.

For better or worse.

The clock on Eliza’s car stereo reads 9:05 when he arrives at the Four Seasons, backpack slung over his suit jacket and tie neatly straightened. She gives him an odd little look and nods, and he slides out of the passenger side. He has a plan. He kind of has a plan. This is the plan, Alex, he repeats to himself, swallowing around his dry throat, and takes out his phone, freshly charged at Eliza’s place.

He cues up a voice memo as the host escorts him to the private dining room, and then he slides it carefully into his jacket pocket, the microphone side of the phone up to record.

“Senator Jefferson,” he says as he enters the room. “Congressman Madison.” He glances around the room, but doesn’t see the third person he’s expecting. “Where is Mr. Burr?”

Madison smiles without teeth. “Mr. Burr has another engagement. I’m afraid he won’t be joining us tonight.”

Alex says nothing, only shakes both hands with his firmest grip, setting his backpack pointedly aside. He makes enough of a show of it, placing it carefully beneath his chair, that he knows they notice; he prays they’re not going to come straight out and ask him for it. “Well, that’s too bad,” he says brightly, taking a seat. “Let’s eat, shall we? I’m actually starving.”

Madison and Jefferson exchange a look. “Very well,” says Jefferson, and they sit in unison, in silence.

Alex takes the moment to study Madison, willing his pulse to slow down, for his heart to stop rattling around in his body. He’s never really seen him up this close, and it strikes him how normal he looks — Jefferson, still, resembles a political-cartoon rendering of Lafayette, but Madison could have been any guy he grew up with, except that he’s got a sickly sort of greyish tinge up close, and — Alex notices — very bloodshot eyes. It’s not a great look, he decides.

Madison’s got ornate gold cuff links in a fleur de lis design, and he fiddles with them as the waiter returns with a bottle of wine and three long-stemmed glasses. Alex notices that it’s Madison, and not Jefferson, to whom the waiter defers, pouring a tasting sip for his approval and giving him wary, nervous little looks as he moves around the table. “Thanks, man,” Alex tells the waiter warmly, trying to set him at ease, as he pulls his glass closer to him, and as he takes his leave, he looks over the table at Madison and Jefferson. “Cheers, gentlemen.”

“Cheers,” Jefferson says in his lazy drawl, and takes a sip without bothering to clink. Alex does the same. It’s good wine, but not good enough that he’ll want to drink more than one glass. He never really developed much of a taste for cabernet. Probably for the better.

“So,” Alex finally says as they look over the menu. He scans the list. Fuck it. He’s getting a steak, and these Republicans can blow him. “How are you fellas doing tonight?” He closes the menu, sets it aside with a bright smile as the waiter returns.

“We’ve been worse,” Madison says, and then looks to the waiter. “Couple dozen oysters for the table, and I’d like the lobster pot pie, sides of creamed spinach and crab hush puppies, and the crispy brussels sprouts.”

Alex pulls a face at that. “The grass-fed rib-eye with mushrooms. Mashed potatoes. Thanks, man.”

“And I,” Jefferson says grandly as he hands off his menu, “would like the filet mignon, with a side of your black truffle mac and cheese.”

Alex watches the waiter go, a little less comfortable now, for some reason he can’t quite place. He leans back in his seat, fingering the edge of the tablecloth where it nearly hits his lap. This table is far too big for the three of them. He realizes, innately, how suspicious this must look. This is a dining room meant for, like, wedding receptions, he thinks. The three of them at this big table — he glances around. It’s kind of goofy, actually.

“What are you smiling at?” Jefferson asks, his voice level but a little sneer twisting the words at the end, and Alex shakes his head, forces a blanker look.

“Nothing,” he says quickly. “It’s stupid. Just a private joke.”

Jefferson eyes him suspiciously as he picks up his wine, but doesn’t drink it. “So, Alexander Hamilton,” he says, conversational. “Tell me about yourself.”

Alex frowns, shrugs. “There’s not a lot to tell,” he says. “And truth be told, I think you pretty much got the gist of it already.”

Jefferson chuckles, shaking his head. “We have the facts,” he says, with a look at Madison. “But we find that having only the facts tends to leave out the interesting stuff. The personal color. We want to know a little more about you, Alexander. Not just the you on paper.”

He swallows. What the fuck is this? “I don’t really know what there is to say,” he says. “I served in the Army. I went to Columbia. I always wanted to work in policy, so I moved to D.C. with my best friend after grad school. I worked for the press for a while. Now I’m here. That’s about all there is to know.”

Madison nods, stoic. “I was perhaps a little surprised that a background check on you produced no sort of criminal record, juvenile or otherwise,” he says casually, and Alex feels fury rise like magma in his body, wills himself not to explode. They’re baiting him. He can tell. It’s his prerogative not to blow, not to blow this…

“I don’t see why that would be surprising,” he says, the evenness of his voice surprising even himself. “I’ve always been very well-behaved.”

Jefferson cocks a brow. “Coulda fooled me,” he murmurs, “with that heist you and my little twin pulled…”

“Indeed,” Madison agrees. “You have quite a latent talent for larceny lurking beneath that academic exterior, Mr. Hamilton. Perhaps consider it a fallback plan.”

They’re baiting you, don’t take it. He digs his fingers into his upper thigh and breathes in through his nose as he nods. “I’ll consider it. Thank you for the advice.”

At this, they actually laugh, both of them breaking out into snickers that peter out into silence after a couple moments. A breath, shared between them, to regroup, and then Jefferson speaks up again.

“Let’s get down to brass tacks, then,” he says. “We believe you have something we want.”

Alex shrugs. “And we have a few terms and conditions we’d like you to meet before I return it.”

“You’re not in much of a position to be cutting bargains, are you, Mr. Hamilton?” Madison looks at him placidly, tracing his finger in a long, slow circle around the rim of his wine glass. “Not under the present circumstances…”

Alex shrugs again. “I believe your circumstances are worse,” he says. “We have proof that you wiretapped a member of the United States Senate. Tortious intrusion is a federal crime. We’ve also got proof that you’ve both been involved in misuse of PAC money, misappropriating donations for private use. What’s that people always say? ‘If you want to know what politicians are up to, look at what they’re accusing others of doing.’ I always thought that was too good to be true, myself, but…” He trails off, sips his wine. “You’ve got proof of an affair. That’s all. We have way more.”

Madison and Jefferson exchange a brief look. “What are you asking for?” Jefferson says. “Just out of curiosity, of course.”

“Silence for silence,” Alex says. “We’ll keep your secrets if you keep ours. Think of it as a…” He trails off, unsure of how to phrase it. A favor for a favor, his mind supplies, but the implication is too obvious. “A compromise,” he finishes.

He watches Madison and Jefferson looking at each other, senses them silently communicating in some way that betrays years of history to which he isn’t privy, years of history he won’t understand. The waiter returns, places a tray of oysters in the middle of the table, which Alex ignores. He hasn’t had a taste for oysters since the Maldives, for some reason.

(Hasn’t had a taste for oysters, Jesus Christ. Part of him really, truly hates the person he’s become.)

“I believe that perhaps, we could be amenable to that compromise,” Madison finally says, once the waiter has shut the door behind him. And Alex frowns.

“Wait,” he says. “Really?”

Madison shrugs, and Alex’s head spins as he tries to contextualize it. Okay. Maybe it makes sense. Maybe it’s not that far off. “I guess you’ve got the right idea,” Alex says, plastering on a poker face, bluffing his ass off. “Washington has ample evidence against you already. To be clear, I can be convinced to give back the physical evidence, but if — and only if — you two promise to toe the line and say nothing to the press about what you know.”

“That’s fine,” Jefferson says with a simple shrug, sucking down an oyster with an infuriating little noise, and — it makes no sense, this is going down way too easily, he has to ask —

“Why?” He takes ahold of his wine glass by the stem, pulling it toward him protectively just for want of something to do with his hands. “Why are you just… why aren’t you fighting this? Haven’t you promised the press a major scoop or something, ‘but only if you promise to run it?’”

Jefferson cocks an eyebrow, evidently surprised. “How would you know what I’ve told the press?” he asks.

With a shrug, Alex takes a sip. “Like I said, I used to work for the press,” he says coolly. “I didn’t burn every bridge I had when I left. Word’s getting around that you’re dangling something in front of Sybil Ludington…”

Jefferson and Madison both exchange a look, shaking their heads, and Madison clears his throat. But it’s Jefferson who speaks up then, fiddling with the oyster shell on the plate in front of him.

“I’ll keep Washington’s dirty little secret if he keeps mine,” he says. “I’ll feed the press the Burr-Theodosia affair. I’ve been setting him up as the fall guy for the wiretapping this whole time, anyway.”

“You’d just throw Burr under the bus like that?” Alex says, his heart speeding up, praying the recording is getting all this. “After he betrayed Washington for you? That’s cold, man.”

Jefferson shrugs. “Burr is useless to me on anything more than a practical level,” he says. “He's so useless, he doesn’t even know how disposable he is.”

Alex furrows his brow. “Okay,” he says, and the door to the dining room opens again, revealing their waiter, carrying a massive tray, loaded down with dishes. The idea occurs to him in a flash. He waits, bides his time until the right moment, and then —

Alex rises quickly from his chair as the waiter rounds the table with Madison’s dishes left on the tray, and knocks straight into him. The tray falls onto the table with a clatter, he drops everything with a shout, steak sauce splatters like blood on the tracks, and in the ensuing confusion — Madison dropping to the floor to catch what he can of the hush puppies, Jefferson grappling to keep the wine glasses from knocking each other over, the waiter clumsily grabbing for the dishes and turning things right-side up, Alex yanks his phone from his pocket and holds it beneath the tablecloth. He ends the voice memo. He saves it and hits “email.”

He pulls up Aaron Burr’s contact, and taps a message into the subject bar: LISTEN TO LAST THREE MINUTES. MEET ME AT GTOWN 4 SSNS. ROOF GARDEN. ASAFUCKINP. 911 EMERGENCY VITAL.

“I’m so sorry,” Alex says as he slides the phone, miraculously unnoticed, back into his pocket. “Jesus Christ, I’m so sorry. I’m a fucking idiot. Gentlemen, I apologize. That bottle of wine is on me.”

Madison coughs into his elbow for what feels like forever, finally emerging, red-faced and irritated. “Very well,” he says. “I suppose.”

Alex relaxes slightly. He wonders if he should wait for the waiter to replace Madison's spilt food, but Jefferson has already dug into his macaroni, and, it occurs to him, he hasn't eaten since breakfast. Which was a protein bar he stole from Washington's stash in the pantry. Jesus, no wonder he's starving; he's been running on a single Builder Bar and that one beer all day. He picks up his knife and delicately slices off a piece of steak.

Okay. So this is good. Not as good as he really expected or hoped for, given the circumstances and the prices on the menu, but it's fine; he can deal with it. He takes another bite, then tries the mushrooms. Those, he finds, are excellent.

Jefferson is watching him from across the table, taking small, sharklike bites of his macaroni. "Alexander, let me tell you a story," he says. "I spent much of my twenties in Paris. I worked for the ambassador for quite a long time, were you aware of that?"

"I'm aware," Alex says tautly, then shovels mashed potatoes into his mouth.

Jefferson smirks. "The best mac and cheese I ever had, I ordered in a little restaurant in the Seventh during my very first week in the city. It was the only thing on the menu that I recognized. I got that job straight out of grad school, and I moved to Paris speaking only passable French. And it was lonely as hell, let me tell you. I didn't move to that country with any friends, or any girlfriends. I moved there for a job. But that didn't make it any less about love, you get me?"

Alex shrugs. Not really. "I guess."

"My career, my twenty-odd years of public service, that has always been my first love. People said it'd be hard for me to get elected because of that. A divorced man, no plans to remarry, who spent his most formative decade in Europe..." Jefferson offers a delicate little snicker. "I'm sure you can imagine what my opponents said about me."

"I'm sure I can't," Alex counters politely. His potatoes are growing more tasteless by the second.

"You see, Mr. Hamilton, rumors are a very powerful weapon," Jefferson says. "You don't have to have evidence and concrete proof to convict a man in the court of public opinion."

Alex frowns as he sets aside his fork, wiping his mouth with the napkin. He resists the urge to reach into his pocket and check for an email from Burr. "What are you insinuating, Senator Jefferson?"

Jefferson shrugs, and takes a big bite of macaroni. "We're more than willing to destroy those recordings," he says, with a look at Madison, who nods in assent. "Even with Mr. Burr in place as a fall guy, we realize that releasing them may end up causing more trouble to us than it's really worth. But you have to realize, Alexander, that word gets around in a city as small as this. Everyone knows everyone in D.C. And your boss, as it happens, occupies a very precarious position. Someone like Senator Von Steuben, for example, he can throw whatever sort of bacchanalian pool parties he likes and nobody's gonna look twice in his direction. But you and I, and James, and George, we all play by a different set of rules, don't we?" He lifts his glass and inclines his head sanctimoniously. "It's an awful lot harder for us to wash off the stench of an unpleasant rumor."

"You cannot," Alex says incredulously, "invoke respectability politics when you have already committed this many crimes. That's not how it works. You're so much dirtier than we are."

Jefferson shrugs, sips his wine. "Court of public opinion," he repeats. "Remember, the 24-hour news cycle is an awfully fickle creature. What's gonna stick in Joe Schmuckatello's brain better? Some awfully complicated case involving wiretaps and the IRS and dark money, which most people don't even know is a thing, mind you? Or some delicious little nugget about the Vice President of the United States having a rent boy on the side? The only person who comes out of that scenario looking good is his wife."

Madison chuckles. "That's an idea. Perhaps, after all this is over, Martha should run for office."

Alex bites back the retort that immediately springs to the tip of his tongue; he doesn't need to involve Martha and Eliza any more than they are already. He saws off another hunk of steak and shoves it in his mouth, chewing furiously, tasting none of it. "What do you want from me?" he says instead, as he swallows.

"Your resignation," Madison says casually, and Alex drops his fork.


"Alexander, we can do this the easy way or the difficult," Jefferson says. All magnanimous, like he's making an offer Alex might actually consider. "You can resign now — quietly, call it part of the transition to the EEOB — or you can wait this out and resign in disgrace, right before George is impeached for lying to the committee who vetted him about whether he's ever had a homosexual affair."

"How would you know — you weren't in the room —" Alex starts to splutter, and then it hits him. "Pinckney."

Jefferson grins. "A good kid, I've gotta tell you. Was kind enough to tip my office off that you'd discovered Mr. Burr's little secret..."

"I'm not saying anything else," Alex spits resolutely, and Jefferson shrugs.

"You don't have to. We've more than made our case. You resign, or else a few months from now, you're the toast of Fox News." He looks, self-satisfied and oily as ever, at Madison for confirmation. "Anything to add, Jimmy?"

Madison shakes his head. "I think that about covers it. Oh. There is the matter of the hard drive. We'd like that back, as well. Call it an insurance policy."

Numb and buzzing, Alex blinks. Wipes his mouth with the nice cloth napkin and tosses the monogrammed cloth away, atop his half-eaten dinner. "Fine," he says. "You win. Let's go get it."

They exchange a glance, more confusion than satisfaction. "Go get it?" Jefferson asks. "I don't know what you—"

"I wasn't going to just bring it in here," Alex says petulantly. "Come on. You guys are smarter than that. It's up on the roof garden. C'mon."

Slowly, without taking his eyes off Alex, Jefferson leans over to whisper close in Madison's ear. After a moment, Madison nods.

"All right," Jefferson says, cautious. "But I'm warning you, Alexander. You take one step out of line..."

"Oh, come on," Alex groans, and stands up from the table. He uses his head start out of the dining room to furiously refresh his email. Nothing from Washington. Nothing from Burr. Madison and Jefferson catch up to him at the elevator bank, and he stows it back in his pocket just in time, just as the door dings open for them.

The ride up to the roof is silent, and Alex finds himself, improbably, praying for the first time since childhood. He knows it's stupid, knows it's a hollow gesture at best, but, he thinks, it couldn't possibly hurt. PleasepleasepleasepleasepleaseBurrplease, goes the silent prayer he repeats in his head over and over as their car shoots upward. PleasepleaseBurrpleaseplease

It's chilly for late spring, and the roof garden is blessedly quite empty as they step outside. He glances around before spotting the flowerpot where he'd told Eliza to stash it, and brushes dirt off the top of the drive before he picks it up, holding it aloft like the holy grail. Dirt aside, it gleams under the fairy lights of the garden, and he keeps a protective grip on it with both hands.

"So you agree," he says. "I give this to you, and I resign, and you won't say a word about what you know."

"Agreed," Jefferson says, and Madison echoes him.


"And the evidence on here will be immediately destroyed," Alex says. But they falter.

"I don't believe we discussed that," Jefferson says, with a worried look at Madison, who shakes his head.

"No," he says, "we never agreed —"

"I know you didn't," Alex says casually. "That's my own part. I made that decision just now."

And on that, he gives in — finally indulges the impulse coursing through his blood — and gets a running start to the edge of the roof, and hurls the drive over the side of the roof.

The world seems to slow down as he hears it shatter, distantly, on the street below.

He can see Jefferson and Madison, wearing identical looks of rage. Someone on the sidewalk is shouting in bewildered anger. And then — right on fucking schedule, he knew this would work — the door opens, and here he comes —

Aaron Burr steps onto the roof, followed by a slight woman with a mass of dark curls and a tight red dress.

"It's over, Burr," Alex says through a scratchy throat. "It's done. It's destroyed."

He sees the look of confusion flash over Burr's face, sees him look back at the woman in abject bewilderment. And then Alex can't stop laughing. He can't breathe for it. He doubles over, hands on the knees of his wrinkled suit trousers, hair coming out of his ponytail from the chilly wind whipping over the rooftop, and Madison and Jefferson are watching him, dumbfounded. And he can't stop laughing.

"Mr. Hamilton," says the woman. "Maria Reynolds, I'm with Gawker Media—"

"I know who you are," Alex manages to force out through his laughter, and she frowns.

"What's going on?" she says in irritation.

"Nothing," Jefferson says quickly. "Nothing at all—"

"Give me a break, Senator," she snaps, holding up one hand. "I'm on a date, I get a call from Mr. Burr saying I have to meet him here. I know there's some sort of story here, and, like, normally I'd let this go, but I really liked this guy. You assholes better make it worth my while, not like the last time —"

"The last time was a mistake," Burr says quickly. "Senator Jefferson and Congressman Madison have been rec—"

"We've been receiving strange phone calls—" Jefferson cuts him off, and Madison cuts in just as quickly.

"Senator Washington is being sworn in as Vice President right now in a secret ceremony and we have proof that he—"

"Here's the story," Alex shouts over the racket, holding up his hands for quiet, and somehow, miraculously, everyone else falls silent.

"Everybody stay quiet," Maria says, then points to Alex. "You. Keep talking."

Alex takes a breath. Summons what courage he has left and bites the bullet. Takes the cyanide pill. Pulls the dagger from his garter and lifts it to his throat. He has to do it, it's the only way — it's suicide, he's throwing away everything he's worked for, everything he's accomplished, but...

"The story is that I'm resigning from my position as deputy comm director for Vice President Washington," he says, and the sound of the wind whipping across the rooftop is all he can hear as he swallows around the warm, prickling lump in his throat.

"What," Jefferson says flatly, and Alex ignores him. Presses on.

"I was the one who finagled the bad deal with Madison's office during the shutdown," he says. "The Madison Amendment, the thing that's going to basically ruin health care forever if the Senate doesn't vote it down, that was my fault. I compromised not knowing the consequences and Aaron Burr took the bullet for me. It was part of a whole cover-up. We never meant for it to get this big, and Washington had nothing to do with it."

"You called me here so some guy could tell me he's resigning," Maria says to Burr, and Alex stares at him intently, praying that he'll take the bait, the obvious offer of self-preservation being dangled in front of him...

"Yes," Burr says after a moment, and Alex sucks in a breath of relief like he's bursting up from underwater. "The amendment was never meant to make it all the way to the floor," he says. "It was a mistake on everyone's part. I resigned because I wanted to help right that sinking ship, but it's gone too far. Alex is resigning as well, and going forward, the new Vice President will be taking a more critical look at his staff and looking to trim some of the non-essential fat. That's the story, Maria. That's it."

"And these two?" She jerks her head in Madison and Jefferson's direction. They're standing near the gazebo with arms folded, impassive. Observing.

"Friendly dinner," Madison manages. "We were floating the idea of a... collaboration."

"It's not happening," Alex says. "I'm not someone you want to send in to compromise. What's done is done."

There's another long silence, and finally, Maria shrugs. "Fine," she says. "If this is it, then fine. I'll run it." She pauses. "I know there's something weird going on here, but it's not worth my time right now. I'm going home."

And then she's gone, and Burr is advancing on Madison and Jefferson, a look of inimitable rage in his eyes. "You were setting me up," he growls. "From the beginning. 'Burr's so useless, he doesn't even know how disposable he is.' After everything I did for your slimy ass—"

Jefferson turns on Alex, and Alex knows he should recoil, but he doesn't. He stands firm, holds his ground as Jefferson walks toward him, slowly, his sharp canine teeth gleaming in the lights from the gazebo.

"Nothing illegal in what I did," Alex says calmly. "Federal law allows recording of private conversations so long as at least one participant is aware they're being recorded. That would be me." He opens his phone, pulls up the voice memo. "Now, this can go away. But I want to see your own phone. The recordings you have on there. Pull them up for me, please?"

Madison and Jefferson exchange looks, and Alex, for the first time, can read them perfectly. No translator required. They take out their phones and open the music libraries. The files are unlisted, no artist, all the way at the bottom, but there are three on each: daddyslittleprincess, thankyoudaddy, and — he cocks a brow at the last one — sexcrying.mp3. "Great names," he says. "Very evocative. Delete them all."

Jefferson frowns. "I don't think you can —"

"Uh-uh. That's the newest iOS you're running there," Alex says, shaking his head. "You can delete audio files right off your phone. There —" He hits the screen, taps 'delete.' "Erase from cloud? Well, yes. I think we will, won't we?" He hands the phone back to Jefferson, then gestures for Madison's. "Now yours."

Madison follows the commands, deletes the files from the cloud. "Now the photo," Alex says casually, still clutching his own phone with a clenched, sweaty fist, and both men comply. "Burr? Do you have anything you'd like to delete now, too?"

"Nothing," Burr says, holding up both hands. "Swear to God. I kept my devices clean."

"Okay," Alex says. "Go into your email, then. Delete the one with the voice memo."

Burr fumbles in his jacket pocket. Follows directions. And finally, Alex holds up his own phone, opens the voice memo, and -- holding it out for good effect — deletes it.

"Gentlemen," he says, calm and collected. "I think we've reached the end of this affair."

He sees Jefferson's Adam's apple bob in his throat as he swallows. "You're going to honor your resignation," he says, and it's not a question but a threat, and Alex shrugs.

"Now that it's in the press, it's the least I can do," he says. "And you, Burr?"

Burr nods tautly. "This is the end," he says, his voice quiet. "It's over."

"Fair enough," Alex says. "I'm going home, gentlemen. Have a good night."

He's calling Eliza before he reaches the elevator; she picks up as soon as he hits the ground floor. "I'll be out front by the valet in a minute," she says, and as Alex hangs up, he looks down at his phone again. Looks at the screen. A voicemail from Washington. He plays it, holds his phone close to his ear as he reaches the street and looks down the block for Eliza's car.

It's less than ten seconds long. "Meet me at the apartment," says Washington's recorded voice. "Tonight. When it's done." A pause, and then: "I trust you."

He sees Eliza pull up, her compact silver BMW gleaming under the hotel-facade lights. She unlocks the door. He climbs in.

"It's done," he says to her.

And they drive.

And his heart is in his sore throat as he tries desperately to figure out how he'll justify what he's just done.

Chapter Text

Washington is waiting there at the apartment when he calls from Eliza's car at the curb. "Come up," he tells Alex, and he does. He takes the elevator up to the fourth floor of Washington's luxury condo building and he's suddenly aware of how awful he feels — not emotionally, but physically, wrung out and tired. He lifts his hands to his neck, cops a feel of his glands, experimental. Then he winces. They're like golf balls.

He swallows again. His throat is scratchy and sore and he groans inwardly. No, no, no, this is the worst possible time. He cannot be getting sick right now, he hasn't been properly sick in years, abso-fucking-lutely not. He doesn't care what kind of vitamins he has to suck down, he's going to reverse this. Now.

Or as soon as he tells Washington. One or the other.

Washington opens the door of his apartment, all coiled excitement and kinetic energy, and then almost as quickly, that energy falls to concern. "Alex," he says. "You look horrible."

Alex takes a deep breath in through his nose as he buries his face into Washington's chest. It doesn't have the intended effect, though, doesn't give him two lungfuls of that distinct, spicy scent. Instead, it comes out like a sniffle, and Washington pulls away, even more concerned.

"Are you okay?" he asks, holding Alex at arm's length. "You didn't — did something happen?"

Alex blinks, shaking his head. “No,” he says, trying to think about how he decided he’d rationalize this. “I… Okay. Here’s what I did.”

He recounts the full story there in the living room, pacing the floor, Washington watching him intently, with searching eyes, sitting on the couch. He leaves no stone unturned — Eliza helping him hide the drive, the voice memo, what Jefferson said about Burr.

“That makes sense,” Washington says quietly. “He’s not a loyal man.”

“Yeah.” Alex shifts, turning to the window. He’s staring out at the city, the monuments and streets all laid out and lit up. Shadows. He’s so used to the shadows here. He’s always felt more comfortable out and about at night. “I didn’t… I sent him the recording hoping he’d show up. He did, but not until I destroyed the decoy hard drive like we said.”

“How’d you do it?” Washington asks, like he can’t help himself doing it, and Alex grins, rubbing at his eyes, feeling the burn and grit of not having slept even harder now

“Threw it off the roof,” he says. “Really hard. It shattered even with the protective casing. I was worried I’d hurt someone or hit a car, but, y’know. Gotta break a few eggs.”

Washington chuffs with low, amused laughter. “And it was the most dramatic option…”

Alex shrugs, choosing to ignore that. “So I destroyed the decoy. I got them to delete the audio files from their phones and I made sure they hit ‘delete from cloud’ as well. I got rid of the voice memo, both on my phone and Burr’s, but that doesn’t matter because we still have all the evidence, which they don’t know. And in return, they’re staying quiet. They kind of have to. We could destroy them if we wanted to, and they don't even know the extent of it.” He grins proudly as he thinks it over.

“What did they want from you?” Washington asks. He pats the couch cushion beside him, and Alex hesitates before he takes the seat, curling up into the space around him. Sharing body heat in the suddenly very cold apartment. He hesitates, then grabs for the cashmere throw folded on the end of the couch, draping it over himself as much as possible. Fuck, why is he so cold? “Alex,” Washington says again, and Alex takes a breath, trying to recall how he’d decided to phrase this.

“That was the only thing I left out,” he begins, and he feels Washington squeeze his leg. “They demanded my resignation. Publicly.”

Washington frowns. “You didn’t —”

“I had to,” Alex says quickly. “I mean, it was kind of last-ditch, I know that wasn’t in the plan, but…” He closes his eyes slowly, and is surprised by how good it feels. Leaning his head back on the couch, he takes one deep, centering breath, before wrenching them open and looking right at Washington. “When Burr showed up, he brought Maria Reynolds with her. Everyone was shouting over each other and they were all saying dangerous things, so I said what I thought was the least dangerous thing I could tell the press under the circumstances.”

“Alexander, no—” Washington starts to say, but Alex shakes his head.

“I said I was resigning because I was the one who fucked up the health care amendment by compromising with Madison’s office,” he says quickly. “Burr corroborated it, because of course he did, he couldn’t resist a chance to save his own ass — basically, I scapegoated myself. And everyone else just, like, went with it. Because I’m the only one who came out of it looking bad.”

Washington is silent for a few moments, his hand still warm and heavy on Alex’s leg beneath the blanket. Then, suddenly, as though he’s been freshly struck by what’s in front of him, he reaches up to lay the back of his other hand on Alex’s forehead, clammy with sweat.

“You’re burning up,” he says, pulling away and turning to look Alex in the bloodshot eyes. “Alexander. You have a terrible fever.”

Alex squeezes his eyes shut again, shaking his head. “I’m actually kind of cold,” he says, and Washington is scrambling to his feet and helping him off the couch.

“Come on,” he says, walking Alex to the bedroom, the cashmere throw still draped around his shoulders. Alex grits his teeth, shaking his head as Washington opens the bedroom door. “You need to sleep, son.”

“Don’t tell me — I’m fine, I don’t need to sleep, we need to work,” he says, shrugging off Washington’s hand. “You’re the Vice President now, there’s so much we need to do. Has Lee started talking to the press yet? Because I can draft a couple releases, we never really got to go back over what I'd written before all this with Jefferson started.”

Shaking his head, Washington softly squeezes both his shoulders. “No. Listen to me. It’s almost midnight. You need to sleep. Don't worry about coming in to the office tomorrow. Sleep in as long as you can.”

“Don’t be ridiculous, I’m not going to do that.” Alex starts to toss the throw onto the bed, but is hit with chills as soon as he takes it away. He grinds his jaw again as he pulls it closer around himself, knowing it looks stupid, undermines his point. But he's fine. He’s not sick. He’s certainly not going to let Washington take care of him. He’s not an invalid. “I’m not—”

“Alexander.” Washington’s voice is soft and quiet, and it’s not an order, he can tell, but more like a plea. “Get some sleep. I know you haven’t been sleeping. Please.”

A glance at the clock confirms that yes, it is indeed nearly midnight, and so he doesn't fight Washington much harder, but instead flops down onto the king-sized mattress and burrows under the blankets like a gopher, not even bothering to remove his shirt or pants. He closes his eyes and can feel Washington leaning over him, undoing the knot of his tie and gently sliding it out from under his collar. Fuck. He's so tired. He's so tired and he can feel his body screaming at him to just accept it, to let himself sleep for a dozen hard hours at the very least. But the way Washington had looked away and minimized when he referenced the newly-assumed vice presidency sticks with him. Trouble washes over him in waves as he fights the urge to sleep, opens his eyes and sits up in bed with great effort.

"What happened tonight?" he demands. "Did they rescind the appointment? Was it because you lied to the vetting committee?"

Washington frowns at him as he walks back in through the door. "They didn't rescind the offer," he says, placing a tall glass of water on the bedside table. "I'll explain everything once you've gotten some sleep, Alexander."

"I don't need to sleep. I've gone a lot longer without it," Alex says sharply. "What happened? I know there's something you're not telling me—"

Washington shakes his head. "Alex, you look atrocious and you have a fever. I'm going to sleep out on the couch in the living room. Please get some rest. Your resignation does not stand."


"Sleep." And with that, Washington shuts the bedroom door with infuriating finality, leaving Alex alone. He can hear footsteps out in the hall and, beyond that, a troubled sort of sigh. He doesn't follow Washington, and doesn't want to follow his orders, either, but his body is tugging him back down to the mattress, and with a groan, he curls up on his side and turns out the bedside lamp.

He's not certain how long he's really out. It's practically midday when he wakes up, 11:47 on the clock when he finally wrenches his eyes open, and the first thing he does is groan again. He feels as though he's been hit by a bus. Every muscle in his body simultaneously aches at once, working in perfect two-hundred-something part harmony to make even sitting up seem like an impossible task. His head is thick and bleary, worse than any hangover he's ever had, and when he swallows once, just to try, he immediately shuts his eyes in pain; his throat is bone-dry and swollen nearly shut.

He keeps his eyes closed, listening. The apartment is quiet. He must be alone here, Washington at work. There's a thermometer on the bedside table, along with a handwritten note: Check every hour. If you're above 102, go to the Urgent Care at GBU. NO ARGUMENTS. NO EXCEPTIONS. GW

Alex pulls as much of a face as he can, but the note still strikes a quiet little xylophone chime somewhere in his heart. He pops it into his mouth and looks at the reading when it beeps. 100.2. Not good, but apparently not dire.

He sinks down lower into the mattress, closing his eyes again, willing himself to fall back to sleep. It appears his body doesn't take much convincing. He succumbs to sleep quickly this time, effortlessly, and prays that this time he can stay there even longer.

He quit his job. Fuck. He resigned publicly, took a bullet for Aaron Burr — he took Burr's own bullet, for Christ's sake, the man shot himself directly in the foot and Alex somehow managed to throw himself down over his boot before it got there. He's so stupid. He's so stupid, he knew there must have been a better way to handle this, it should have been different...

He's half-dozing, turning this over and over in his mind. The possibilities. The other options he could have taken. He could have let Madison and Jefferson hang themselves, could have let them throw Burr under the bus, could have resigned quietly and walked away scot-free and gone back to journalism, or bartending, or whatever. But he's ruined fucking everything, because he couldn't keep his dick in his pants; because he had to go and fucking catch feelings for the second most powerful man in America, a man who will never be able to give him what he wants simply by virtue of his position in the public eye. No. No good. He can't...

He can't do this anymore.

The longer he and Washington keep doing this, the more dangerous it will become. The VP hiding a rent boy — and, he thinks bitterly to himself, now that he's no longer employed on Washington's team, that's all he really is — is the kind of scandal that's just waiting to blow, one that will follow him for the rest of his career or his life, whichever lasts longer. Jefferson was right, that's the thing that sticks in his craw. The public doesn't care nearly as much about what their politicians do with their money as much as what they do with their genitals. If they hold Jefferson accountable for his corruption, they'll live in fear of retribution as long as they're in power. If they don't, they'll be beholden to his will anyway. 

Feverish still, but now fully awake, he sits up with great effort and grapples in the bedside drawer. He knows Washington always keeps a pad and pen there, for late-night or dream-state ideas that might strike him, and he flips past pages of scrawled phrases and fragments to the first blank space he sees. Uncapping the pen, he hovers over the page for a few moments, and then he begins to write.

Vice President Washington,

Please let this letter serve as notice of my immediate resignation from my position as Deputy Director of Communications and Personal Assistant on your staff.

Over the past three months, I have learned so much. I have had experiences I never could have dreamed of, and every day has brought exhilarating new challenges to my preexisting worldview. I credit each and every one of these to you. You are a brilliant man, and I find myself in awe of you always, as much even now as when we first met. I have too much respect for the nature and esteem of your office and the honor with which you conduct your business not to think it proper that I should, thus, tender my resignation now.

I feel as though my position on your staff has been one of undue privilege from the start. I do not know what drove you to entrust such private kindness and interest in my affairs from the beginning, but I fear now that your trust may have been misplaced. I am not made for the theatre of professional politics. I have little self-control over my words and actions, and even your hands, eminently able as they are, could not teach me restraint. I fear that the sordid circumstances of my upbringing may taint your good name, even more so than they already have. All the more I fear that I am fundamentally incapable of becoming the person you deserve to have at your side going forward. I am so impulsive, so crude, so unwise in my actions, and my lack of forethought has presented only hardships to you over these past few months. 

My presence on your staff leaves you open to the threat of blackmail; it makes you weaker. I no longer feel it is wise to continue my employment as part of your administration.

The kindness and care with which you have treated me cannot be overstated. At no point have I felt like the terms of my employment have been violated, nor have I ever felt that you have taken advantage of me. Every hour of overtime, I worked because I was thrilled to spend that hour at your side and at your will. I will always cherish the wisdom you imparted to me. You have taught me things about the world, about relating to others, and about myself that I may have never learned otherwise. But at the same time, I fear that the depth of this affection I feel toward you may have transgressed the bounds of propriety, even given the parameters of our working relationship. I fear that I have fallen for you too quickly, too seriously.

Please do not blame yourself for this. I have spent so much of my life fearing the long term, thinking only in terms of my immediate security and comfort, that to hear a future spoken of in terms longer than my next paycheck was immediately very seductive. I am, in many ways, a bit of a fatalist, and have always prioritized living in the moment rather than looking ahead and practicing forethought. After all, if my upbringing (contested as it is) has taught me anything, it is that any form of comfort may be ripped away from you at a moment you least expect.

Trust me when I say that I tender my resignation as a means to protect us both from the ravages of the public eye. We should no longer be linked in matters of work or private company, for the sake of your office and career. You have so much more to give to this great nation; please do not throw it away on my behalf. I'm not worth that much.

Due to illness, I am afraid that today, May 26, must be my last full day of employment.

I will never forget the time we spent together.

Your obedient servant,
Alexander Hamilton

He rips the page off the legal pad, sets it on the nightstand, and sets about getting dressed, pulling on the spare pair of chinos and t-shirt from his drawer here. Every movement sends another shivering, feverish ache down his spine and through his body, rippling like aftershocks even as he steadies himself on the bed. Shoves his feet into shoes and orders a car. It occurs to him that he left Washington's car at Eliza's. He'll be able to get it back. Not a problem.

"Florida and U," he reaffirms to the driver as he gingerly fastens his seatbelt in the backseat. "Thank you."

He rests his head against the seat and prays that John isn't home. He just wants to sleep. He just needs to sleep alone. He needs to get used to it.

Chapter Text

His bed at the old apartment has seen better days, a battered old queen-size mattress on an IKEA frame that he bought secondhand from the old tenant. But when the driver pulls up to the curb, he can't make it up the three flights and into bed quickly enough. His entire body aches and he's not sure whether the nausea churning in his stomach every time he thinks about the note he left behind is psychosomatic or part of whatever illness is presently ravaging his system.

Everything is grey, he thinks, as he sinks down into his nest of old blankets, the clothes he slept in shed and replaced with the first old Columbia hoodie and sweatpants he finds in the hamper. Everything is dark grey, swirling around him like a thundercloud. He coughs, rough and hacking, as he turns from one side to the other, in some desperate search for a comfortable position. He doesn't find one. Flat on his back lets his lungs fill up with phlegm, making him feel as though he's drowning; but lying on either side gives him the kind of stuffy nose that is just absolutely unacceptable, that he simply cannot live with under the circumstances. Snot one way, phlegm the other. When his body betrays him, it goes hard.

He finally compromises by propping most of his upper body up on a stack of pillows, and while it isn't quite comfortable -- he knows his neck and back will feel it in a few hours — it's enough, for now. He closes his eyes, letting his head tip back onto the top of the pillows, and breathes in, deep and calm, through blessedly clear airways. And then he remembers the letter he left behind and the misery drips back in like phlegm, filling his body like a faucet he can't turn off.

Sleep doesn't come quickly enough, and so he finally, begrudgingly, drags himself out of bed and into the bathroom. He finds a bottle of NyQuil in the cabinet and sloshes about a shot glass's worth of it into the cap. Whatever puts him out. Whatever will keep him there. He chases it with cold water from the tap, then trudges back to bed, a little woozy and still aching with every step.

It occurs to him, halfway back to bed, that he could — and probably should — just call John. That John, for all of their differences and fights as of lately, would still probably come running to help him out, because that's what John does; pain and suffering are a direct line to his "give a shit" button. But then he thinks about Thom Pinckney, and it chills him all the way down to the marrow. How much did John say to him? How long was Thom secretly answering to Madison and Jefferson? It occurs to Alex, perhaps, that Pinckney chose to stay with John these past few weeks to better keep tabs on Washington's dirty little secret. Maybe not. Maybe it was a happy accident on his part, some sort of coincidence. But he still doesn't trust Pinckney, and as of now, he can't afford to trust John, either. Not until all this is over and behind them both. Until Washington can no longer be hurt by having their names mentioned in the same breath.

He can't sleep. Washington always seems to fall asleep with cable news of some sort playing. He's come to find it soothing. Alex still doesn't have a TV in his room — doesn't particularly want one — so he does the next best thing and hits buttons on his clock radio until it's playing NPR. Turns it down until the voices are a tangle of murmurs.

Finally, he thinks, and he allows himself to drift off. Quiet, dreamless sleep, occasionally cut by bouts of coughing that wake him up just long enough to fall back unconscious. His entire body throbbing, his brain a mess of imageless words. His mental faculties as dark and stormy as a thundercloud. Blank.


This feels like the illness he remembers from his childhood. The one that reduced him to a shivering indentation in his bed, curling up into himself, curling up against his mother. Fever. That wracking, aching fever that only the dead and the soon-to-be know. He escaped it then. Death has had him in its sights his entire life and he’s narrowly escaped it each time. He breathes in the cool air against his pillow, gasping to fill his lungs quite enough.

No doctors. No hospitals.

“Alexander,” he hears through a dim fog, and he tosses his head. There’s a hand pressing up against his forehead, the palm smooth and familiar. “Alexander, sweetheart, stop tossing and turning so much, you’re going to hurt yourself.”

He wants to turn over again, wants to push whoever it is away, he didn’t want to be in a hospital anyway — and this must be a hospital bed, the way he’s propped all the way up, practically sitting upright, and the soft hush of voices in the background — but his body feels weak, too weak to fight these hands off, and he sucks in a ragged breath and accepts the thermometer probing his lips, tucks it under his tongue with his eyes still closed.

A beep. “101.1,” comes the voice, and he shakes his head violently.

“No,” he forces out around his swollen throat, his voice barely a gasp. “No doctors.”

“All right, no doctors, not yet. If your fever hasn’t broken in an hour, then we’re going to the doctor.” Familiar. More familiar now. He cracks one eye open, gritty with sleep, and catches half a glimpse of the man at his bedside.

This must be a dream, he decides, because Washington, here, would never make sense. Washington is leaning over his bed and it’s such an incongruent, unlikely vision, this man in his fine blue suit and tie against the shoebox proportions of this bedroom, and Alex almost wants to laugh at how specific this dream is but can’t summon the energy to do it.

He’s never able to talk in his dreams. It’s the one place where words fail him. He opens his mouth and nothing comes out, and here he opens his mouth and again, they stick in his throat, a hollow shell of consonants, no vowels to fill in the blanks between them.

I love you, he tries to breathe at the hallucination, and the hallucination bends down to brush his lips against his sticky, clammy forehead, burning hotter against the skin.

“I love you too,” it says, “now please, get some rest.”

Strange, he thinks, that it heard him speak out loud, but he’s had odder dreams. He closes his eyes again and once more drifts off.


He opens his eyes again, blinking blearily. His neck is stiff, his back is sore. "Uh?"

John is standing at his bedside, looking at him with an odd mix of extreme concern and slight confusion. "Why is George Washington in our living room?"

"What time is it?" Alex asks. Everything is out of focus and incoherent. What the fuck, he thinks groggily to himself, as he looks at his surroundings.

John frowns. "It's after nine o'clock. Washington's been here since I got home from work. He introduced himself very politely and said that I must be Henry Laurens' son. He's sitting in our living room, reading some massive bill, acting like there's nothing weird going on?"

"I told you," Alex grumbles through his sore throat. "We've been — we were, anyway —"

"You said you were sleeping with your boss in exchange for expensive stuff," John says dubiously. "Not anything about..."

"I told you it was more complicated than that." His back aches as he shifts in bed. "Can I..? does he want to see me?"

"I would assume so. He's been sitting out there for the past three hours," John shrugs. "He's actually a really nice guy. I said we didn't have anything to make for dinner and he offered to go out to get us groceries?"

"Yeah, that's just what he does," Alex shrugs. "If he tries to buy you something, you just have to go with it or else he gets kind of bummed out. It's how he shows he cares." Alex frowns, glancing around his messy bedroom. "He's not... did he say anything else about why he's here?"

John shrugs. "To see you. I don't know. You can talk to him if you want." He leaves the room, and Alex sinks down a little lower into the bed as, moments later, Washington walks in.

"Alexander," he says softly as he comes over to the bed, treading softly. He's got a steaming mug in hand, his tie loose around his neck. "Are you feeling any better?"

Alex swallows tentatively. "Throat's still killing me," he says. "But I think the fever —"

"That broke around five," Washington says. "Thank God. I was getting ready to take you to the hospital."

"No!" Alex rockets upright, shaking his head, and Washington sighs.

"Yes, you made that very clear," he says wryly, setting the mug down on the nightstand. "You're doing better now, anyway. Down to 99 the last time I checked."

Alex relaxes a little, breathing a little easier. "Okay," he says. "Why are you — how did you find me here?"

Here Washington hesitates. He rubs his brow, the bridge of his nose, looks as though he's not quite sure how to answer this one. "I was... you gave me quite a scare," he finally says, in a tone Alex has come to know as one he affects when diplomacy is of the essence. "I came home at lunch to check on you, and you were gone. Went to the urgent care at GBU and you weren't there either. I finally called Mr. Mulligan and asked how I might go about checking on you at home, and thank God you were here."

"I'm sorry," Alex mutters, sliding back down a little further under the covers. "I just wanted to be in my own bed."

"So I gathered." Washington sighs, and offers him a couple orange-red pills and the mug from the nightstand. "Here. Flu medicine and tea."

Alex accepts both, sheepish but grateful. "Thanks."

"You're welcome." Washington waits until he's swallowed, and then sighs heavily before adding, "Now, I think there's something else we need to talk about." He extracts a piece of yellow legal-pad paper from his pocket and holds it up, Exhibit A. "What the hell is this, my boy?"

Alex feels his stomach drop. An elevator in free fall. He'd somehow forgotten about the note he'd left altogether. "I — I'm sorry," he starts to apologize, but Washington shakes his head.

"I want to be clear," he says softly, "this is beautifully written. That being said, it's utter bullshit. You're not resigning."

"Sir, you have to understand," Alex says, and Washington cocks a brow, makes a little motion with his hand: Continue. So Alex does. "You can't be the Vice President with me around. In any capacity. It's a ticking time bomb. Someone, at some point, is going to start putting things together, and then it's over. We're both ruined. Jefferson was right, the public is way more interested in things like affairs and closets and this kind of kept-boy thing. I don't want to do this, but we have to. It's for the best."

"Ah," Washington says calmly. Far too calmly, Alex thinks through his flu-addled brain, but says nothing, only takes tiny sips of tea. "So there's the interesting part."


"I'm not going to be the Vice President."

Alex blinks, rapidly, feeling a bit like a GPS recalculating after some idiot driver makes a wrong turn. "I — I'm sorry, what?"

Washington sighs, chuckles. He grabs Alex's desk chair from across the room and wheels it over to the bed. Sits down heavily. "I turned down the appointment," he says, and Alex shakes his head again.


There's a moment where Washington says nothing. It's so much like him, to say nothing. It occurs to Alex how good he is at doing this, at biding his time and conserving words; his economy of language is truly something at which to marvel. "It's not what I wanted," he says simply, and then holds up a finger, checking himself. "Well. No, that's not quite right. I don't want to be the Vice President, that much is true. Certainly not under Adams. His policy is generally fine, but I find his personality a bit..."

"Aberrant?" Alex can't resist chiming in, and Washington smiles.

"A bit much," he finishes. "But more so, I didn't want to... it's not the right time. The loss of privacy, of my own agency, isn't worth it. What is it that they always say at the Oscars? It's an honor to be nominated? That much remains true. But I didn't..." He shakes his head. "It wasn't worth what I would give up to assume that role now, with two years left in the administration."

"Adams could run again," Alex argues, and Washington nods.

"He could, but I doubt he'd be elected," he agrees. "John is not a particularly electable figure... Point being, I thought about it long and hard. I conferred with Martha, with Mr. Lafayette, with my friends. The role of the vice presidency is not a glamorous one. I had little interest in being made into a scapegoat for the President's inevitable mistakes. I want to be the President, Alexander, but not so badly that I will settle for second place."

"Oh," is all Alex can think to say, and Washington chuckles again.

"Look," Washington says, matter-of-fact but not quite brusque. Alex lifts his tea to his lips, but doesn't take another sip. "I can do more good as a member of the Senate right now than I could as the VP. I'm willing to wait until the path clears. And in the meantime..." His gaze lands heavy on Alex. Expectant. Alex shakes his head.

"I'm sorry," is all he can still think to say about the letter. "It's not... it felt like..."

"I understand how it felt," Washington says. Not unkindly. He's never been unkind to Alex, and the realization hits him hard. He's deserved unkindness, probably, a few times, but this sort of unceasing patience — he doesn't deserve this. "And I also understand that you were running a hundred-degree fever when I left you this morning. That being said, Alex... do you want to leave? Do you want to stop seeing me?"

"I don't..." Alex shakes his head, trailing off, and Washington continues.

"If you want to leave, that's your choice," he says. "I won't stop you if this is a matter of your free will. But I want you to think, long and hard, about what it is you want. I care very much for you, Alex. I don't presume to know how it is, exactly, that you feel about me, but if the language you employed in your letter holds true — and it was artful, princess, very cleverly written indeed — I believe we're on the same page regarding our feelings for each other. I, too, ah — what was it —" and here he refers back to the page, a slight smile twisting the corners of his mouth as he looks it over, "—fear that the depth of this affection I feel toward you may have transgressed the bounds of propriety."

Washington looks up at him, and all Alex can do is shrug helplessly. "I'm not..." He closes his eyes, searching for the words. He finds them, slowly, starts speaking just to keep his momentum going, uncertain of exactly where this is going. "I meant what I wrote. I'm afraid that this will ruin everything that you've worked for and that it will ruin me, too. I'm afraid that you're just going to see what a burden I am and how disaster practically lurks around every single corner for me. I'm really afraid that I'm cursed or something, that I'm just not meant to be happy. You feel me? I'm not... I'm not supposed to let people take care of me or get close to me. It's why I do this shit. That doesn't have anything to do with you, it's all on me."

With a snort, Washington shakes his head. "'It's not you, it's me," he says dryly, and Alex can't help it, he laughs a little as well.

"I'm sorry," he says. "I should be better than that. I just..." And he shrugs again, looking around the room. "My parents weren't around. I'm not good in relationships. I fuck up most friendships I have, sooner or later. I'm trying to be better about that, but I just..." He waves a hand, vaguely, trying hard to stave off the strange pricking of tears behind his eyes again. He's cried more in the past two months than in the past two years altogether. This is so fucking weird, what Washington does to him. "I don't trust myself to love you in the way I should be able to."

"Alex." Washington reaches out, clasps one of his hands in both of his, and Alex swallows hard, wincing; his throat is a war zone. He can't stop staring at those big hands. The first thing he noticed about this man. The first thing he wanted. He still wants them, he can't fight the instinct inside himself, he still lives and dies by Washington's broad palms and thick fingers, still feels his pulse stutter just a little when he reaches out and touches him. "I've asked you this before," Washington says, "and I'm going to ask you one more time. Do you trust me?"

"Yes." His voice comes out in a cracked whisper. "More than anything. More than trust." And he tugs at Washington's hand, pulling him closer, and Washington nods, gingerly lifts himself up onto the bed, curling around Alex carefully. The quarters are cramped and Alex knows it's stupid, knows Washington can't afford to catch whatever the hell this is, but —

He wants him close. He wants to be held. He hasn't allowed himself to feel this way, to feel this vulnerable, in years. Over a decade. He wants to be —

"I don't know what to say," Alex mutters into the pillow as Washington pulls him closer, holds him a little tighter. The bed is cramped quarters but Washington's got one hand in his hair, playing with it softly and pulling out the tangles, and Alex closes his eyes. Relaxes into it. "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry."

"Ssh," Washington says. "You don't have to be sorry right now."

"I am, though," he says. "I wanted to be — it doesn't matter. I'll stay. I'm sorry. For everything." Then he frowns, opens his eyes again. "Wait, okay. I'm sorry, hold on. You're staying in the Senate? So who's going to be the VP?"

He feels Washington lift and lower a shoulder behind him. "I'm not certain yet," he says. "The vetting process will probably take another couple days, so long as they don't speed through it out of desire to just fill the vacancy."

"And what about Jefferson?" he can't resist asking. "And Madison? If you're not going to be able to pressure them to keep quiet --"

"Don't worry about Jefferson," Washington says firmly. "I have a plan."

"We had a plan before," Alex mutters, and Washington laughs.

"A real plan," he affirms as he carefully rearranges himself around Alex, fluffing the pillow just enough to make it feel right. "Now. Are you hungry?"

"I don't think I could eat anything," Alex says truthfully. "My throat... I don't know if I can taste, either, that tea doesn't have much flavor."

"I'll make you some toast," Washington says, and starts to get up, but Alex shakes his head. Lets himself be a little bit needy. Lets himself tug at his hand again.

"Just... stay," he says sheepishly. "For a little bit longer. I'm not..."

Washington relaxes, lies back down, and Alex closes his eyes. The obvious questions are still overwhelming, and he doesn't know which to ask first. His job. He quit his job. That seems like the obvious one. "Okay, one more thing," he pipes up again. "I'm not — I am still, technically, unemployed..."

He hears Washington laugh, feels warm breath puff against the back of his neck. "One thing at a time," he says. "You need to get well. Get some sleep."

"I'm trying." Alex sighs again. "It's just making me kind of antsy. The more that I think about it."

"Don't be antsy." Washington's fingers comb through his hair again. "Yes, you are currently, technically unemployed. Luckily, I am also currently in need of a policy director..."

Alex twists his head around to look him in the eye. "Wait," he says. "Seriously? That's more than I deserve —"

Washington shrugs. "I told you that you'd get a real promotion when you earned it," he says. "Since Mr. Burr has chosen to seek employment elsewhere..." His words drop off, and he kisses Alex's forehead again as he extricates himself from the bed and stands up. "We'll talk about the details later. You need to eat something."

Alex watches him cross the room, hesitate before he reaches the door. "I should say," he says. "I heard you -- what you said when you were asleep before. I love you, too. You should know that."

Alex closes his eyes. "Sir."

"For God's sake, Alex," Washington says, laughing despite himself. "You can call me by my name. If not now, then when?"

He opens them again, nods, steadies himself. "I love you. George."

Washington gives him a funny little look as he turns the doorknob. Pride. That's the look. It feels so strange, and Alex sits up, wishing for all he's worth that the circumstances were different. That they weren't saying this here. But then again --

"It gets easier to say it," Washington says knowingly. And Alex watches him go, hears him chatting with John out in the living room through the door left ajar.

He hopes so. For the first time, he dares to hope.

Chapter Text

The following week goes by like a fever dream. In fairness, for much of it, that’s exactly what it is for him.

Alex sleeps through much of it. He fights it at first, but, as Washington tells him, “There’s no use in prolonging this just to prove a point.” And Washington — George, whatever he’s calling him now — is right. Not that he likes admitting that, but he’s right. So he stays in bed. Not that it’s enjoyable. The itch in his brain telling him that he should be at work, he should at least be doing something, is going overtime in light of having nothing but an expanse of free time in front of him.

By the third day, he’s feeling well enough to go back to work. And he says so on the phone, taking a break mid-sentence to cough into his arm.

“Hah,” says Washington. “No. You’re banned from the office for the rest of the week.”

“Objection,” Alex says. “Fundamentally unfair. Remember when Lafayette came in with food poisoning?”

“He wasn’t still actively vomiting all over the office,” Washington says.

“Still. I’m incredibly bored.”

“What about that stack of books you had on your nightstand when I was over there?” asks Washington. “Can’t you make some headway on those?”

Alex sighs, glancing over at the bare table. “I finished ‘em,” he says, and he hears Washington laugh a little on the other end of the line.

“Okay,” says Washington. “I’d prefer that you stay home, though. It’s not just for your own sake, it’s for everyone else’s. I don’t need you getting everyone else sick.”

“Fine,” Alex mutters, and hangs up with a sigh, collapsing back on his bed. Which he has barely left for days. It’s fine. Whatever. He’s bored out of his skull. But it’s fine. He pulls out his laptop — the new one, the one Washington quietly left on his doorstep in a discreet wrapped box several weeks ago after seeing the one he used to tote back and forth to PolitiFinder every day — and fires up Netflix. If Washington won’t at least give him something to do at home, he’s at least going to commit to this lazy-ass three days with the same intensity with which he does everything else: 110%, no take-backsies.

He’s been meaning to see what all the fuss was about with Orange is the New Black, anyway.

It’s a little after seven on Friday when John knocks on his bedroom door. Alex slides his headphones down his ears, finishes the last few sips of tea in the mug on the nightstand, and calls, “Come in!”

"Hey?" John seems hesitant as he edges inside Alex's bedroom, and Alex sighs, gesturing for him to come closer.

"I'm not contagious anymore," he says. "Relax. I'd be back at work already if I weren't under a strict quarantine order."

John cocks a brow as he sits down in Alex's desk chair, spinning in place. "An order you're apparently taking pretty seriously," he comments as he takes in the scene. Alex glances around self-consciously: aside from the tissues overflowing from the trash can and the box of Sudafed on the nightstand (really, the stuffy nose is the worst of it, he's back to normal otherwise), it really does look like he's just slacking off. The remnants of that afternoon's order of chilaquiles are crusting over in their aluminum tin next to yet another half-empty coffee cup. John gives him a look.

"I can't do toast and tea anymore," Alex shrugs. "I needed actual caffeine and something spicy enough to clear out my sinuses. Only thing that works for me."

"Fair enough," says John. "So you're really feeling better?"

"Yeah. Thank god." Alex glances down at his laptop, at the email that has just pinged into his inbox. Unimportant. His eyes flick back up to John's. "Um, there's something we should talk about."

John sighs, rubbing both hands over his face as he leaned forward in the chair. Hesitant. Already apologetic. "I know," he says. "Look. I'm sorry. I've been trying to figure out how to say this. I didn't mean to upset you, but I was kind of a judgmental dick about you and Washington."

"That's not what — well, thanks, but no, that's not it." Alex sighs, still uncertain of how to broach the subject that's been gnawing at his mind these past few days. "Uh, so, you and Thom. That's getting pretty serious, right?"

John spins again in the chair, shrugs. "It's been a few months."

"Yeah. Uh." He glances back down at his inbox, wishing to hell someone would distract him, send some sort of work email, a catastrophe requiring immediate addressing — but it's 7:16 on a Friday night, so of course no one does. "I think you should maybe be careful with him."

"Hold on," John says. He places both feet on the floor, stopping the lackadaisical side-to-side motion of the chair. "Is this, like, payback or something? For what I said about you and Washington?"

Alex shakes his head. "No. I just don't think his intentions are in the best place."

"Alex..." John looks torn, genuinely torn, and Alex sighs again. He has to tell him. There's no other way. John is still his best friend. John may be a pampered Yorkshire Terrier convinced he's a streetwise Rottweiler, but he's still his best friend, and, Alex thinks, he deserves to know the truth here. Full disclosure. For once.

Well. Almost full disclosure, anyway.

"Basically, I think Thom has been using you to get intel," Alex says carefully. "Not that that's all your relationship is. I fully buy that you guys like each other. But I was in a meeting with some Senate Republicans a few nights ago, before I got sick, and one of them said that Pinckney had been giving them, um, certain information that he could have only gotten from you and me. I think you should tread carefully. Feed him a couple stories that aren't true and if they get back to me, we'll know."

John raises both eyebrows. "All due respect, man," he says skeptically, "but why should I believe this?"

Alex sighs. "Because we're best friends," he says. "And 'cause I love you, and I don't want you to get hurt."

With a funny little look on his face, John stands up. "What did he do, exactly?"

"Told Jefferson I knew about Burr getting Madison's chief of staff pregnant," Alex says. "So Burr resigned in a rush and Jefferson hired him immediately to cover it up. Some other shit, too. He told Jefferson and Madison what went on in Washington's vetting meetings so they could blackmail us, I would bet he's been feeding them intel from inside the veep's office for a while. Look, you don't have to trust me on this. It's just a hunch. I don't have real evidence. But..." He sighs, heavy and tired, and goes back to Netflix. "I've had a lot of hunches pan out these last couple months."

He sees John watching him warily from the door, his shoulders slumped and acquiescent. "I'll think about it," he says, in the quiet, weary voice of a man who thinks he may very well be proven wrong. "Are you... you gonna be in all night?"

Alex shrugs. "Yeah. Probably."

"'Kay." John turns to leave, and then hesitates, turning back. "I am sorry, by the way. About you and Washington. He's a good dude."

Alex smiles a little bit. "I heard you guys talking when I was super out of it that night," he says. "Was it my fever, or did he seriously offer to put in a good word for you with Jay? You really wanna clerk for the Chief Justice?"

"He just offered," John says, shaking his head in mild amazement. "Just like that. Is that what it's like all the time with him?"

"He's a powerful guy," Alex says, feeling himself fill with an irrepressible blend of pride and smugness. "But the good kind of powerful. I really like him."

"Yeah," John says thoughtfully. "I can see why."

As he leaves, Alex hits 'play'. Not that he's really concentrating on what may or may not be happening onscreen. But it's an adequate distraction. For now.

They'll be okay. They always are.


"Thank you for meeting here," Washington says quietly. He and Alex had driven all the way out to Baltimore that Sunday morning, parked a couple blocks away and dressed, in Washington's words, inconspicuously. The woman seated across from them in the booth is just as inconspicuous, Red Sox cap pulled low over her glasses as she sips a cup of coffee.

"Not a problem," she says, and Alex looks her up and down: grey hoodie, tall and intimidating. Clearly an off-duty reporter. From the way she looks at Washington, smirky and knowing, he can tell there's a rapport there.

Washington picks at the hash browns in front of him. Alex forks up a bite of blueberry pancakes. "We do have something for you, Deb," Washington says. "And we'd like to get it out well ahead of the midterms."

"What's the best-case scenario here?" Deb asks, and Alex and Washington both share a glance, considering the question.

"Maybe the resignation of two Congressional Republicans," Alex says. "Maybe. If you do your due diligence."

She looks at him archly. "So you're the kid George almost threw his career away over," she says with a little laugh. "Cute. I guess I see it. He always did like them mouthy..."

Washington chokes with some spluttering mix of laughter and embarrassment. "That aside, Deb, this is... Alex is right. It's a solid lead."

She shrugs. Alex stirs his coffee thoughtfully as he watches her consider it. The diner's loud enough to cover their conversation but he still doesn't like the idea of doing this out in open. Then again, the hideaway had supposedly been private. No such thing as a safe place, he guesses. "Okay," she says, "cards on the table, then. How much more are you getting out of this than I am?"

Washington returns her shrug. He's got his fork loaded up with ketchupy hash browns, which he's not eating. "Well, you already know about us," he says. "Circle of trust still holds, which means I don't tell anyone about how you were once caught digging through the Dirksen recycling for a lead..."

Deb smirks again. "Worth it, though."

"Isn't it always." Alex thinks it best to remain silent for now, let the grown-ups talk business, so he just watches as Washington does his thing. "I could always, y'know. Shop it around. Call my buddy at the Post's Styles section and tell him to look into how Jefferson paid his office's interior decorator..."

"You wouldn't." She shakes her head. "What's in the binder?"

"You gonna help us out?" Washington asks, holding it back, and she sighs, nods.

"If anyone asks, you're totally impotent, couldn't get a boner if you tried, and this one—" She jerks her head in Alex's direction. "—is Johnny Castle-ing his way into the Schuyler family via your wife's very lovely assistant."

Washington sighs and slides the binder across the table. "See for yourself. I haven't done all the work for you. I'd start by looking into the New Life Church in Charlottesville."

"Let me guess," she says, drumming her blunt fingernails on the table as she flips through the binder, page after page of print-outs from the drive neatly filed in plastic sleeves. "The New Life Church in Charlottesville doesn't exist?"

"The address on file belongs to a Long John Silver's." Washington sips his coffee. "There's your lead. Go fetch."

Deb closes the binder abruptly. Smiles. "Pleasure doing business with you. As always."

"Pleasure's all mine." Washington crumples his napkin, tosses it onto his plate. Alex watches a glob of ketchup soak through it like some kind of Rorschach design. Looks bloodstain-y to him. "Oh. Sorry. You mind picking up the check? I don't have cash on me."

Deb groans. "You always do this."

"I'll get the next one." He grins, glances at Alex. "You all set?"

"Yeah." He shovels the last bite of pancakes into his mouth, looks across the table at their companion, who is rifling through her wallet. "Thanks, by the way."

She rolls her eyes. "Don't mention it. I, uh, owe George a couple favors. Long story."

"I'm sure." Alex glances at Washington, who rolls his own eyes. "Well. Thanks."

It's not a long drive to Baltimore Harbor, particularly not with the bright morning sun shining and warm air blowing in through the windows. They'd talked this through the night before, agreed that it was the right thing to do. With the evidence of Jefferson's corruption in Deb Sampson's hands — and Washington had sworn up and down that she was trustworthy, pointed out that they'd saved each other's asses in Kuwait enough times to know the difference — there's no real reason to hang onto the rest of it.

Washington tugs his own ball cap down over his eyes, pushes his sunglasses up his nose as they park the car. Alex swings his backpack over his shoulder. The weather is perfect, late spring slowly giving way to summer, and they walk slowly through the park.

"So this next week should be a slow one in the office," Washington says. "It's probably a good time for you to come back."

Alex frowns. "I thought we agreed I wasn't going to come back until the Jefferson thing hit the papers," he says. "That's kind of presumptuous..."

With a shrug, Washington leads him around a corner, stopping under a wide oak tree. The waterfront sparkles in the distance as Alex glances up at him. "I talked it over with Lafayette," he says. "We agreed. Keep it quiet, keep your name out of the press. If anyone asks, you were having personal issues."

"And Burr?" Alex asks.

"What about Burr?"

"He knows everything. Why are we giving him the benefit of the doubt?"

Washington sighs heavily as they walk toward the water. "Mr. Burr isn't in a position to negotiate. He talks about us, we tell the press all about his little dalliance with Theodosia."

"I thought you didn't want to drag that out," Alex comments. "Something about hypocrisy?"

The sun shining off the water is almost blindingly bright, and Alex pushes his sunglasses down his forehead and onto his nose as they leave the shade of the trees, walking out to the waterfront. Breezy, but warm still. He's comfortable in his t-shirt. He thinks, briefly, of an office of his own, a bronze nameplate on the door. Alexander Hamilton, Policy Director. Nice ring to it. He could probably afford business cards now, on his own dime.

"Is it still hypocritical if we don't intend to act on the threat?" Washington asks, more rhetorical than question. "I don't think so. I don't anticipate that we will. But if we do, we'll meet the aggression head-on. I think we're more than capable of it."

"Burr's gonna shit when he finds out I took his job," Alex laughs, and then rolls his eyes off Washington's look of reproach. "Sorry. But it's true."

"So, weekend after next," Washington says, changing the subject as they walk along the waterfront. "I thought we might spend it together. A little break for the two of us. Mount Vernon, maybe?"

Alex thinks it over, picturing the calendar in his mind. Then he snorts with not-quite-derisive laughter. "Isn't that weekend Father's Day?"

Washington cocks a brow, giving him a knowing look. "Is it?"

"Oh my God," Alex says. He's doubled over laughing before he can force out the words. "You're such a freak, old man."

"Don't worry," Washington says archly, waiting for Alex to right himself before they walk on. "You don't have to get me a card."

They walk together along the harbor until they round a corner, finding a relatively concealed spot in the shade. Alex unzips his backpack, digs into it and pulls out the drive. "You want to do the honors?" he asks Washington, who shakes his head.

"It's all yours, princess," he says, and Alex takes a deep breath, weighing it in his hand before gripping it around the middle. He winds up his arm like a pitcher, and, with great effort, hurls it into the harbor.

They watch it sink for a moment with deep satisfaction, the ripples of its impact on the water absorbed into the waves almost immediately. And then it's gone.

"So," Alex says, turning to Washington after a few seconds of contemplation. "What's next?"

Chapter Text

The invitation arrives in the mail in mid-July, addressed to “Mr. Alexander Hamilton and Guest.”


Together with their families
Adrienne Françoise de Noailles
Marie-Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier, the Marquis de Lafayette
invite you to celebrate their marriage
Saturday, the twenty-third of September at six o’clock
The Plaza Hotel
New York City
                                                    Black tie


Alex can’t hold back a snort of laughter as he runs his thumb over the thick cotton paper, feeling the heft of it, the fine gold engraving. Heh. Marie-Joseph. No wonder the guy just goes by Lafayette. Immediately, then, he picks up the phone and calls Washington.

“So,” he says. “Office field trip to the du Motier-Noailles wedding, then?”

Washington chuckles. “I see you got your invitation as well, then.”

“His first name is Marie,” Alex snickers.

He hasn’t been back to New York since he and John packed up their entire lives and moved to D.C. two and a half years prior. Everything and nothing has changed. Funny, he thinks. Chases become Starbuckses and Starbuckses become Chases and yet New York itself stays the same, fundamentally untouchable, a city built on aspirations. A city built on the central concept that no one individual will ever be good enough, smart enough, successful enough, but that shouldn’t stop anyone from trying.

This used to be his Duane Reade, back when he worked for the public advocate’s office. He wanders in through the sliding automated doors and for some reason, Hoobastank is playing on the radio, because for some reason it’s always 2003 in this particular Duane Reade near City Hall. Literally nothing has changed in this drugstore since the last time he was here, and it’s the most satisfying part about this entire trip — the knowledge that even though he’s a totally different person now than he was the last time he stood in this aisle, mentally calculating whether he had enough cash left in his checking account to buy a box of Hot Pockets to keep in the office freezer for the week’s lunches, the aisle containing the Hot Pockets itself has not changed a bit.

“As much as I’m enjoying this in-depth tour of the freezer section,” Washington says sotto voce, “I’m a bit curious as to the significance.”

Alex sighs plaintively, turns to him with a faint smile. “You wanted the Alexander Hamilton walking tour of New York City.”

“I did,” Washington agrees.

“Well,” says Alex, “you’re getting it. Starting here. The Duane Reade where I used to buy my lunches when I interned for the public advocate.”

“Ah,” says Washington, nodding deeply. “Right. Shall I perhaps buy us a couple coconut waters so as to stay hydrated on this Tolkien-esque pilgrimage?”

The look on Washington’s face is knowing, facetious, and Alex sighs dramatically and nods. “Fine,” he says as Washington grabs two coconut waters from the refrigerated case. “I only like the pineapple flavor, by the way.”

“Don’t be picky, princess,” comes the response, and Alex bites down on his lip with a grin as they head for the register.

It’s one of those perfect New York September days, where the sun is bright and the air is just warm enough to necessitate short sleeves, but still cut with enough of a breeze to make it comfortable. They start in lower Manhattan, grab a cab up to the East Village and jump out near St. Mark’s. “I used to hang out in that bookshop all the time,” Alex says, pointing. “Or — oh, no. Well, it used to be a bookshop, anyway. Now it’s a bubble tea place.”

“Was that the one you worked at?” Washington asks. Alex is briefly taken aback, surprised that he remembers.

“No,” he says. “That was the Strand, up at Union Square. That place will never close. We’ll walk by, but we can’t go in.”

“Traumatic flashbacks?” Washington teases, and Alex closes his eyes, sighing.

“It’s a whole thing,” he says, as they stop on the corner, waiting for the light to change. “Retail is hell. Sartre lied. Hell isn’t other people, hell is the holiday season working retail in a bookstore.”

Washington laughs out loud, slides a hand over his shoulder as the crosswalk light changes.

The tour had been Washington’s idea, true, but he wanted it to be Alex’s little project — a walk through all the places in the city significant to him. Except. Except! How the hell was he supposed to quantify that? When he thinks of places significant to him here, he comes up blank. He’s not taking Washington all the way up to the Baychester Houses to see the room where his mom died. That’s dark as shit, first of all, and he’s not so naive as to think that he can still just waltz into the NYCHA houses in the Bronx wearing his Ted Baker and Burberry tie to wave at all the places he used to scrounge around for bottles to collect the deposit at ShopRite. Nah. He’s not into poverty tourism, even if it’s personal poverty tourism. Not today. But on the other hand — significant, still, that word sticks in his craw. He could probably fill an entire afternoon with stories of bad first dates at all the various bars and coffee shops adjacent to Columbia, but that’s not really something you tell your, ah…

Boyfriend. Fine. His boss is his boyfriend now, and he’s just going to have to accept it, he thinks, as they cross Third Avenue and then keep heading uptown.

“Hey,” he says to Washington. “Uh, so, as much as I’m really into this whole sordid-stories-from-my-haunted-past walking tour, you want to do something that I somehow never got around to doing back when I lived here, instead?”

Washington looks at him over the tops of his sunglasses. “What’s that?”

Alex sighs. “I always kept telling the people I dated that I wanted to do the whole ‘picnic in the park’ thing. Never got around to it. Is that super cheesy? Or is it something you’d be into? I mean, we are here for a wedding and all, it’s okay to be kind of romantic, I know that’s dumb, but…”

There’s a hand on the small of his back and Alex glances over at Washington to see that he’s wearing the expression he’s come to know as the Shut up, Alexander expression. He’s rambling. He should stop rambling. “I would love to do that,” Washington says, and smiles slightly. Encouragingly. “Yes. Let’s go.”

An hour later they’re walking into Central Park, laden down with bags from Whole Foods. Alex takes the lead, pulls Washington through the Ramble and up to a clearing he knows to be very private. It’s close to the lake, close to the boathouse and Tavern on the Green, but surrounded by trees on one side and a surprisingly steep cliff on the other, at least as far as the park is concerned. It’s quiet. Late-summer cicadas are buzzing in the trees, but the cars and rumble of the city are muffled by the rest of the park, and for the first time since they’ve arrived in the city, they can’t hear any other voices.

Alex sits down on a wide, flat rock and opens up one of the bags he’s got with him. Pulls out a bottle of chilled prosecco and grins. “First things first,” he says, and pops the cork. It flies off into the trees, toward the ravine side of the rock, and he dissolves in laughter.

Washington is looking down into the two paper bags in front of him. “Do you think we bought too much food?”

“Whatever. We’ll take it back to the hotel,” Alex says. “We’re making up for lost time. Gimme some of that salmon.”

They divide it up between the two of them, opening boxes and plates, sharing silverware and eating from each others’ makeshift flatware openly. Washington gestures for the wine, and Alex passes it over; they take turns passing it back and forth, like college kids with a joint, he thinks, laughing again to himself. “This is technically illegal,” he comments. “Although I don’t know who’s gonna bust a sitting United States Senator for violating open container laws on a Saturday in Central Park…”

Washington laughs. “I never did this. Not when I was younger.”

“Never broke any laws at all?” Alex waggles his eyebrows suggestively, and Washington chuckles again, shaking his head.

“Nope. Honest to a fault. Some might call it a guilty conscience.” He takes a swig of the prosecco and falls thoughtfully silent. “You weren’t raised religious, were you?”

Alex shrugs. “Catholic, kind of. It didn’t really stick. I didn’t get confirmed or anything.”

“You’re probably lucky,” Washington says. “I didn’t… I think of faith as a private matter, and you know I’m still… but it instilled in me some qualities I’m still actively trying to unlearn.”

“Such as?” Alex can’t resist the question. It still strikes him as a novel surprise when Washington chooses to be so forthcoming.

“Such as seeing asceticism and denial as inherently virtuous,” Washington muses. “You know, I spent quite a bit of my life resisting the impulse to pursue the things I wanted. I thought that giving into any sort of temptation made me a weaker man.”

Alex hums as he lies back on the rock, folding both hands behind his head as he looks up at the cloudless blue sky, obscured by a picturesque frame of trees. “That’s too bad,” he says. “I think I speak for the rest of humanity when I say that giving into temptation is pretty much the best thing in the world.”

Washington laughs. “I think we both know I’m well acquainted with that notion by now.” Alex watches from the corner of his eye as he leans back on his hands. He’s looking at Alex, fond and a little bit hungry, and Alex sighs, licking his lips, practically begging him with body language to just lean over and kiss him already.

For his credit, Washington doesn’t waste time; he pushes himself off his hands and does exactly that, looming into Alex’s field of view until he consumes it and kissing him with a sort of sweet intensity that rivals the bakery-fresh macarons they’d just shared. There’s nothing but the sounds of cicadas and, somewhere in the distance, a siren wailing on a street, and the cool breeze and warm sun and the smell of the stone and grass. Nothing between them. The moment warm and bare and intimate.

Alex opens his eyes a little, remembering. He coughs slightly, and Washington pulls away.

“Not to, uh, kill the moment,” Alex says. Seizing it, instead. “But I had to get tested last week for that insurance physical, and, well. Clean bill of health. So I was thinking, y’know, maybe later tonight…” He trails off, grinning sheepishly up at Washington. “Skip the condom? Maybe?”

Washington runs a thumb over the plane of Alex’s cheekbone. “Your sense of romance, as always, astounds me, princess.”

“God, I can’t believe how you talk sometimes,” Alex laughs. “You need a copy editor, like, in your brain. Some sort of angel on your shoulder to warn you about ritual comma abuse before the words come out of your mouth.”

“We can’t all write poetry with a hundred-degree fever, my dear boy,” Washington says agreeably as he joins Alex on his back, folding his own hands behind his head as Alex flushes at the memory. Their knees knock together comfortably as they shift a little closer on the rock, Alex staring up at the bright blue sky. For once, he’s not preoccupied. For once, his mind is letting him be in the moment. Be here. Relaxed.

“What time is it?” he asks out of nowhere, because he can’t be that relaxed.

Washington holds his wrist up in front of his face, checking the time on his bulky, luxe wristwatch. “About four.”

“We should probably go back to the hotel soon,” Alex grumbles. “Get ready and all. I feel like I need a Silkwood shower after wandering around all day.” He’d forgotten how sweaty just getting from place to place in the city leaves you. If it’s not the thing he misses least about living here, it’s at least in the top ten.

Washington sits up and Alex follows suit. He’s a little dizzy as he picks himself up. Oh, right. Half a bottle of prosecco. Just enough to give him a decent buzz, make him laugh a little more freely and grip Washington around the wrist as they make their way back down the path, back down the Ramble and cutting through Sheep Meadow to the Mall. They talk idly of the news, of current goings-on in D.C., dancing around the subject of Jefferson’s recent resignation and the investigation into Madison’s PAC with sly smiles and knowing phrasing. It’s something they don’t need to speak directly about; not yet. Not unless they think they might need an alibi. It doesn’t look as though they will.

The elevator at the Plaza is as ornate as the rest of the place, a warm box of gold and mirrors, and Alex studies their reflections as they ride up to their room. They look good together, he decides. Not that he hasn’t thought so before, looked at pictures snapped during the ramp-up to the midterms and seen himself whispering in Washington’s ear, standing behind him at rallies and fundraisers. But those, he thinks, you’d have to squint. You’d have to know the backstory before the subtext in those photos would read like text. Here, in a shiny gold elevator with mirrors on three walls, they are an infinite them, an infinite us, a thousand little Alex-and-Washingtons from a thousand angles all reflected in this tiny little gold box.

They don’t touch in the elevator, like they don’t touch anywhere there might be cameras. Which is kind of the fun part, even still. Living with a secret is hard until it becomes second nature, at which point it just became How They Live. He kind of loves it. He’s into this idea, the more he thinks it over, of a public and a private self, of how Washington compartmentalizes and preserves so much of himself for his inner circle only. “You have to do it,” Washington had explained to him once, “or else you lose who you actually are by commodifying it. Everyone in D.C., that’s a persona. You have to develop one of your own to preserve yourself.”

So yeah. He’s more than fine with this, he thinks, as they head for the shower in their hotel suite. They don’t touch too much there, either, save for Washington washing his hair as per their usual routine. Washington seems preoccupied, his gaze occasionally drifting into space and his words trailing off mid-sentence. Alex doesn’t push it. The whole brooding thing isn’t necessarily a bad sign. He’s come to realize that as well. It’s just a part of the whole package, how Washington deals with things.

Alex is sprawled on the bed, scrolling through Twitter and considering the repercussions of engaging with some asshole in his mentions, when he hears Washington calling him from the bathroom. “Can you reach into my bag and bring me my aftershave, princess?”

“Sure,” he calls back, and unzips Washington’s carry-on. Rifles through it, trying not to wrinkle anything. He’s looking for a travel-sized bottle in a plastic bag but he’s first met with a small, heavy box wrapped in nice green paper, a thin silver ribbon tied around it in a neat bow. He cocks a brow. That’s their color. Interesting.

He locates the aftershave and brings both with him into the bathroom, leaning on the doorjamb in his t-shirt and boxer briefs, looking at Washington with interest. “Here y’go,” he says, tossing the bag with the aftershave in his direction, and then holds up the little box. “Wedding present?”

Washington looks a little flustered as he rinses the last bits of shaving cream off his neck. “I was going to wait,” he says. “No. Go ahead. Open it now.”

“Oh, shit, really?” Alex says, then shakes his head. “No, I don’t want to spoil your surprise. I’ll wait.”

Washington smiles fondly at him. “Are you just saying that to make me happy?”

“Maybe. Maybe I’m just into the anticipation.” Alex grins, pushing himself up on the balls of his feet to meet Washington’s lips. “We should get dressed.”

The wedding itself is beautiful, obviously. The reception — that part’s just fun.

He’s seated next to Eliza at a round table dripping with flowers, Martha and Washington beside them, John and his latest plus-one on the other side, Angelica and her new fiancé filling out the rest of the table. They’re playing it up as though they’re the couple, because, Eliza says, pulling him aside as they glance at their escort cards, “Angelica doesn’t know, and I don’t really want to make this a thing tonight.” So Alex is more than willing to play ball, leaning in to whisper in her ear, the two of them dissolving into laughter every so often as they trade fruit salad appetizers, her artfully-sliced mango for his pineapple and berries.

She does look lovely in navy as always, a strapless blue gown sprinkled with silver that gives Alex the impression that he’s sitting next to Van Gogh’s Starry Night. The gold chain at her throat sparkles in the low light of the reception hall, and he sees her hand drift to it on occasion, all through dinner and cake, playing with it almost absentmindedly, her eyes flicking back over to Martha when she thinks no one else is watching.

He knows what that means. Alex wasn’t born yesterday. And part of him admits it’s pretty damn hot, but another part of him aches, just a little bit — the part of him that still doesn’t mind feeling like a possession, that still revels in the moments when Washington makes him feel well and thoroughly owned. “C’mon,” he murmurs in her ear as he leans in. “You’re about to out yourself to the whole table. Let’s do some shots.”

Eliza follows him to the open bar, her high gold heels no impediment to her long stride. He orders shots of tequila and the bartender passes them over knowingly, looking at them like he knows their story, their vibe. He has no idea, he laughs, but hands the shot and the lime to Eliza and grins as they both raise them high.

“To dirty little secrets,” he says over the music, and she grins back.

“To being a dirty little secret,” she says.

“And loving it.”


They knock them back, suck the juice from the lime slices. He’s immediately tempted to order another, but Eliza shakes her head. “We should dance,” she says. “Tequila makes me dance-y.”

“This is the loosest I’ve ever seen you,” he comments as they head for the crowded dance floor, and she shrugs, laughing as they lose themselves in the crowd. She’s a good dancer, even in a floor-length dress and heels; she has a sort of awareness of her body that Alex finds intimidating even as he rolls his hips and moves his shoulders with the beat. He’s a good dancer, too. He’s under no ill illusions there.

One song turns into two, and two turns into four. He always forgets how much he likes this, being swept away and losing himself on a crowded dance floor. He finds John, dances up on him for a while, laughing and touching as they move with the music. He glances across the room, sees Washington watching him, sipping a bourbon and nodding as they make brief eye contact. His lips quirk up into a smile and Alex feels his face get a little warmer, and he bumps John with his shoulder, jerks his head in Washington’s direction.

“I’ll catch you later,” he yells over the Drake song playing, and John gives him a knowing grin, face splitting open all freckled and flushed as he turns back to dance with Angelica and Peggy.

Washington catches him by the wrist as he makes his way to the table. “I think,” he says quietly into Alex’s ear, “that we should call it a night.”

Alex cocks a brow, pops the last bite of cake on Washington’s plate into his own mouth. “You getting tired, Daddy?” he teases quietly, and his hand slides down his chest to unbutton the middle button on his jacket, letting it fall open over his shirt and vest. It’s the same suit he wore to the gala, all the way back when. Still makes Washington look at him the same way, like he wants to eat him alive.

“Perhaps,” Washington says, cocking his head. He stands up from the table, inclines his head to Martha, who is sipping her champagne and chatting with a woman Alex doesn’t know. “I’m going up to the room, darling.”

Martha smiles. Her eyes flit, almost imperceptibly, to where Eliza is still dancing surrounded by her boys on the floor. “I may be a while,” she says. “Don’t wait up for me.”

Washington walks off and Alex follows him by a few steps. It was Alex’s idea to book a suite in the hotel itself. No reason to waste time on travel, they’d rationalized it. He’s thanking himself for his own forethought as they step into the elevator together, the air between them crackling with energy both potential and kinetic. He’s got the itch under his skin good and solid now, he can’t stop staring, quite openly, at Washington’s hands and the way his arms fill out the jacket of his suit. He wants to be used, played with, wrecked.

“Hey,” he murmurs as he hits Washington’s shoulder with his own, between floors seventeen and eighteen. “Uh, anything goes, okay? I’ll say if it’s too much. But. Do your thing.”

Washington raises both eyebrows. “Really now,” he says. “Let’s play ball, then.”

Alex shivers a little.

As soon as they step into the room, he’s caught off-guard and breathless; Washington pushes him against the door, pulls his hair from its ponytail and yanks on it hard. “Anything goes, huh, princess?” he growls in his ear, and Alex keens a little, tilting his head up to offer his lips up to a bruising kiss.

Washington bites down on his lips, sucks his tongue into his mouth, all the while undoing the buttons on his vest with a sort of practiced, frenzied fury. They stumble toward the bed, shedding their clothing piece by piece, and he wants — he wants fucking everything, wants to be taken apart like his three-piece suit, and as Washington pushes him back onto the bed he hesitates, grappling for the lube in his carry-on bag, looking down at him like —

“Please,” Alex breathes without thinking about it, “Daddy, please—”

And then Washington is licking a stripe down his cock, taking the head in his mouth and tonguing the underside in the way he knows Alex loves, and he’s staring up at him from under his heavy brows like he can’t tear his eyes away, and Alex’s fingers scrabble on the expensive gold-taupe comforter as he tries to grab onto something, anything —

“You don’t need to talk,” Washington says roughly as he pulls off, his voice hoarse and fucked-sounding, and Alex gasps because he doesn’t have real words anyway but if he stops touching him long enough to look for the gag he’s gonna actually die, so he shuts up and just feels

— feels himself being spread open and Washington is playing with his balls, licking him softly, that brilliant fucking tongue and Jesus Christ he shouldn’t be this good, Alex digs his fingers into the bedclothes, chants Daddydaddydaddy in his head and maybe out loud but he wouldn’t fucking know either way at this point —

— feels Washington biting at his inner thighs, sucking kisses into the places his teeth scrapes over, and two slick fingers pushing into him up to the knuckle, and Alex gasps —

— feels two fingers turn into three and Washington is biting his neck, the hollow of his throat, his collarbone as he bears down on those thick, brilliant fingers, feeling himself yield to them, stretching around them as that other clever hand works his cock, and —

“Fuck,” Alex gasps as his hips snap up sharply, “Daddy, please, enough, I’m ready —” and oh God, his mouth is back on Alex’s, hot and hungry and perfect, and Alex closes his eyes as he waits, as Washington pulls away for the moment and then the head of his cock is brushing against his entrance —

Alex cants his hips up, wraps his legs around Washington’s ass as he takes him in. Just him. Just skin on skin and their mouths bump together. Their lips are slack, it’s not a real kiss, but Alex sucks in the breath that Washington exhales, his whole body trembling. He presses him in further, guiding with his legs, and it’s so perfect, and he needs him to fucking move before his entire body unravels.

“Like that,” Alex gasps, and Washington nods, rocking his hips a few times. He pulls back, drives deep inside Alex, and they both gasp. Washington is holding himself up on his thick, defined arms and he’s everything Alex can see, his entire plane of view, just his solid chest and arms caging him in. He’s getting rougher, a little sloppier, and it’s amazing —

Alex moans hard, thrusting his head back against the pillow, his eyes slitted open. He’s panting some sort of filthy litany as Washington pounds into him fast and hard, fuck Daddy yes please good more fuck me like that, hit me Daddy hit me please

A hard crack as Washington smacks him across the face, and Alex’s groan in response is almost a shout, coming from someplace deep and guttural inside him as his cock jumps in time, and it’s great, and it’s fucking incredible, and his voice comes out choked and needy when he twists his face to the other side and braces himself and begs for more but Washington, to his surprise, matches his tone —

“Fuck, princess, Alex, you’re too much, I’m so close—”

“Please, Daddy,” he begs, the words escaping him in a hiss, and that’s it, he comes, buried deep inside Alex, stilling and shaking and slipping out of him, and then he trails his mouth down Alex’s body, agonizingly slow for the fever that’s got them both like a vise. Washington licks over the knob of his hipbone and bites at his thighs again, and he’s begging again, saying words he didn’t know he could conjure under these circumstances, all of them coming out in God knows what language.

Washington takes him into his mouth, buries three fingers deep inside him where he’s dripping with lube and come, and Alex’s orgasm is almost instantaneous. He comes down Washington’s throat with a whine, and he’s certain an I love you comes out as he does.

There’s a shared gasp and a sigh, a slackening of muscles and tightening of arms, and as Alex regains his uneasy metaphorical footing, gets used to the whole corporeal-body-in-the-world thing, he’s nestled in Washington’s arms, face pressed against his chest where he smells like sandalwood oil and sweat. It’s comfortable. It’s home.

“Good,” he says decisively, and then, as his verbal capacity more steadily returns to him, he adds, “That was good. Really good.”

“Mm.” Washington tilts his head down. His eyes are warm and dark and smiling.

The idle thought occurs to him as the haze of his orgasm clears. “What was in the box?”

Washington groans. “Oh, that,” he says. “I should wash my hands, then. Hold on.”

“Don’t go,” Alex whines dramatically, but Washington is already calmly extricating himself from their spot on the bed, padding toward the bathroom and running the sink. Alex sighs and reaches for the first item of clothing he sees, Washington’s tuxedo shirt. He smirks a little at the idea of it, and pulls it on. The whole rom-com girlfriend thing works for him.

Washington comes back into the room, now wearing one of the plush ivory bathrobes, and rolls his eyes good-naturedly as he sees Alex. But reserves comment. He takes the green wrapped box from where Alex had set it on a coffee table and holds it out.

“I wasn’t sure,” he says, and then shakes his head. “Well. If you don’t like it — take a look, we can always —”

“Oh, stop,” Alex says, shaking his head, exasperated. He pulls at one end of the ribbon, then the other, letting it fall onto the bed, and slowly slides one finger beneath the tape, trying not to rip the paper. Washington watches him with a faint smile as he unwraps the gift, revealing a dark blue box with silver lettering on top: Rolex.

“Shit,” Alex murmurs under his breath, and then amends it. “Un-shit. Sorry. Language. But…” He lifts the top, revealing a stunning wristwatch, all silver with a gunmetal grey face. “This is…”

He looks up to see Washington, smiling at him with pride. “I didn’t know if you’d actually like it,” he says. “I noticed you don’t wear a watch, I wasn’t certain—”

“I used to wear a Swatch that my foster family got me when I graduated high school,” Alex admits sheepishly, “but the leather on the strap kinda fell apart and I never got around to taking it to get fixed. It’s not that…” He lifts it out of the box, lets Washington clasp it around his right wrist. “This is incredible. I…”

Washington smiles again. He hasn’t stopped smiling. His fingers trail over Alex’s wrist, tracing the silver steel links of the band. “Think of this as an item of significance,” he says quietly. “Discreet, but of the utmost significance to both of us. Much like yourself to me.”

Alex’s lips quirk up into a smile of his own and there’s a stuttering warmth where his heart should be, growing hotter and hotter and filling his ribcage and lungs with something bright red and gold and real. “Jesus,” he says, “that’s the most romantic thing I’ve ever heard.”

“You don’t have to patronize me,” Washington says, rolling his eyes, and Alex turns his hand over, catching him by the wrist.

“Not patronizing,” he says, looking up to meet those dark, earnest eyes, “not joking. I love you. Thank you.”

Washington reaches out, tucks a piece of stray hair behind his ear. “I love you,” he says. “You’re mine.”

“I’m yours,” Alex repeats, and then they’re kissing, falling back onto the hotel bed and kissing and kissing forever, and the watch on his wrist feels heavy, and real, and he’s spinning and dizzy, and safe, and home.