Angelica is more surprised than her family when she stands at the altar with Aaron Burr. Her father shakes his hand, and places theirs together before he sits down. Peggy is crying, but whether they are happy or distressed tears, she cannot tell. Eliza gives her a hopeful smile, eyes shining. But Angelica remains in numb shock, searching the church for Alexander, for his eyes, for his energy.
There is only Aaron Burr. He has a nice smile, she thinks generously, placid and watery, with neither love nor passion lighting the dark brown of his eyes. He doesn't burn her the way Alexander does.
She allows herself to smile back. Maybe that's a good thing.
“Your financials are a mess.” Angelica rubs her forehead in frustration, pouring over Aaron’s slanted writing and poor record keeping. “Did you donate borrowed money to charity?”
He coughs bashfully and smiles. “Ah, yes, I’m something of a loose spender.”
“If we’re going to be financially stable enough for you to open a successful practice, no more big spending. We’ll downsize our apartments, cut a couple of staff members--”
“Angelica.” Aaron interrupts. Angelica glances at him. It's strange to see him without a smile on his mouth. His expression isn't quite earnest, but something about it draws Angelica short anyway. “We don't have to do all that. I don't want you to live… Like youre less.”
Angelica doesn't want to live like she’s less either, that's why she married him. “It’ll only be a few years.” she answers decisively. “Just until we’re financially secure.” she frowns at him with mock admonishment. “Until then, no big spending.”
“Not even to lavish my pretty wife in all the trinkets and treasures money can buy?” he looks like he’s leaning in for a kiss, but he stops short when she turns away.
“Not even then.”
He gets the hint.
At breakfast, he puts a hand on the back of her chair and leans down to her. He waits until she tips her cheek up to kiss her, and smiles a gentle good morning before calling for coffee. There is a well worn routine to it.
Angelica appreciates this. They do not love each other, but they are comfortable enough, she supposes. They sleep in the same bed, wake up at the same time. He reads her poetry in the evening in the dim lamplight while she knits socks for a charitable donation effort.
He did not write the poetry himself, not like Alexander, but the not quite earnest cadence of his voice as he reads is a comfort by itself. He puts a new meaning into the words he didn't write, and colours them until they are his own.
Angelica has learned that Aaron does not say much, but he always says what he means. So she knows he is not exaggerating when he takes her hand and kisses her palm and tells her he would be nothing without her. The assurance is made bitter only by the fact that he has never once claimed to love her.
“Mrs. Burr.” Alexander smiles. His eyes are still fire, she feels smoke crawling up her throat, she can't breathe for wanting him. “Congratulations on your union. I hope it is a happy one.”
“It's a successful one.” she answers easily, fingering the gemstone of a ring Aaron splurged on for her (He saw her staring longingly at it and came home with it. It's unfair of her to think he's trying to buy her love when she’s made it clear that money is the only operative in their relationship).
“Are you satisfied, Angelica?”
She looks at him sharply, but he doesn't quail, coal dark eyes still burning. It's a cruel question. Is she satisfied? How can she be satisfied when the man she wants is sitting in her parlour, married to her sister, while she resigns herself to a man who incites nothing in her save the same watery fondness he wears on his face?
“I am successful.” she answers. Because that at least is true.
With Angelica handling their financials, they escape their cloud of debt. Aaron comes home with exotic trinkets. From India, he says in explanation, presenting silks and ivories. From France, he offers, laying down perfumes and laces. “Only the best for you.” he assures, like he is a mere supplicant and she an empress.
It should please her.
Angelica used to believe she was materialistic. She wanted money and power, the ear and arm of a man she could bend and push to greater heights, who would lavish her in exotic trinkets from India and France, who would take her around Europe because he could, who would ---
Write her poetry and consume her with flames.
She knows now she wants only to be happy.
Aaron does not make her happy, but he keeps her comfortable and she supposes that is enough.
“Only the best for you.”
She is quickly discovering the worst thing in the world is to get what you want.
“I’m handling a divorce case this afternoon.” Aaron says conversationally, spreading jam on a piece of toast. Angelica hums politely, and stirs her tea cup idly, watching the cream swirl and mix, silver tinkling sweetly against delicate china. “A pro bono case. My client is rather distressed, and it would please me if you accompanied me to my office as a source of reassurance for her.”
“Me?” angelica glances up. “Her?” Aaron is watching her, mouth pulled into a thin line of not quite earnest determination.
“She is very afraid of her soon to be ex husband. I thought a strong and supportive female presence in court would comfort her.”
Angelica is still stuck on the “her”. She agrees, but it's not to be a comfort to a girl who got married too young and wild (It's thoughtful of Aaron to ask her, to want to ensure this girl’s feelings of security. She never considered him thoughtful before). She goes because she’s curious.
In court, he succinctly denounces a wife’s position as chattel and resulting abuse at the hands of men who are supposed to support and protect, he speaks on the rights of women as people before property protected under the law. He is incredible. Sharp and unrelenting and persistent and persuasive. He wins.
“You never told me your thoughts on those matters.” Angelica accuses softly when they walk home arm in arm.
“I was unaware my opinions on anything mattered to you.”
It is a low blow but it is fair because if Angelica is being honest, they hadn’t. “I'm your wife. Your opinions matter to me.”
He lifts a brow as though to say “is that right?” but he is kind enough not to call her out on the blatant lie.
(She has never thought of him as kind before.)
She makes an effort after the pro bono divorce case. She watches his face over breakfast, tries to measure his moods in the placid set of his mouth and coolness of his eyes. She tries to learn him, like latin and cross stitching.
“Do you have a new case this morning?”
“Will you tell me about it?”
He blinks at her. Something about the slow curl of his smile seems more genuine. Angelica feels bad, suddenly, for not once trying to learn him. She’s angry that he never once tried to push her into trying either. She rejected his kiss once and it set the tone for years of quiet nominal comfort and loud dissatisfaction.
“I’m defending a prostitute accused of theft.” Before she can ask any more, he smiles at her and asks, “What will you be doing with your day?”
“Helping Eliza at a church function.”
He wipes his mouth with a napkin and stands to go. His eyes twinkle with a sort of secret amusement, like he knows things she doesn't and nothing delights him like holding them up out of her reach. He is a mystery, her Aaron Burr. “Perhaps I will join you at my lunch?”
“I’d be delighted.”
“It is not wild to demand equality of the sexes regardless of social position, Hamilton.”
“You've been too much influenced by female philosophers, Burr. There are natural disadvantages--”
“Observe Eliza. Or Angelica. If we were to die before them, God forbid, you would damn them both to poverty and an ignoble existence on account of their gender as a reasonable excuse as to why they are unable to carry themselves in the world, despite their wit, their tenacity, patience and cunning--”
“Of course not--”
“Then why damn other women, who may not have the same attributes as our wives but are no less deserving to be seen as people with the same opportunities as men?”
“Alright, both of you. Save the politics for after dinner.” Eliza says, waving to a maid for the ham, gesturing at Angelica for the gravy, smiling at her as though to say “what will we ever do with them?”
Angelica smiles back, and squeezes Aaron’s hand beneath the table.
“Don't listen to Hamilton.” Aaron says into her ear, ignoring Alexander’s heated glare across the table. “Wollstonecraft was a genius.”
“Of course, dear.” she answers. Alexander is fire. He burns her even now, sitting across from her, smiling at her beloved sister. Something about Aaron is easy, cool, watery. He douses her flames again.
They play chess late into the night. He is terrible at it, but always laughs when he is forced to tip his king, “I’m letting you win.”
They play poker on slow Sunday afternoons with sweets as poker chips. She’s terrible at it. She always scoffs as she throws down her hand, “I’m letting you win.”
He reads her Voltaire. She plays piano for him. At night he dares wrap his arm around her waist and bury his face at her neck, pressing a kiss there, gentle and awed, while he tells her she's beautiful, and he loves her perfume. Neither of them mention that he bought it for her.
“Do you remember when we first met?” she laughs into the shadows, settling back against his chest, fingers finding his on her waist and tangling. He groans in embarrassment. “and you told me I smelled like I had money?”
“Do not remind me,” he laughs against her skin, rumbling with it. “I was a rather awkward youth.”
“You’re a rather awkward man.” she replies. He laughs at the truth of it.
In the morning they make love. Dawn light spills across the bed in slats through the shutters, servants scurry in the kitchen, but upstairs it is still quiet, just them panting in the half dark.
It is not what she imagined with Alexander, it is not hot and hurried and passionate, it is not the things of girlish fantasies. It is coy and smouldering.
Aaron takes her apart slowly, first with his fingers, kissing her chest, her neck, breathing against her mouth while she writhes against him, riding his fingers shamelessly, whispering his name. He speaks sometimes, to tell her he loves the way she looks like this, but mostly he just watches with muted hunger and adoration.
She is still shuddering when he slides inside her, his hot palms splayed across her belly, across her breast, hips rolling into her while she swallows strange sounds, back arching as she chases another peak, thrown suddenly on the waves of his ocean with neither sail nor paddle. She tries not to call out too loudly, hands flying to his shoulders to ground herself while he moves inside her and gently, easily pries her apart at the seams.
Sometimes she is still dissatisfied when he is spent, and he kisses her breathlessly and takes her apart again with his mouth. She rides his tongue as shamelessly as she rode his fingers and his cock. She scrapes her nails across the back of his neck and moans when she finally shudders her release. She feels like she's been washed up on shore after a month at sea.
“perfection.” he tells her, and curls around her to doze. She knows he means it.
They have a daughter. He cries when he holds her. “She has my eyes.” he says, half awed and overwhelmed. “What shall we name her?”
“After your mother?” Angelica suggests tiredly, resting against the pillows, gazing at her husband cradling their baby girl.
“After yours.” he answers. “Hello, Catherine.” She does have Aaron’s eyes. They are as placid as dark wells, still and mysterious. Boys will love her daughter’s eyes for the same reason she has grown to love Aaron’s.
Aaron never says he loves her. But he is a man of few words and many actions. He comes home with trinkets, and pamphlets. They discuss politics over tea while Catherine bounces on his knee. His eyes grow dark and warm when he looks at her like a lake in summer sunshine, but Angelica has no fear of flames.
Angelica is quickly learning what you want and what you need are not so mutually exclusive as most would have you believe.