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The Monticello Furlough

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“You can’t do this,” Hamilton hisses in horror, one hand to his chest and the other clenched on the table. “How could...Washington, how could you? I trusted you. You were my friend, my mentor. This is nothing short of betrayal.”

Across the conference table, Washington gives him his patented, gentle, ‘waiting for you to be done’ expression with a little purse to his lips. Jefferson leans forward beside Hamilton, a furrow to his own brow. “How...long?”

“A month,” Washington says firmly and Hamilton gasps.

A month,” he whines.

“A month?” Jefferson repeats. “The duration of the entire--”

“Yes,” Washington clips, a little exasperated. “Most men would be more than happy that it was the full duration.”

“It’s like I’m being thrown in jail,” Hamilton continues, staring at the polished table and not at Washington before him. “I’ll be trapped. Caged. Emasculated. A month. A whole--can we negotiate?”

“No negotiations.”

“But I mean, surely--” Jefferson tries.

No,” Washington says firmly, “negotiations.” He leans forward and clasps his hands together on the smooth surface in front of him. “Secretary Hamilton. Secretary Jefferson. This is official and, I’m sorry, but there’s nothing you can do about it. You will be taking a month break from politics. This is a non-conversation. I am forbidding you from this building and Alexander, if I see you take one step inside it, I will send you to jail.”

“But--”

“No buts.”

“But--”

“I said no.”

“What will I do?”

Washington sighs. “Figure it out.” And then he is standing up and sweeping out of the room to other business that, sadly, does not involve Hamilton. Hamilton screws his nose up and turns to Jefferson beside him who is tapping his own fingers against the table.

“What are you going to do?” Hamilton asks, hoping to get insight into some options.

Jefferson grunts. “I’m going to sit here and figure out how this is your fault, because I know that somehow, someway, it’s got to be all your doing.”

Hamilton shrugs. “You think this is about the meeting?”

“What meeting?”

“Yesterday’s meeting.”

“That was a meeting? I thought it was a conference.”

“I think it was supposed to last an hour.”

“It lasted five.”

“My point.”

“You wouldn’t shut up.”

“Only because you wouldn’t let me talk.”

I,” Jefferson scoffs, “wouldn’t let you talk.”

“Yes! You never listen to me and you refuse to see logic regarding financial stability and--you know what? Let’s not. We’ll be here all day.”

Jefferson grunts. “Your point.”

“My point.” Hamilton sighs. “Maybe if I apologize to him and buy him a couple of Sam Adams, I could get him to--”

“Yeah, screw this,” Jefferson says and rises. “I’m going to Monticello.” 

***

Hamilton manages to last forty-eight hours before he tries to shimmy into work which, frankly, surprises everyone. He tries the main office building first, hoping that having a couple of days to wind down will have changed Washington’s mind. But, alas, he finds Mulligan waiting outside the door with a grin on his face. When Hamilton asks him what he’s doing there, Mulligan proceeds on about how Washington hired him as security and how cool is that? A tailor to a spy to security, but he takes it seriously and throws Hamilton out on his ass. So strike one, Alex guesses.

He takes another day to cool down, even if he still wakes up before dawn with his nerves itching to talk or write or plan. Instead of giving in to his political weaknesses, though, he dusts off his old treadmill and gets on it, tries to release a little energy that way. Of course, he gets bored halfway through because running doesn’t occupy his mind like he wants it to. So instead, he spends the rest of the twenty-minute run alternatively rushing through it while stumbling and awkwardly texting.

Lafayette, in France, tells him it’s probably for the best. What’s life without a little fun and spontaneity? He should take the opportunity and dive into it headfirst. Laurens, across town, tells him it’s utter bullshit and he should be fighting the system. Stick it to the man. Don’t let them take you down. And Jefferson, well, he’s only got three texts from Jefferson today: #1: You little shit, you woke me up; #2: Stop texting me, I’m driving and; #3: Goddammit, alright, I’ll text you when I get there, asshat. None of which are actually helpful to Hamilton’s situation.

So he sighs a hefty sigh made impressive by the pause in the amount of air he’s gasping from running and shuts the treadmill off, carrying his phone into the bathroom with him while he showers and then to the table as he eats a quickly thrown together meal of eggs and toast. For the rest of the morning, he reads. Then he writes, bangs out two articles that he thinks are the shit and makes sure to save them in multiple places on his computer and print out hard copies to give to the office after this mess all settles out.

In the afternoon, after he’s finished writing, he takes a walk, counts the pigeons he finds flying in and out of his path. When he gets back, he tries to relax. Tries to watch TV, but it dulls him, tries to read again, but can’t concentrate, tries to nap, tries to do a crossword--fuck, even tries to masturbate which is again helpful to his body, but not his mind. But finally, finally, after ten plus hours of utter boredom, his phone goes off. At Monticello.

They go through five minutes of awkward “this is weird texting you instead of verbally fighting with you at work” bullshit before one of them pisses the other off and Hamilton can’t really tell if it’s Jefferson’s bitching about how Hamilton doesn’t give a shit about farmers or Hamilton’s bitching about how urban banks are the way of the future that does it. But either way, they fly at each other, Hamilton’s fingers like little lightning strikes on his keys. He’s pressing it so hard, he thinks he’s gonna need a new phone by the end of the conversation, but he doesn’t give a shit. It’s stimulating, thrilling. Every time Hamilton thinks he’s got Jefferson in a corner, Jefferson comes up with a completely logical point that just burns the biscuits off of Hamilton and they go round and round, on and on until finally Jefferson texts--Son of a bitch. You are SO stupid I can’t even with you right now, but I’ll have to tell you WHY you’re stupid tomorrow. It’s goddamn three a.m., if you haven’t noticed.

And the fact is...Hamilton hasn’t noticed. Hasn’t noticed at all the slip in time, the fact that he should have been eating, should have been relaxing, preparing for tomorrow, thinking about his articles...all of that faded away in the blind flurry of talking to Jefferson, but Jefferson’s right. It’s three a.m., which is way too late to process what that means.

Good luck sleeping on a guilty conscience of wrongness, Hamilton texts back and calls it a night, shuts off his phone and hits the pillow face first.

***

In the morning, Hamilton wakes up at a reasonable time and dresses himself in something that could be called formal, stomps down to the office and tries again, to no avail. He then tries to go downtown and squeeze himself into some Congress meetings he knows that Washington isn’t a part of, also to no avail. He even ends up calling Adams and begging him for something to do, but Adams just reminds him that “motherfucksticks don’t help assholes” and hangs up.

This goes on for days until at one week in, Hamilton finally gives up the ghost and admits that Washington has closed all gates to him, sewn up all avenues. He’s going to have to give into the inenviable, going to have to actually relax and that makes him more nervous and high strung than any amount of overworking could ever do.

He writes, which helps calm his nerves for a day or two, until he realizes that he has no one to talk to about all this damn writing he’s been doing. So he starts snapchatting Jefferson sections just to watch the little T.Jefferson is typing that pops up at the bottom of his screen (because by now, they’ve moved from texting to Skype and Hamilton is a little embarrassed at the goddamn length of the conversation).

Jefferson argues, Hamilton argues back, Jefferson copies his text with goddamn edits, Hamilton squeaks in indignation at the edits (and then privately accepts several of them into his final drafts), and it goes on like that until Hamilton finds that his world shrinks down into a pinpoint, soft for once and easy to process. Easy to summarize.

He spends his day in his apartment, Skyping Jefferson.

The realization makes him frown, but he can’t put his finger on why. This isn’t unlike what they had been doing in the office, only instead of hearing that little nasal whine that Hamilton hates to admit he actually likes, it’s just words on a screen. And maybe it’s just that--the words floating around between them easy to review, easy to remember. Maybe it’s how they create a form of intimacy that Hamilton isn’t used to, something that feels suspiciously like friendship and makes his stomach do a nervous flip for just a second before the odd sensation goes away.

He tells himself that the problem must be that he can’t see Jefferson, hear his snide inflection, feel the hot judgement of his eyes, the smirk that spells out asshole, don’t be friends with this guy. And the words on the screen have somehow muted that, simmered it down into nothing, and Hamilton yearns for the fire again. The fire of politics, of spewing forth his opinion, the fire of arguing--yes, always arguing--with Jefferson.

So when Jefferson gets back from lunch and Hamilton watches his dot flash from yellow to green, he does something they haven’t done yet. He hits the video chat button and watches as it rings. It takes Jefferson quite a while to answer it and Hamilton frowns because until this second, he hasn’t actually thought that Jefferson might reject the call, but then the video comes up, a little grainy, but clear for the most part. Hamilton blinks, unsure of what he was expecting, but it’s not this. Jefferson is wearing casual, lounging clothes and duh, Hamilton’s brain tells him. He’s at home by himself. But that still doesn’t stop the fact that Hamilton hasn’t ever seen him in anything less than perfectly tailored and brilliant clothing, as if the cut of his pants is a costume that must be held in perfect alignment, the press of his shirt a symbol of control.

But here he is now, in a button-down with the sleeves rolled up, checkered black and gray, with one foot propped on his chair so that Hamilton can see his knee in the frame, worn jeans covering it. His face, god, Hamilton hadn’t even thought--he’s wearing glasses. Glasses and Hamilton has never seen that. And his hair, while still restrained, isn’t at all the carefully controlled chaos it usually is. “The fuck?” Thomas asks and Hamilton bites down on his tongue as his braincells scatter like rats on the floor. Thomas. He is thinking of him as Thomas. Because this man before him in glasses and jeans, wine at his elbow not in a wineglass, but in a goddamn mug like a normal person, isn’t Jefferson. How could it be Mr. Jefferson, Secretary of State? Impossible. Hamilton nearly chokes on his own spit.

“Uh...figured that maybe if we videoed, I could get you to listen to reason better.”

Thomas snorts. “Not with that puffball on your head.” And it’s only then that Alex realizes his own state of dishevel--a shirt with a ridiculously open neck showing part of a collarbone and shoulder, his own desk littered with Reese’s wrappers and a half-full two-liter of Sprite. And yes, his hair up in a bun at the very top of his head that is the worst possible for fashion, but at least keeps it out of his damn face.

“Shut up,” he retorts intelligently.

Thomas laughs. Actually laughs, openly and with eyes that Alex is sure must only be sparkling because of the camera. “Okay, go on,” he tells Hamilton. “Read the rest of your fucking essay. I’m so ready to tear you up.”

Alex makes a face, but pulls up what he’d been working on that morning and starts reading. He gets a sentence and a half in before Thomas makes the most rude buzzer noise he’s ever heard and whatever magic was there melts just like that into the status quo. They argue. They bicker. They rise at each other and Hamilton even ends the call at one point and huffs before calling him right back and yelling at him some more. The day fades into night and, when they get so tired their insults turn into murmured slurs, they say goodnight to each other. Softly. And Alex ignores how strange that feels.

***

Day 11 and Hamilton wakes up to the morning sun with a strange pit deep at the base of his spine. He lays in his bed, surrounded by plush blankets that he’s splurged out of his salary and deep pillows that should bring comfort, but don’t. He reaches out to his end table and grabs his phone off his charger, pulls it up. Lafayette has already been talking for hours--the man can’t seem to understand what timezone means--and Laurens has just started up, too. Even Mulligan has joined them all, way before Alex rose to the world. But even with that, even with the comfort of his bed and the comfort of his friends, Alex feels...lonely.

Lafayette is a world away, but even Laurens and Mulligan in the city are distracted. Busy with work, with life, unable to give Hamilton the time he requires. And he feels shitty asking that of them. Asking them to drop their existence to please him while he whines about how he has too much time on his hands.

So he doesn’t text them back. Just lays there in bed frowning at the screen of his phone and willing something to happen that--Did you find a little sense in you this morning and delete paragraph 37-40? Because we fought for independence, not to CHANGE our dependence from a shitty governmental system to an even bigger, shittier governmental system.

Hamilton rolls his eyes at Jefferson’s text, but a funny thing happens in the middle of the motion. He smiles. And his cold bed suddenly feels warm, the pit suddenly softens and begins to dispel. And he’s not lonely anymore. Not bored. And not a burden. Jefferson has all the time he does and, besides, this isn’t his friend he’s talking about. This is his rival, his enemy, his competition, so if he bugs the shit out of Jefferson, so be it. Might even be good for him.

Alex rises up on his elbow in bed, staring down at the phone. He should get up and throw on a shirt, video him. Be a motherfucking pain in the ass and bother the shit out of Jefferson all day until he learns a couple financial lessons. But, Alex thinks in a rush, in an ill-timed and thoroughly ill-advised burst of thought...what would be better than Skype? Better than texting? Lafayette said to seize the moment, didn’t he? And moments are what you make of them.

So with a grin as large as the sun outside, Hamilton jumps out of bed, throws his computer and a stack of clothes into a bag and slings it over his shoulder, skips down to his car, and drives to Monticello.