The morning ends on a good note, with Hamilton rattling off locations of offices they would tour, talking about plans for their business. Hamilton’s just getting wound up when he looks at his watch, realizes what time it is.
“Shit,” he says, “I have to meet Washington. We’ll talk later?”
“Sure,” Burr agrees, and sees Hamilton to the door.
He sits back down at the kitchen table and stares at it for far too long, memorizing every inch of the woodgrain.
This will work, he tells himself, this will work.
Sure, a year ago Burr would have laughed at the mere idea of going into business with Hamilton – but now, it has the potential to work out. He knows so much more about Hamilton now, knows how to interact with him, has found the strength in the things he previously perceived as annoyances. They balance each other, in a strange way.
So what if Hamilton wouldn't know a concise argument if it slapped him across the face? So what if Burr still thinks about Hamilton in all kinds of ways he shouldn’t?
They’re smart. They're both good lawyers. It will definitely, absolutely work.
“I've made a huge mistake,” Burr says to the empty kitchen, and puts his head in his hands.
The next day, he goes to see Theodosia. It's a long overdue visit, and as he walks the route to her house his stomach is all twisted in knots. It's guilt he feels, more than anything else. He’d intended to call upon her much sooner, should have, by all rights, but he’d put it off, and put it off again, never knowing what to say. He still doesn't, not really, although on the walk over he rehearses a few disjointed sentences in his head, all of them beginning with I'm sorry, I'm so sorry.
He realizes when he’s halfway there that he forgot the letter he wrote her, left it sitting unopened and unread somewhere in his living room. He considers going back for it, but knows if he does, he’ll lose his nerve. Again.
He walks past the house twice, each time turning and retracing his steps before he could make it to the door. Finally, he grits his teeth, inhales one short, sharp, breath, and walks up to her door, where he promptly loses his nerve and stands there. It’s for no longer than a minute, but it feels like an eternity. Inhaling again he knocks – finally – and only manages one short rap before the door swings open, and there is Theodosia.
Looking at her, he feels the dull, aching pain of nostalgia. There is a part of him that still loves her, a part of him that wishes desperately he could go back to her, back to the way things were. However, a larger part of him knows the unfairness of that, knows that the man who stands before her now is not the same man who left her a year ago. Besides, even that consideration – fleeting as it is – would be dependent on her wanting anything to do with him, which he doubts she would, now, after he’d not only left her but died on her, then waited almost two weeks before showing back up on her doorstep.
“Well,” she says, and her tone is even, impenetrable, “if it isn't Aaron Burr.”
“Theo--” he begins, but before he can even finish her name she has cut him off.
“I heard he died at sea,” she says, and though her voice still sounds nonchalant, her eyes are hard, glittering like gemstones, and focused intently on a spot beyond Burr, “there had been rumors of his return, but I figured they were only that – rumors. Because surely if Aaron Burr had returned from the dead, he would've paid me a visit much sooner. So I can only assume that you are some sort of ghost come to haunt me.”
The fact that he deserves every word of it does not make the cold gravity of her tone any easier, but Burr bears it, unflinching, head down. He owes her that much, at least.
“Theodosia,” he says, and she lets him say her full name this time, so he continues on, “I'm sorry. I'm so, so, sorry. I didn't – I didn't know what to do, or what to say, or if you'd even want to see my face. I wasn't sure, because of how we left things…” he trails off, remembering her words: I make no promises to wait. And he hopes she didn’t – really, he does – because although he may have wanted them to be a lie back then, now all he really wants is for her to be happy. At least, that’s what he tells himself, and if he says it enough, he hopes it will be true.
“I'm alive,” he says – stating the obvious – and spreads his arms wide, “and here, in all my dubious glory.”
He’s hoping to eke a smile from her, and it works, mostly, for he notices the corners of her mouth pulling into the slightest smile.
“And I'm glad,” she says, then seems to consider, “I guess.”
With that, she steps forward and embraces him, her strong arms wrapped around him. For a moment Burr remains taut, and then he relaxes, wraps his own arms around her familiar frame.
“Tell me, Mr. Burr,” she begins, and Burr cannot tell if she is using such official appellations out of playfulness or out of the still-cautious formality and has manifested between them, “do tell me how you came to be that way. I'll put the kettle on.”
He sits at the familiar kitchen table, watching her move about the kitchen, setting water to boil atop the stove.
“So,” she says, handing him a mug of tea, sitting down across from him, “tell me the story.”
He omits much of it, of course, but he tells her enough – Preble’s treachery, the storm, the lifeboat. He perhaps spends a bit too long waxing poetic on Hamilton’s aptitude for island survival – how they fished, how he knew which plants were edible – but soon enough he’s telling her of the rescue, though much of this he also glosses over.
When he’s done, he looks at her. She’s leaned back in her chair, her empty mug on the table in front of her. She’s not looking at him, is instead looking up at the ceiling.
“A lovely tale,” she says, “though parts are clearly missing in your telling.”
Burr forgets how damn perceptive she is. How smart. Some of the many reasons he’d loved her as he had.
Instead, he asks – dreading the question – on her affairs.
“And how have you been?” he says, though the question feels too light, as if they’re old acquaintances passing one another on the street.
She leans forward again, looks at him.
“Well,” she says, “Jacques died.”
She says it idly, as if it was something that had happened to a distant relative.
“I'm sorry--” he begins, but she cuts him off
“No you’re not,” she says, “you wanted him dead.”
He says nothing. He can’t argue the point.
“Funny, really,” she continues, in the kind of tone that suggests it wasn’t funny at all, “he was dead before you left. I got the letter not a week after you were gone. Shortly before I heard of your death, actually.”
She looks at him, seeming to want a reaction. He doesn’t know what to give her. She sighs, and continues on.
“I married again. Another soldier. I really do have a type, don’t I? His name is Isaac.”
Burr cannot quite decide if he is glad for her, or jealous. He knows which one he should be.
It would have been me, he thinks, if I had stayed. It would have been me.
He is trying to think of what to say when they're interrupted by the sound of crying from another room. Not a child's cry, but the hungry, insistent squall of a baby.
“Ah,” Theodosia says, lips quirked in a half-smile, “duty calls. It was good to see you, Aaron, really.”
Burr isn’t sure who she’s trying to convince, and while he’s still trying to make up his mind, she’s ushered him out the door.
As he walks home, he tries to put the visit and its awkward air out of his head. He had done what was right – albeit many days too late – and now he can move on. Theodosia is married – with a new baby, at that – and there is no longer a place for him in her life, except perhaps as a friend, assuming she would even want that.
He’s the one who left, after all.
He comes home to find a letter tacked to his door, a missive from Hamilton, informing him that he’s arranged tours of several vacated buildings, and that Hamilton will be by bright and early tomorrow so that they can visit them together. The thought of a new office is a welcome distraction, and Burr does his best to think of his new career instead of his old lover – or lovers, depending on one how defines the word.
In a turn of events that shocked exactly no one except for the two parties directly involved, it was quickly discovered that Burr and Hamilton had shockingly different aesthetics.
This comes to a head when they begin to tour the various offices for rent. Burr quickly finds one he likes, a straightforward office that was renting for a reasonable price and was close to both of their houses. The building itself is not the finest, the walls painted a plain white that's peeling high up, near the ceiling, but the structure was sound. Hamilton, however, had a much different idea of what he wanted in an office, which is why they’re arguing now.
“For the hundredth time,” Burr grits, though it really feels more like the thousandth time they’ve had this argument, “we are not paying an extra $20 a month just because it has mahogany.”
“It will impress the clients,” Hamilton says, his voice insistent and wheedling.
“It will impress us right into the poorhouse,” Burr says.
“You have no sense of style.”
“And you have no sense.”
It’s an argument Burr wins, surprisingly, although only after he sits Hamilton down to create a budget and it’s laid out on paper how much they have. Even the office Burr prefers will be a stretch, until they begin to bring in clients.
“Fine,” Hamilton says, conceding, staring at the budget they’ve created, “but we’re painting. And I get to choose the color.”
“By all means.”
It goes quickly after that – Hamilton negotiates the landlord down on the rent – and in what seems like a blink there’s a set of keys pressed into Burr’s palm. The keys to his office. Their office.
They meet up that weekend to paint, the office deserted on a Sunday. Burr’s tired – he’d slept poorly the night before, his sleep fitful and full of dreams he couldn’t remember upon waking – and not looking forward to a day spent inhaling paint fumes. He’d suggested they hire someone to do it, but Hamilton – now suddenly so concerned about budgets – pointed out it’d be cheaper to do it themselves.
Burr lets them into the office, and Hamilton sets down the paint buckets with a thud. The color Hamilton had picked for the walls is a soft fawn brown, a color that seems to lighten when looked at one way and deepen when looked at another. Burr’s afraid it’ll make the room seem too dark, but he doesn’t bring up the concern – Hamilton had conceded to Burr’s choice of building, after all.
Burr picks up a brush and dips it into the paint, begins painting at a random place on the wall. He moves the brush in broad strokes, covered the yellowed white it had been. Hamilton does the same, begins painting near Burr.
“So,” Hamilton says, though when Burr glances over, Hamilton isn’t looking at him, is instead focused on the wall, on the movement of his brush.
“Have you spoken to Theodosia?”
Burr dips his brush back into the paint.
“I called on her a few days ago--”
“You waited that long?”
“Yes. I didn’t know what to say.”
“Well, maybe don’t interrupt--”
“Sorry,” interrupts Hamilton, “sorry, sorry.”
“As I was saying, I called upon her a few days ago. Apologized profusely. She was a little cool to me, but that’s to be expected. She’s doing well, though. Her husband died – right before we left, actually – and she remarried. Even has a new baby.”
It still feels odd to say, Burr’s still trying to say it without sounding strange. He’s not quite jealous, but he’s wistful, in a way, like he’s viewing some other world he could have visited, had he made different choices.
“And…?” Hamilton prompts.
“And what? End of story. She’s doing well, and I’m happy for her.”
“Aaron. When did she remarry?”
“I didn’t ask.”
“And the baby? Boy or girl? How old?”
“Didn’t see it, didn’t ask.”
Burr’s cross, now. They’ve both stopped painting.
“Do you think it’s yours?”
“Think what’s mine?”
“The baby, you moron.”
“What? No, of course not. She would have told me.”
Burr hadn’t even considered it. He and Theodosia had talked, in a roundabout way, about children – her saying you’re so good with the children and him replying I can’t wait for my own. But she’d have told him.
“Are you sure--”
Hamilton is prodding but Burr feels uneasy, agitated.
“Drop it. Please.”
Hamilton finds something in his tone to make him listen, because he does. He changes the subject, and they talk instead of how to best advertise their services, how to woo clients, and soon enough have half the office painted.
There is still an elephant in the room, of course (there’s several, really, a whole herd of them). Hamilton hadn’t hesitated when asking about Theodosia, but Burr lacks that particular boldness, instead phrases and rephrases the question over and over again in his mind as he paints. Eliza. He had asked around, a little bit, but had found out nothing concrete about the Schuyler sisters – though really, one in particular - and what their current state was.
“So,” Burr begins, unaware he’s echoing Hamilton. All he figures is that Hamilton opened the door to this line of questioning.
“Did you call upon Eliza?” Burr asks, and hopes his voice doesn’t sound too shaky, doesn’t betray the nervousness that feasts on his insides. He’s thought of this relentlessly (the mind, a traitorous thing), but he still isn’t sure he wants an answer to it.
“I did,” says Hamilton, his voice short, resigned. Burr waits. And waits. Finally, he’s about to open his mouth, prompt Hamilton, but then Hamilton soldiers on.
“Well,” he says, “I tried, anyway. I went to the house. And there…” he trails off, eyes fixed to a spot on the wall, a place where the paint has bubbled.
“I was told that she was married,” he says, “and that she lit off for London with her lovely new husband.”
“I’m sorry,” Burr begins, but Hamilton doesn’t seem to acknowledge it, continues on.
“Fucking married,” he spits, the words bitter and savage, then, softer, hurt, he says, “I love her. Loved her."
Burr feels those words – I love her – like a knife, twisting in him, the serrated-edge truth of it tearing across every valve and ventricle. Distantly, Hamilton is still talking --
“Despite the issues, despite what her family said – I loved her, Aaron. I was going to marry her. And I thought – I don’t know what I thought, I guess I just thought that she would be here, that she would wait for me, that we’d still get married. It was my plan. I don’t know – I don’t know what I’m gonna do now.”
Hamilton inhales, taking in a shuddery breath.
“I had it worked out. It was going to be okay. Now…”
Burr gets the sense Hamilton is no longer exactly talking to him, that what he’s hearing is some inner monologue of Hamilton, a thing bared. And it is odd – it was my plan, I had it worked out – seem almost like something else, a nod to a thing unmentioned, but Burr doesn’t know.
It’s all just another thing they share, Burr supposes – they love women who belong to others.
It’s Burr’s turn now, to distract, to turn the conversation to lighter things, to their business, their plans. It works, mostly – there is no more talk of Theodosia, or Eliza – but there is still something in Hamilton’s mannerisms, something ill-defined that seems to bleed over everything.
By the time they finish painting it’s dark, and Burr feels lightheaded from inhaling noxious fumes most of the day. There are splotches of paint all over him. Burr’s curious to see how it will look in the daylight – he’s still not entirely sold on the color – but it looks well enough in dim lantern-light. They still need furniture, all the room has now are two desks and two chairs – don’t even have a place for clients to sit, yet - but those things will come.
They walk out into the night together. Hamilton stretches, catlike, and Burr hears the dim popping of his joints.
“God, that took forever,” says Hamilton, rolling his head, eliciting more pops.
“It was your idea to paint,” Burr reminds him, pointedly.
“I know, I know, I just underestimated the room’s size and our painting efficacy. It’ll look good, though. We’ll make the place look halfway decent yet. Get a couch, some art, a rug – maybe a plant…oh! What time is it?”
Burr glances down at his watch.
“No wonder I’m starving. Want to grab dinner? Queen’s Head is right around the corner.”
“Assuming they’ll let us in.”
“Yeah, you’re a mess.”
“We’re both messes.”
A slip of the tongue, an incidental callback – and Hamilton tenses at Burr’s response and Burr berates himself. He thinks to apologize, but says nothing and instead walks on to the tavern. It’s awkward, for a moment, but it’s a short walk and soon they can smell something delicious wafting from the tavern.
“God, after this week, I need a drink,” Hamilton says, and Burr agrees.
The weirdness dissipates as the beer flows, and Burr realizes last time they’d been in this tavern together they’d practically been strangers. He brings this up to Hamilton, who smiles.
“God, it feels like forever ago, doesn’t it? I was so convinced you hated me…”
“More like I was confused by you.”
“Feeling’s mutual, Aaron. You were so stiff. Though by the end of the night….”
“As if you remember it.”
Not that Burr recalls it well, either. Remembers it in pieces – talking in French, ordering another round, stumbling into Hamilton when he tried to get up from the table. It’s a miracle they hadn’t been kicked out of the bar. Or hell, maybe they had, and Burr just can’t remember.
They order several rounds. It’s the third – maybe the forth – when Hamilton makes the toast.
“To Theodosia. And Eliza. May they be happy.”
Burr clinks his glass against Hamilton’s.
“May they be happy,” he echoes.
Foam spills down Hamilton’s wrist as his moves his glass too quickly, he sets the drink down and licks it off, and the movement of Hamilton’s tongue makes Burr flush hot.
“You’ve still got paint on you. That’s probably horribly dangerous.”
Hamilton meets Burr’s eyes as his tongue deliberately traces a trail up his wrist and comes off with a flick.
“I thrive on danger.”
Burr rolls his eyes, takes a sip of his own beer, tries not to imagine how it would taste being licked off of Hamilton’s body. These thoughts open a floodgate – he’d done well, lately, to put such thoughts aside, keep them under lock and key. Particular memories did make themselves known at certain times, of course, but mostly Burr had gone through his weeks not pining, or craving the impossible. But with Hamilton here in the flesh, it’s much harder (so to speak), especially when Hamilton’s doing such obscene things, practically baiting Burr.
There’s more rounds, and soon Burr is drunk, which is infinitely more dangerous than it once was, as the alcohol has a way of picking at the locks he’s put up in his mind, sets loose his wants and desires. Hamilton’s drunk too, which only makes him more lurid. They finally rise to go, and Hamilton insists on walking Burr home.
“I’ll protect you from thieves,” Hamilton says, words soft from the drink, offering this as justification. Burr laughs – it’s not that funny, but it is when the number of beers you’ve consumed hits the double digits – and gives in.
They’re not far from the tavern when Hamilton slings an arm over his shoulders, a warm and heavy weight, and Burr remembers how Hamilton had supported him when he was injured, taking those first hesitant steps out of the cave, how he had insisted on bearing Burr’s weight. Burr rotates in – just slightly – and the contact increases. He suddenly wants the walk home to last forever.
They’re at Burr’s doorstep in no time, but Burr delays in opening the door, and when he finally does he fumbles the keys, drops them and has to crouch to pick them up, losing the warmth of Hamilton’s arm.
“See?” Hamilton says as Burr unlocks the door, “safe from thieves. Like I promised.”
“My savior,” Burr responds, dry, and Hamilton bursts into laughter and soon Burr is laughing, too.
Hamilton has invited himself in, sits now at Burr’s kitchen table.
“Let me rest a minute,” he says, “then I’ll go home.”
Burr gets them both water – they need it – then sits down across from him.
“It’s weird,” Hamilton says.
“What’s weird?” Burr asks, though truth be told, he agrees even without knowing the specificity. Everything’s weird.
“Being home. Seeing how the world continued on without me. And I know that sounds arrogant, but…I was making a difference, and then I left – I disappeared – and they kept going without me. Eliza, Washington, everybody.”
Burr knows what he means. Hamilton continues on.
“And I’m happy, to be home, and I’m integrating myself again, but god, Aaron, sometimes I just miss the island. Is that ridiculous?”
Burr swallows. His throat feels like a desert.
“No,” he says – he’s cautious, so cautious, “I know what you mean. Sometimes I miss it too.”
Hamilton’s hand lifts off the table for a moment, the fingers curling in, and then he withdraws it, puts it back into his lap.
“I should be going.”
“Are you sure you’re okay to get home?” Burr asks, though the alternative – Hamilton staying here – seems too dangerous.
“I’m fine. Thanks for listening to me.”
Hamilton swigs the last of his water, then rises up from the chair. He hugs Burr, briefly, and then Burr is left at the doorstep as he watches Hamilton disappear into the night, thinking, I should have asked him to stay.
In the following weeks, their office is slowly transformed into a habitable space. Turns out, Hamilton was right – the color he picked out does look lovely, gives the room a richness Burr had not imagined.
(“It looks almost like mahogany,” he’d said when Hamilton first revealed the room to him in daylight, and had laughed when Hamilton punched his shoulder.)
Hamilton brings in a rather lovely couch that Burr suspects is a gift from Washington. Burr adds a rug from his own house. The place eventually looks almost professional.
There is, inevitably, an argument about whose name will be listed first. Burr has the alphabet on his side, while Hamilton has his ability to argue relentlessly and passionately, which wins, in the end, and when the sign goes up it reads: Hamilton & Burr.
There are a few clients, but it’s mostly legal advice, assistance in drawing up documents and the like. It’s slow, and tedious, and Burr begins to wonder what had even drawn him to this profession in the first place.
It’s another slow day, Hamilton making his fiftieth round of edits to a client’s will, and Burr paging idly through the day’s newspaper, when the door swings open and in walks a man. He’s unassuming, of an average height and build, but Burr reads money in every stich of clothing and his interest is quickly piqued. Burr rises, and shakes his hand, and Hamilton follows suit.
“Hello,” says the man, “I’m Ezra Weeks. I’ve come to inquire about your services on behalf of my brother.”
“What services does his require?”
“A good legal defense team, I’m afraid. My poor Levi was accused of murder, and will be going to trial.”
Burr can feel Hamilton tense beside him. Burr’s tense too, the significance of what Weeks is asking setting in, but he tries to school his expression, keep himself neutral, calm.
“I’m sorry to hear that, but we would be honored to defend your brother. We’ll set up a meeting as soon as possible to meet with him and gather all the details of the case.”
“Indeed,” concurs Hamilton, “now, Ezra, we’re thrilled you’ve come to us – albeit sorry about the circumstances – now, if we could just discuss our fee….”
Hamilton takes Weeks by the arm, guides him to his desk. Burr is glad to be left out of that conversation – discussing money always feels strange to him, slightly distasteful, but Hamilton has no issue with it.
Weeks isn’t there for long, and thanks them again on his way out, shaking hands again. The door closes behind him, and Burr waits a reasonable amount of time – maybe thirty seconds – before letting the grin crack open on his face, turning to Hamilton, who wears a ridiculous grin of his own.
“A fucking murder trial,” Hamilton says, awed, “the first of the new nation.”
“This is huge,” Burr says.
“This is it. This is what we’ve needed.”
Hamilton embraces him, thumping him on the back, and Burr feels a moment of guilt for celebrating someone’s murder in this way – it’s macabre, really – but he can’t help it. It’s the break they’ve been waiting for; the one Burr had begun to doubt would ever come.
They spend the afternoon discussing what little they know of the case. The story had peppered the news, detailing the body recovered from the Manhattan Well, but hadn’t gone into much detail behind the arrest, had certainly not mentioned any evidence.
They walk to the post office together after work. Burr has a handful of letters waiting for him; Hamilton has almost more than he can carry, cradling them against his chest with both hands like they were children.
“See you tomorrow, Aaron.”
“See you tomorrow.”
Burr flips briefly through the envelopes on his walk home – another letter from Sally, several from old friends at Princeton (to whom Burr hadn’t spoken in years). A couple of the envelopes are unmarked. Burr gets home and throws the envelopes on to the table, sets about to making dinner. It’s become a routine of sorts – come home, make dinner, tidy up, then settle in with a glass of wine and read through his mail (or a book, if it’s not a post day).
He’s off his game tonight though, still thrumming with energy from their earlier call with Ezra Weeks. He almost catches his sleeve on fire trying to cook, and then spills the first glass of wine he sets on the table, the red liquid staining the edges of some of his –
“Shit!” he says, grabbing at the mail pile. The damage is minimal, but he takes it into the living room, spreads it out to dry, when there’s the sound of breaking glass from the kitchen.
His spilled wine glass has rolled off the table, shattered, and Burr curses again as he searches for the broom and dustpan, tries to sweep up the shards of glass. His bare foot finds a piece he missed, though – another round of cursing – and then Burr’s in the washroom, needle in hand, trying to dig out the piece of glass embedded in his foot.
By the time the ordeal ends he’s entirely exhausted and his foot’s throbbing, his former good mood gone. He undresses and sinks into bed, finally, and drops off almost immediately –
Only to be awakened a few hours later by a pounding at the door.
Burr blinks, bleary-eyed, shuffles to the front door, trying to wake up, to figure out who it could be at this hour.
Foolish question, it turns out, because when he opens the door of course it’s Hamilton.
And while there’s much Burr would have given on some nights to have Hamilton appear on his doorstep, while he’s even imagined these scenarios and where such an act would lead, it’s never like this, because the Hamilton on his doorstep tonight is a Hamilton wrecked.
“Aaron--” Hamilton says, and the word is hoarse, like he’s been screaming, “I’m sorry, I didn’t know where else to go.”
“Come in,” Burr says dumbly, steps aside, sets his lantern down. Hamilton’s eyes are red-rimmed, and there’s an ugly shine to his cheeks, and Burr realizes the man had been crying.
“What happened?” he asks, soft now, concerned – was he hurt? But Hamilton seems to be in fair health, he’s upright, there’s no blood –
“It’s John,” Hamilton says, and Burr thinks first of John Higgins and wonders why Hamilton’s crying over Higgins, of all people, and then –
“Laurens. John Laurens. I received a letter--” Hamilton inhales, ragged, “he was killed in battle. Shot off his horse.”
Burr didn’t know Laurens particularly well, but Hamilton had spoken fondly of him in their past conversations, and he knew they had written to one another frequently.
“Alex, I’m so sorry,” he says.
It’s an awful sight to behold, Hamilton before him, grief-stricken. Burr notices the letter clutched in Hamilton’s fist, wrinkled, the ink smudging his knuckles. Carefully, Burr pulls at it, and Hamilton releases it, looks down dazedly at his hand like he hadn’t realized he’d been clutching it at all. Instead, he looks at his ink-blackened palm like it’s a thing he’s never seen before.
“The news of his death writ upon me,” Hamilton says, and it’s weird and haunting and Burr doesn’t know what to do, he’s never been good at giving comfort.
He does the only thing he can think of, the thing that doesn’t require speaking – he takes Hamilton into his arms, holds him tight. He feels Hamilton’s arms wrap around his middle, and there in his embrace Hamilton’s shoulders shake with grief, and Burr feels wet heat bloom on his shoulder in the place where Hamilton’s head rests. They stay like that for an indeterminate amount of time that at once feels to Burr like a minute and an hour both. Finally, Hamilton draws away, rubs the heel of his hand against his eyes.
“I’m sorry,” he says, “can I stay here tonight? I don’t want to be alone.”
“Of course,” Burr says.
There’s a guest bed, but it’s unmade, and Burr hadn’t gotten around to buying sheets for it. Besides, he doesn’t want Hamilton separated from him in his state, so instead he takes them both to his bedroom, arm around Hamilton’s shoulders. Hamilton takes off his boots but nothing else, collapses backward on to the bed. Burr crawls in beside him, and wraps an arm around him.
Horrible, how much Burr has wanted this – but never under circumstances such as these.
“I wrote to him,” Hamilton says, his voice still ragged, “he was so happy to hear that I was still alive.”
Hamilton barks a laugh, a thick, humorless sound.
“He was going to make his way back, come visit, come celebrate. The war was already over.”
“I’m sorry,” Burr says – again – for there’s nothing else he can say.
“I loved him,” Hamilton says, and the way he says it matches the way he’d spoken of Eliza, earlier. Burr says nothing, and neither does Hamilton, like he’d already said too much.
I loved him.
Burr drifts to sleep, eventually, wakes once when Hamilton cries out in the night, pulls himself closer. Hamilton’s hand finds his and they lock fingers until Hamilton’s grip loosens with sleep.
Burr wakes alone, the other side of the bed cold. He wonders for a moment if the events of last night had been some strange, exquisitely detailed illusion. He moves into the kitchen, where he sees a note, confirming that last night had actually occurred. Burr picks up the scrap of paper, reads.
Gone to work early. See you there.
Burr’s frustrated Hamilton went to work at all, seems he shouldn’t be working in his current state. But Burr knows Hamilton (even if he’s never seen him grieve like this, so deeply and wretchedly), knows distractions are the best thing for it. So he tries not to fret, doesn’t let himself immediately rush to work after Hamilton to fuss over him, instead makes coffee and waits for it to brew.
He finds the forgotten mail from last night, brings the envelopes to the table to pore over. Sally’s letter implores him once again to visit; the letters from his Princeton acquaintances are light. He pulls up one envelope with no return address, his name written on it in an elegant script. He wonders if it’s an invitation of some sort, but the weight of the envelope seems too heavy for that.
He breaks the envelope’s seal and there, in the same elegant hand, is a letter.
I wasn’t lying when I said I’d write. I do deplore the fact that – alas - you cannot write back, as my addresses change, and are best not shared on post, beside. I hope that you are well, and that you do not regret your decision to come land-side too terribly much. I’ll remind you again that my offer still stands, should fate choose to have our paths cross again.
Though I hope you are well, I’m writing to tell you more than just a wish for your wellbeing. In discussions that took place upon our departure from your fine docks, Robert revealed to Sebastian a few things Mr. Hamilton had shared with him, and Sebastian subsequently shared these things with me (as you know, we are terrible gossips).
My point, Aaron, is that the things Mr. Hamilton revealed to Robert appear to mirror the desires you expressed to me. While there is the possibility of the more minute details being lost in translation (as my information is several people removed from the source), this new information that has come to light has compelled me to write to you, and encourage you to speak with Mr. Hamilton on much the same topics you spoke with me about, back in the office (forgive my coyness, here, but I have no way of knowing who reads your letters). It seems to me that you and Mr. Hamilton are of a more similar mind than you led me to believe, or indeed, than you may yourself believe.
Do me a favor, Aaron – talk more. Speak with him. Share your thoughts on this matter. Silence gets you nowhere.
Should I figure out a way you can write to me, I will let you know posthaste. I would quite like to know how the conversation goes – as does most of the crew. Like I said: gossips.
Burr’s shocked in about seven different ways by this letter. He’s surprised Higgins wrote to him at all – the pirate had asked for Burr’s address, but Burr thought he’d been being polite. And then, of course, the actual content of the letter. What had Hamilton confessed to Robert?
Mirror the desires you expressed to me.
Had Hamilton told Robert about what had happened on the island? Had he – as Burr had – expressed grief upon its ending?
Then why the hell didn’t he tell me? Burr thinks, then realizes the hypocrisy in the question – for the same reasons he didn’t tell Hamilton.
Burr reads the letter again, then a third time, trying to decipher Higgins’s words, read between the lines.
Speak with him.
The very idea of speaking with Hamilton about this matter makes Burr feel sick and dizzy, but maybe –
Except he can’t. He can’t bring this to a man who showed up on his doorstep dressed in grief, he can’t burden Hamilton with such a heavy discussion at this time.
(They irony of this – that they have both received letters regarding a John, two letters that altered them, in different ways – does not escape him. The world is a small, strange place.)
He’ll have to wait.
Burr reads the letter again. He considers burning it. He knows he should, but fears if he did do such a thing, he would begin to doubt that there was ever such a letter at all. No, better to keep it, as evidence to himself if nothing else.
Burr feels a spark of hope in his chest. Only a spark, but still. Sparks have set fires before.
You and Mr. Hamilton are of a more similar mind than you led me to believe, or indeed, than you may yourself believe.
Burr dresses, and heads off to work, to see how Hamilton is doing. To prepare for their upcoming trial.
There’s so much work to do.