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+

 

Aaron Burr counts to ten, mouthing the shape of the numbers and phantom-tasting blood.

Their guns go off simultaneously; it's not in the history books, the sound of their guns firing in tandem, but neither is the glint of dawn light off Hamilton's glasses, and Burr knows he's never going to forget either - the light or the noise.

"I must go to him." He says, mouthing the shape of the words numbly, not feeling them pass through his throat, but they taste like blood anyway.

He's lead away.

He gets a drink.

 

+

 

Rewind.

 

+

 

New York is loud and obnoxious, and Burr should hate it.

He couldn't love it more.

I know this street, he thinks, politely moving out of the way of an oncoming carriage. I've walked this road.

Weehawken was so quiet, Burr thinks, that maybe he's dreamt up the rabble of the city to fill his mind with something other than cotton-wool silence and guilt.

He walks on.

Angelica Schuyler is what gives him pause - not because of the pink dress, the same pink dress - but the lessening of the tightness around her mouth, the tipped-back head of her laughter, her impossible youth.

"Look around," Burr sees her lips form, and his feet are moving toward her with an urgency he doesn't remember having since the war - the war that hasn't happened yet, in this dream his mind has supplied the scents and harsh noonday light to.

"Miss Schuyler," he says, forcing himself to slow. Three heads turn in his direction.

"Mister Burr, sir." Angelica says to him, curtsying in a sharp, efficient dip. He walks by them - he's had that conversation before.

"Remind me what we're looking for?" Eliza asks her sister, her voice so pure and untouched when not wracked by the sobs and broken prayers she must have poured over her husband's dying body.

And that's when he sees him.

Alexander Hamilton, who is not bleeding ugly and red-black from between his ribs, who is looking at everything with energetic hunger as though if he's too slow to take it all in Manhattan will disappear from under him, who is not dead, who is not dead, who is not dead.

Burr freezes, counting out the seconds he allows himself to compose himself and piece back together his composure - flayed open and screaming apologies and questions of why why why . He mouths them, one to ten, and when he tastes blood this time it's because he's bitten deep into his tongue.

He turns on a heel and starts back the way he came, ready for the dream to end.

"Pardon me!" He hears. Pretends not to hear, keeps walking.

"Pardon me, are you Aaron Burr, sir?" The sound follows him, at his elbow but not in his peripheral.

"That depends. Who's asking?" Burr says, pressing the words, because I'm Aaron Burr but also the Senator of New York and the Vice-President of the United States and Hamilton's murderer and even I don't know which one is me anymore so be more specific , behind his teeth.  

"Oh, sure, sir. I'm Alexander Hamilton, I'm at your service, sir. I have been looking for you."

"You'll have to excuse this." Burr says, putting speed into his stride. He hears Hamilton's footsteps stop behind him.

He walks away.

He gets a drink.

 

+

 

The next time Burr sees Hamilton, it's with him framed by the entrance to General Washington's tent, backdropped by reedy dawn light. Burr thinks of another Hamilton backlit by dawn and very carefully does not vomit.

The dream hadn't ended yet. It was a long one, interminable, spanning on and on as though each day contained thousands of years within it. Burr's beginning to wonder at the vivid quality of this deja vu, but he's too exhausted to do more than pick at the thought. He thinks he's been exhausted for a long time now.

His fingernails bite into his palms where they're clasped behind his back, a spasm like surprise and like dread.

"Hamilton," says Washington, and Burr wonders at the carelessness of the way he says his name, as though it were not the most important name in America, "Come in. Have you met Burr?"

"Briefly, yes, we keep meeting."

"As I was saying, sir," Burr turns away from Hamilton, too painfully young and battle-weary, "I look forward to watching your strategy play out."

"Burr."

"Sir?"

"Close the door on your way out."

Burr avoids Hamilton's eyes as he moves past him - brown, they'll be brown, and Burr will know the exact shape and shade of them because they're what he saw when he pulled the trigger and that will never leave him, not ever. He thinks, tucking his shoulder in to keep from brushing Hamilton's, that he might say something, might stop him. But he doesn't, and Burr leaves wordlessly.

Around him, America is taking form, struggling for its first breaths from gunpowder and trampled mud, built by bayonets and sheer single-minded intent. It's a revolution.

Burr closes his eyes.

 

+

 

He dreams the war in every detail, in hard brittle dawns and the sound of cannons Burr can feel in the roots of his teeth. His men die, their blood splatter-pattern legacies on his hands and chest.

 

What Aaron Burr learns his second time through the American Revolutionary War: he is not dreaming.

 

+

 

He doesn't see Hamilton again.

Word comes down from Washington's platoon when the one Burr serves in is backed against the spine of a river in Connecticut, disseminated through the men: Alexander Hamilton is dead.

Shot by Charles Lee in a duel. The bullet splintered off of his rib and lodged in his lung.

Burr stands on the shoreline, kneels, and presses shaking knuckles between his teeth until the nausea tips his vision and he vomits into the water.

He gets back up.

He gets a drink.

 

+

 

Rewind .

 

+

 

"- In the greatest city in the world!" Angelica Schuyler's voice fills the echo chamber of his skull. Burr sways on his feet.

He's not dreaming.

He barely remembers the words he used two lifetimes ago, in this moment - another conversation, but the same one. He knows this street, though, this moment in time. Like a beat without a melody.

He stands on the same street corner in New York City until the sun dips low. And then he goes home.

He never hears Alexander Hamilton's name, until the day it's featured in the daily newspaper's obituary. Burr spends that day in his bed with Theodosia - but he can't look at her because he knows the exact taste of her pain in his mouth when she died and he can't do it again - designing Hamilton's death in his mind, taking him apart with bullets and sickness and the sharp shaft of a bayonet. Keeping the shape of his eyes, always peering out from Hamilton's face as he looks at Burr and dies, and dies, and dies. That split-second of surprise and recognition frozen forever in his expression as the bullet left the chamber of Burr's gun.

 

He imagines Alexander Hamilton's death so much it no longer feels like a memory.

 

+

 

Rewind.

 

+

 

"Burr, you disgust me."

"Ah, so you've discussed me." Burr says, eyes breaking, hoping Angelica Schuyler's steel-trap gaze can't see the tightness of his smile. He presses the scream building in his throat to his palate with his tongue and turns away from the Schuylers.

It's still physically painful to see Hamilton standing in front of him, a solid constant in a world where everything is the same but not, where everything has the potential to unfold exactly the same and leave Alexander Hamilton bleeding on a hill in Weehawken and Aaron Burr his murderer.

"Are you Aaron Burr, sir?"

Burr aligns his teeth and bites down hard. "That depends. Who's asking?"

"Oh, sure, sir. My name is Alexander Hamilton, I'm at your service, sir."

 

+

 

Somewhere, Alexander Hamilton writes tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow creeps at this petty pace.

 

+

 

They come to the same place, eventually.

Burr has followed his lines to the word, carving new ruts in the same path, the first path.

They come to Weehawken.

 

Aaron Burr counts to ten, mouthing the shape of the numbers and phantom-tasting blood.

Their guns go off simultaneously.

Hamilton's pistol opens up to the sky, the sound like thunder. Burr's points to his right. The bullet lodges in a tree.

 

Alexander Hamilton dies three years later - another duel, a different duel. Angelica Schuyler's husband. He'd hit her.

"Be my second, come with me." Hamilton says two says before it happens.

"Hamilton, let it be." Burr says. He's exhausted - he's always exhausted. "Negotiate with Church. He's a reasonable man; this isn't worth your life."

"I cannot forgive the abuse of his wife."

Burr closes his eyes.

 

+

 

Rewind .

 

+

 

"I've been reading Common Sense by Thomas Paine," Angelica tells Burr, eyes like steel and flint and gunfire, and how could Burr ever think he could woo this woman?

"Some men say that I'm intense or I'm insane. You want a revolution? I want a revelation! So listen to my declaration!"

"'We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal…'" Eliza quotes behind her, sky blue dress the exact shade of Weehawken at dawn.

"And when I meet Thomas Jefferson, I'll compel him to include women in the sequel."

Burr smiles at her, thinking of a life she's never lived because the angle of his gun changed, thinking of all the ways Angelica Schuyler folds back to this point, this moment, these words. In every life she has never lead, these have always been her words.

"I'll put in a good word for you, then." Burr says, utterly sincere.

 

He does. Jefferson scoffs at the idea, but behind him, Burr can see Madison's eyes catch with a familiar interest, and knows how this will play out.

 

Hamilton collapses from exhaustion in his office in New York. The office next door is empty.

He catches fever. His body is too weak to fight it.

He dies.

 

+  

 

Rewind.

 

+

 

Hamilton joins Laurens on the front.

He catches a bullet through his stomach.

 

+

 

Rewind.

 

+

 

Hamilton challenges Jefferson to a duel.

He catches the bullet at center-mass.

 

+

 

Rewind.

 

+

 

Alone in upstate New York, Hamilton loads a pistol and sits on the edge of his bed.

He catches the bullet in the back of his throat.

 

+

 

Rewind.

 

+

 

Burr doesn't count the number of times he's walked the same Manhattan street, listening to the Schuylers argue and the raucous background noise of New York City. He doesn't count the number of times he sees Alexander Hamilton, or any of his deaths, or any of the battles of the revolution, or the births of Theodosia or any of the nights with her mother or the individual words he says as they overlap and blend into each other and become one long litany.

What Aaron Burr counts is the number of times he fires his gun.

 

+

 

"Can I buy you a drink?" Burr asks, and if he were counting he would know exactly how many times he's asked the same combination of words with the same inflection in the same conversation.

(Twenty-three.)

"That would be nice." Hamilton grins, briefly, a flash of sincere warmth Burr would tally if he were counting.

(He's not counting.)

"While we're talking, let me offer you some free advice," Burr says. Hamilton looks at him, head tilted, and Burr notices the way his hair is coming free of its bind and the smell of salt water on his clothes. Thinks of you can't be serious (twenty-two) and if you stand for nothing, Burr, what will you fall for? (forty-nine).  

Burr presses talk less behind his teeth and says "Smile more."

Hamilton laughs, holding the door to the pub open for him.

They get a drink.

 

Burr watches the surface of his drink ripple as Hercules Mulligan slams his pint of lager onto the table, proclaiming loud and unrepentant his intention to turn coat on the British Empire. He'd wince, if not for the fact that he can recite these words by memory. Too much history. Behind him, the Marquis de Lafayette is laughing and nodding along, but John Laurens is looking at Hamilton. And Hamilton is looking back.

Burr bites so hard into the lining of his cheek he tastes acid and rust.

"Hamilton," he says, pulling on the cuff of Alexander's sleeve, thankful for the drunken stir that is Mulligan, Lafayette, and Laurens ordering another round that smothers his words. He can still feel if you stand for nothing searing itself into his sternum, into his rib cage, bouncing around the empty cavity of his chest, but he forces himself through the words because he had felt what will you fall for? the first time, the wrong end of that sentence, and it had lead to a red-slicked hilltop at dawn.

"Another word of advice - " Burr flicks his eyes to Laurens, " - before you throw away your shot, think twice."

Hamilton blinks at him, brown, the same brown, always the same brown that Burr can feel down to the tips of his fingers. And then he turns away, toward Laurens.

Burr leaves.

He leaves the drink behind.

 

+

 

It takes longer this time, so long Burr thinks he's done it right, that this will be the last iteration of his dream that's become a nightmare, and for a brief moment he considers adding to the bottom of his latest letter to Theodosia the hell he's endured. The ink drips but doesn't form words. He never mentions it.

Alexander Hamilton and John Laurens remain bachelors to the public eye for the rest of their lives.

Aaron Burr runs for Senate and wins, runs for President and loses, lets Laurens talk Hamilton down from the duel at Weehawken. Goes back to practicing law in New York after his term is over.

Hamilton dies in his sleep thirty five years later.

 

+

 

Rewind .

 

+

 

What Aaron Burr would do is not working, as is testament by every single day of every single life he has never lived, every failed history that folds back on itself to this moment.

So he does what Alexander Hamilton would do instead.

"Pardon me, are you Alexander Hamilton?"

Hamilton blinks at him, grip on the one bag he carries on his shoulder of all his worldly possessions going white and stiff.

"At your service, sir. Are you Aaron Burr, sir?"

"Sure," says Burr, gesturing to the nearest pub, "Care for a drink?"

Hamilton nods, lips curving up at the corners like the suggestion of a smile taking place. "That would be nice."

"While we're talking, let me offer you some free advice," Burr says, pointedly not looking at the anxious glance Hamilton sends him, the complete lack of tenacity in that moment that he's known and loved and despised and envied for years and lifetimes.

"Don't throw away your shot."

 

Samuel Seabury needs to learn when to shut his mouth, Burr thinks, tightening his grip on Hamilton's shoulder and murmuring "Let him be."

Hamilton shoots him an incredulous look, turning toward Seabury with his mouth open in a sneer to show teeth in a razor blade line and all Burr can think of is the look of disgust on Alexander's face as he says I'd rather be divisive than indecisive, drop the niceties and something in his chest screams wait for it wait for it but he's moving forward before he can listen to it.

"Seabury, with respect," Burr says, "But can't you already hear the screams? The revolution is imminent. The have-nots have been oppressed for far too long - it's hard to listen to this fucking ignoramus," he sighs to Hamilton, something molten and right lighting up his nerve endings when Seabury ahems and Hamilton breaks out beaming. Somewhere behind him, Mulligan whispers reverently "Oh my God, Burr, tear this dude apart".

"Chaos and bloodshed are our histories, not our legacies, we've been controlled by fear for so long and now you talk about Congress as though they're the ones plotting deceptively?"

"I pray the King shows you his mercy," Seabury spits, still looking anywhere but at Burr as their words clash and tangle, and Burr begins to laugh.

As though King George could scare him - Aaron Burr, caught between meeting Alexander Hamilton and killing him, is not scared of fucking anything anymore.

"The King can keep his mercy, wouldn't want him to get his hands dirty," Burr snaps.

"For shame!" Seabury says, visibly red now, "For shame - "

"For the revolution," Burr corrects, feeling like this should be the centerfold of history, this moment where Hamilton defies British rule now Burr standing a step in front of him coolly trading blows the way courtrooms and Senate hearings and Hamilton himself taught him how to, hearing Mulligan and Laurens and Lafayette and Hamilton, Hamilton, Hamilton chorusing him "For the revolution!" with laughter shaking free from their bones and brittle-bright grins and this, Burr thinks, is the room where it happens. This moment. This history.

"If you repeat yourself again I'm gonna scream," Hamilton says, still laughing, as Seabury tries to pull his rhetoric back together with the thin strings it's woven upon, "Honestly, look at me, don't modulate the key then not debate, he - " Hamilton points to Burr, "makes a good point; why should an island across the sea regulate the price of tea?"

"The floor is yours, Seabury, please." Burr says, smiling white and wild and letting himself lead Hamilton away.

"That was amazing!" Alexander says, "Did you see his face? You were succinct, persuasive."

"Do you think?"

"Mon chou, it was magnifique!" Lafayette says.

But Aaron Burr is looking at Hamilton.

And Hamilton is looking back.

 

+

 

This time he treads carefully, watching words he has never said before carve new ripples in stagnant water, remembering every role he has ever played in this endless history as he carefully rewrites it. He visits the Hermitage and meets Theodosia a year after he meets Hamilton, and he keeps her close with a quill penning her name every day but can't bring himself to court her again, always again. He's not who he was, and he knows that if he allows her, she will fall in love with him and the thought of that kind of manipulation makes him nauseous.

But Alexander Hamilton is entirely new even as he is the same. His eyes never change, even as his words make new shapes in them - new ways of framing the same ferocities and passions and ambitions and opinions. And Burr tries desperately not to fall in love with him.

 

Hamilton's first brigade charge is his last. A redcoat bayonet catches him in the abdomen and sepsis sets in almost immediately.

Burr watches George Washington read the missive and stand, facing away, bringing a hand to his face. He is silent or a long time.

"I must go to him," Burr says, and tastes blood.

"Aaron Burr, sir," Hamilton says when Burr forces himself to visit him. The tent he lays in reeks of the acrid smell of infection and the gnawing presence of death, like burnt blood and cannonfire. His eyes prickle and he almost convinces himself it's from the stench.

Hamilton reaches for him and puts a hand on his shoulder when he sits next to his cot. Burr forces himself not to flinch.

His eyes are the same, flinted with dark shadows from where exhaustion has pressed bruises under them, but the shade and the shape and the vaguely feral light of them are the same. As ever. As ever.

"I feel as though," Hamilton says, and laughs weakly, and it is nothing like his laughter so long ago on a Manhattan street Burr can never manage to get right, and it is nothing like the laughter from the many histories that have grafted themselves into Burr's bones, "I have thrown away my shot."

 

+

 

Rewind .

 

+

 

Angelica Schuyler slots herself into the space at Burr's elbow. She looks beautiful and glittering and sharp like the world's most dangerous rosebush, but Burr can't help seeing every echo of her like layers and layers of might-have-beens all hinging around a singular street in Manhattan on summer day at the precipice of a revolution.

She notices who his eyes are following through the crowd, and when they still as he strikes up a conversation with a beautiful woman in a blue dress, she leans into him and whispers "Don't go falling in love with him, now".

Burr closes his eyes.

 

+

 

Rewind.

 

+

 

The sun is breaking over Manhattan. Somewhere, it breaks over Weehawken.

Aaron Burr steps down into the street, a million iterations of this same first step behind it, and nods his head to the Schuyler sisters as he passes.

"Miss Schuyler," he says, and this time, when they all look at him, he smiles. He remembers a moment, years and lifetimes ago, when he promised Angelica Schuyler to put in a good word with Thomas Jefferson. He makes the same promise now, knowing that while some things change, there are some worth carving in stone.

 

"Pardon me, are you Alexander Hamilton?"

"Yes, sir! Are you Aaron Burr, sir?"

Burr smiles, just slightly. "That depends; who's asking?" he says, pressing the words I am your friend your murderer your brother-in-arms your co-counsel your enemy your ally your greatest admirer your opponent your second so be more specific beneath his tongue.

Hamilton blinks. "Oh - Alexander Hamilton, at your service, sir."

Burr bows, stepping out of his way and gesturing down the street, "Walk with me, I'd like to introduce you."

"To?" Hamilton asks, but he falls in step with Burr regardless, and he remembers this - this street, these steps, but never these words, never this history.

"Friends of mine. While we're talking let me offer you some free advice," and these are words he knows, words he's counted and molded against the edges of his teeth to be barbs and murmured to be confidants but never changed.

"Talk more. I'd like to hear what you're against and what you're for."

And Hamilton smiles.

 

"So how'd you do it, Burr? How'd you graduate so fast?"

"It was my parents' dying wish before they passed."

"You're - an orphan. Of course! I'm an orphan! God , I wish there was a war, then we can prove that we're worth more than anyone bargained for!"

"You're taking a stand. The revolution is imminent, there's little to stall for. The question is if we stand for nothing, then what will we fall for?"

 

"Burr, sir, check what we've got - let's hatch a plot blacker than the kettle calling the pot!"

"What are the odds of gods who put us all in one spot?" Burr supplies, feeling something coming untethered from his chest like a ship at port setting free, the kinetic energy under Hamilton's skin making his answering grin fever bright.

"A bunch of fellow abolitionists - give me a position, show me where the ammunition is!"

Burr locks eyes with John Laurens over the table, and they know it, the two men whose lives orbit Hamilton's in every iteration of reality, who take their places across from him on a hill at dawn and by his side respectively but always, eventually, come back to this one man.

"Oh - am I talking too loud? Sometimes I get excited, shoot off at the mouth. I've never had a group of friends before - I promise, that I'll make you proud!"

When it's said, Burr doesn't know if it's him or Laurens or both of them in chorus saying it, but he knows the taste of the words and the brutal searing pride behind them, pride for a little islander boy with big eyes and a ferocious tenacity inside his skin who is so smart and so loud and is willing to point his pistol at the sky for Aaron Burr.

"Let's get this guy in front of a crowd."

This time, when Burr sees Hamilton open his mouth and his fingers curl into fists and his mind screams wait for it so viscerally he steps forward with a hand on his shoulder and knows the words let him be like a fired pistol at dawn, so he says "Shall we?" instead.

"He'd have you all unravel at the sound of screams! The revolution's coming, the have-nots are gonna win this - "

"It's hard to listen to this ignoramus," Burr says, and Hamilton laughs.

"Chaos and bloodshed are our histories, not our legacies, we've been controlled by fear for so long, this is history repeating, it's not Congress who's plotting deceptively."

"My dog speaks more eloquently."

"Tell the King to keep his mercy - wouldn't want his hands to get dirty."

"For shame!" Seabury shouts.

"For the revolution!" They say together, the centerfold of an unravelling history, the room where it happens, and Burr has waited for it - this, this moment - and now he seizes it.

"For the revolution!" Chime Lafayette, Laurens, and Mulligan behind them.

 

"Burr!"

Hamilton's voice is unmistakable even in the crowd after lifetimes of it crashing like thunder in his memory. Burr turns to greet him, desperately keeping his eyes from admiring his choice of suit - this time it's different, something's that's never happened before.

"Hamilton, I wasn't expecting you."

"Oh, sure, sir. Can I offer you a drink? I think I owe you a few."

Burr smiles. Pauses.

"Of course - only, I'm hardly good company. Isn't there somewhere you should be?" His eyes find a flash of blue dress over Hamilton's shoulder. Angelica Schuyler murmurs don't go falling in love with him, now in a memory of a history that never was, but it sounds like wait for it by another name and Burr bites down on his lip hard enough to draw blood.

Hamilton tilts his head at him.

"Why would I be anywhere else?"

 

"Hamilton, come in. Have you met Burr?"

Hamilton's eyes find Burr's immediately. He looks - pleased, to see him. That same expression of surprise and recognition that he wore at Weehawken so long ago now alien on his features. Burr swallows down vertigo at the sight of it.

"Yes, sir."

Burr nods to Hamilton, refocusing on Washington.

"As I was saying, sir, I look forward to watching your strategy play out."

"Burr."

"Sir?"

"Close the door on your way out."

Burr bows, making to move past Hamilton out of the tent.

"With all respect, sir," Hamilton suddenly says, as he never has before, and Burr stops mid-motion in surprise, "Burr's insight is invaluable, if you would allow him to speak further?"

Washington blinks at Hamilton as though he's never seen him before.

"Mister Burr."

"General Washington, sir."

"You mentioned suggestions?"

Hamilton smiles at him as Burr smiles and re-enters the tent. They stand shoulder to shoulder as Burr marks lines of attrition on Washington's maps, Hamilton pointing to troop deployments and adding periodically to Burr's motions. Washington steeples his fingers and watches them with an odd glint to his eyes.

"Our odds are beyond scary," he says quietly to them.

"Sir, that comes with the territory of being revolutionary," Burr replies.

Washington watches him for a long moment before nodding. Across from him, Hamilton smiles, just briefly.

It's enough.

 

They come back to New York after the war, as they always do, Hamilton next door in a way that now feels right. As though even their offices had managed to realize they would eventually come to stand side by side before either of them did.

He lets Hamilton soundboard ideas for the Federalist Papers off of him, checks sometimes to make sure he hasn't died before locking up for the night - Hamilton always leaves his office last.

If he hadn't replayed this life so many times, he would have found comfort in it, the mundanity of a friendship, of taking cases he knows the name and details and outcomes of from years and years of practice perfecting this moment, it would have been comforting. But Aaron Burr has lived too many lives as Alexander Hamilton's murderer.

So one night Burr crosses to Hamilton's office and lets himself in through the chronically unlocked door, relighting candles that have gone out while Hamilton himself studiously ignores him in favor of scribbling manically on his latest of treatises.

"Which number is that, by the way?" Burr asks.

"Hard to say. Thirty?"

Burr shakes his head. He remembers an itemized list of disagreements and so says nothing about delegating work or collaborating or being concise.

He sits beside Hamilton and picks up a stray page, skimming it - number fourteen - while he waits for him to come out of it.

Twenty minutes later, he does.

"Sorry, sorry. What do you need?" Hamilton asks, sounding like Burr did so long ago on his doorstep. He remembers the immediacy with which he'd said it, in that life, without hesitation. In a life where he'd been Hamilton's murderer, he'd been his friend first.

Now he carefully sets the paper in his hand down, frowns at Hamilton's reading glasses (the quality of light is wrong, they don't glint like they did, then) before reaching out and sliding them off his nose.

He studies them for a moment, exactly the same as he'd remembered them on that dawn, the way they'd hidden Hamilton's eyes but not enough.

Now, those eyes are watching him curiously.

Burr sets the glasses down, something in him screaming to wait for it wait for it but not loud enough, turns back to Hamilton, and kisses him.

He makes a tiny noise in his mouth that's new, and the newness scares him until he realizes he might do this all again tomorrow. Then he just leans in with a hand at Hamilton's lapel until he can feel him smiling into it and bites gently at his lip.

"Aaron," he says when Burr presses a kiss to his jaw, and he closes his eyes for a second to remember the sound of his name in that voice who has only ever called him Burr. The undaunted newness of it coils warm and low in his stomach.

Hamilton - Alexander - kisses him again, thumbs at his jaw, holding him in place.

"Aaron," he says again against his mouth.

"Alexander," Burr replies, earning a quick bite to his upper lip.

" Alexander ." He says. He hadn't said it, at Weehawken, when he should have. He remembers a time when he had, just once, and then he'd replied to Hamilton's is there anything you wouldn't do with no, and you know what? I got that from you . It had been wrong, then, the wrong context, the wrong time. This is when he says it, this history, this choice to say it between kissing Alexander Hamilton as though there had never been a pistol opening skyward or a schism between them or a moment of blood-slicked clarity when Burr had stopped being his friend and had become his murderer. As though they didn't have too much history between them already.

"Alexander."

 

So Burr visits his office in the morning with papers for Hamilton to sign and kisses him across the desk and walks home with him after they lock up for the night, working through the Federalist Papers between them in the mid-November air. And Hamilton kisses him goodnight when they reach Burr's door before ducking out back into the street. And in the morning they do it again - it's a repetition Burr has come to learn not to fear, has been carefully taught not to fear. And some night he might even invite Hamilton inside. He hasn't done it yet, but this path is like the first path, and Burr for once is not so much afraid of the idea of replaying a whole lifetime as he is by the idea of it not being this one. He hasn't, but he might. He might.

They go to coffee shops to talk politics with patrons and see Lafayette off when he decides to return to France and drink in pubs like the first pub. They disagree vehemently and argue and Hamilton is impossible and Burr is stubborn and when they clash they are spectacular and when they work they are unstoppable. Burr tells Hamilton to shut up and Hamilton complains that Burr never says a thing, Hamilton paints his federal utopia and Burr checks his government oversight the way he learned how to when they jockeyed the courtroom together. And it never comes to Weehawken.

It never comes to Weehawken.

They call on each other for advice when Hamilton becomes the first Treasury Secretary of the United States and they follow each other from New York to serve Washington's administration, move back to New York for Adams'. They eat dinner together and retire to the same bed, reading passages from the newspaper of their burgeoning country to each other. Every morning Burr is slightly less surprised that he hasn't found himself on that same Manhattan street curb yet. And every morning he allows himself to hope just a little more that he never will.

 

They watch Adams' presidency wax and wane and Thomas Jefferson quietly slip into just the right position.

"It's criminal; he's not fit to lead!" Hamilton hisses. Burr watches him from over the lip of his book as he paces.

"He's got no less credentials than Adams, no one will block him if he chooses to proceed."

Hamilton huffs and slouches into the seat next to Burr. Instinctively, Burr angles his book so Hamilton can read over his shoulder.

"I can't stand him."

"So oppose him."

Hamilton frowns.

"The problem is he hasn't done this on a whim. Adams is weak; he knows he'll win."

Burr sighs and closes his book, shutting his eyes for a beat too long to be a blink.

"Alexander. Thomas is a persuasive speaker, but there's no one alive who could beat you in debate."

Burr turns to face him fully, watching Hamilton's eyes for the moment when the spark catches.

"Are you suggesting that I run? Do you know what kind of chaos that'll create?"

Burr laughs. Hamilton presses a kiss to his temple. His eyes are gleaming like a child's with wondering excitement.

"You're suggesting I run for the Presidency of the United States." He says, grinning, and Burr hears Angelica Schuyler in his ear saying don't go falling in love but he learned a long time ago that he's never walked a history in which he wasn't at least half in love with Alexander Hamilton.

"I'm suggesting you win the Presidency of the United States," Burr corrects, and kisses his grinning mouth.

 

"Alexander. Sweet Jesus."

Burr undoes the mess Hamilton's made from his cravat, retying it in patient, slow motions. Hamilton is nearly buzzing out of his skin.

Burr breathes out slowly, placing a hand on Hamilton's chest.

"Aaron," Hamilton says, and Burr still closes his eyes at the sound of it.

"I know," he says quietly, "but just imagine Thomas' face right now."

Hamilton laughs, bumping his chin with his forehead. "What if I can't do this?"

Burr straightens the line of his jacket against his shoulders. "Then I take your job and you retire to the Virginian countryside to breed fox hounds with Washington."

"Comforting." Hamilton says, straightening and turning toward the terrace on the other side of the room. The crowd's noise is already a low murmur like a church filling.

Burr fills the space by his shoulder, neatly tying his own cravat. He places a hand on Hamilton's shoulder, and it almost feels like squaring off against Seabury all over again, but Burr has stopped comparing this history to any of the others. This one deserves to be lived as though it is the first and the last. The definitive history.

Hamilton looks over at him and nods, and Burr nods back. They step onto the terrace, at each others' sides, together.

The cheering begins almost immediately.

 

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